Saturday, April 22, 2006

Failing Dinosaurs or Thriving Mammals - Escaping the Business Model of the Public Library

We will not become extinct!Reprinted with permission from the author.
Pardon the formatting.

Dr. Bill Crowley, Professor
Graduate School of Library and Information Science
Dominican University
7900 West Division Street
River Forest, IL 60305

Library Administrators Conference of Northern Illinois (LACONI)

Friday, September 16, 2005
Gail Borden Public Library District
270 N. Grove Avenue, Elgin, IL

Revisiting “The Suicide of the Public Librarian”
In the description of this program I promised that I would address fundamental threats to the survival of the public librarian and public library community. These threats, frequently self-generated, include decisions by directors and boards to

a. position the public library as a for-profit business clone instead of a community educational resource;

b. play numbers games in order to achieve high national rankings at the expense of local responsiveness; and

c. manage the library in ways that force talented personnel out of public service and into administration.

I also promised to offer a number of remedies to counter such suicidal tendencies and thereby avoid future public library irrelevance. Here, I should stress two points: First, I will be particularly concerned with the survival of the professional public librarian and such survival is far from guaranteed. Second, you will not be hearing a regurgitation of my article “Save Professionalism” in the September 1, 2005 Library Journal. Some points will sound familiar but today you will understand the reasons behind my arguments that operating the public library as an information business condemns public librarians to the same extinction suffered by dinosaurs about 65 million years ago,
Community Models of the Public Library
Psychiatrists and psychologists tell us that people operate on the basis of mental models are first formed in childhood and are adjusted through time as a result of further experience. Consider for a moment what residents of our local communities have in mind when thinking of a “public library.” If we are lucky and people actually use the library, their mental models are likely to be mostly positive. Perhaps such models include memories of great pre-school programs, piles of children’s books checked out to read alone or with parents, summer reading programs, library computer workshops, Friday night poetry slams, nights at the library for theater or community forums, self-help videos, and the like. All this is fine as far as it goes.
However, it is highly unlikely that the mental models of most people about the public library include the concept of professionally educated librarians, people possessing master’s degrees from programs accredited by the American Library Association. People are often surprised to learn that the library profession has educational equivalents to the business world’s MBA or the social work’s MSW. People are more likely to believe that a public library is staffed by haphazardly-educated people who are paid to read books or play with computers all day, when they aren’t captivating children’s imaginations through telling really great stories.
Public mental models that fail to recognize professionalism in public libraries can be contrasted with community views of other professionals. For instance, is it even possible for people to discuss a “school” without at some point having the mental image of a teacher licensed to instruct students in one or more subjects? Can people envision an “operating room” without a trained surgeon? Do they go to a “law office” and not expect to talk with a professionally prepared attorney? We even expect our dental hygienists, barbers, and beauticians to hold certain professional qualifications.
What are the consequences for our profession when our local communities are populated by voters whose mental models are not supportive of the value of librarian professionalism in designing and providing public library services?
In an environment where local libraries cannot take community support for the professionalism of public librarians for granted, one should expect that members of the library community would take extra steps to support professional librarians. Unfortunately, it is too often the case that boards of trustees, library directors, and library and information educators diminish, rather than enhance, librarian professionalism. This is the unfortunate reality that led to the publication of "The Suicide of the Public Librarian" in the April 15, 2003 issue of Library Journal.1 It was also part of the reason that I was asked to speak to you today.

The Public Library as a Business Clone
I want to start with a short review of “The Suicide of the Public Librarian" and why I used the article to explore some of the consequences for librarian professionalism of positioning the public library as a for-profit business clone, instead of as a community educational resource.
At its core, this short LJ article analyzed how a nationally recognized public library, euphemistically termed the “Jonestown Public Library,” was helping to maintain its preeminent status by ruthlessly deprofessionalizing its librarians. The source of this library’s national stature was deliberately left out of the article. Many readers assumed that I was referring to a library ranked highly in Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings or (HAPLR).2 I will have a few more words about Hennen shortly.
Since it is a good bet that few in this room keep a copy of "The Suicide of the Public Librarian" under their pillow to reread every morning, let me provide a little more information about the article and its author. Before I left the State Library of Ohio to earn my Ph.D. from Ohio University and teach in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science of Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois, I had a long library career in New York, Alabama, Indiana, and Ohio involving various positions with two public libraries, a multitype library system, and two state library agencies.
In recent years, my professional network has been telling me about a growing number of cases where librarian positions were being deprofessionalized, losing prized responsibilities and/or being reduced to the status of library associate or assistant, in public, academic, and school environments. After years spent of observing how library directors and boards were sacrificing the long-term prospects of the library profession for the short-term goal of getting through another budget year, I finally had to do something. That something was writing a Library Journal article where I tried to denounce such shortsighted tactics for deprofessionalizing librarian positions as

  • repeatedly downgrading librarian positions to the levels of library associate or library assistant;

  • systematically underpaying professional librarians whose life circumstances made them unlikely to move on:

  • taking all collection development responsibilities away from public service librarians and assigning such responsibilities to part-time librarian selectors; and

  • thoughtlessly taking storytelling responsibilities away from youth services librarians.
On the “how to do it right side,” I also provided the example of Anthony W. Miele, a former director of the Alabama Public Library Service, who fought doubters and bean counters alike to make the support of librarian professionalism a keystone of his very successful career as a library leader. Tony, I stressed, clashed with both state government analysts and other department heads over position descriptions and salary ranges to insure that professional librarians received the recognition and compensation earned by their valuable work.3
As several friends of mine pointed out after its publication, the tone of “The Suicide of the Public Librarian” was unusual for an author with my years as a manager and library consultant. The fact that the article included a call for librarians to unionize as a last-ditch effort to stop librarian managers from trashing their own profession, really caught their attention. As one friend pointed out, “You’ve made your point but see if see if you ever get another consulting contract from a public library.” He’s probably right. Since the 2003 article appeared I have had much more time to devote to teaching, research, and writing.
I will be blunt. Calling for librarian unionization represented a revolution in my professional worldview. After all, I was the same Bill Crowley barely escaped having an ULP or unfair labor practice filed against me. That near-miss happened after I tried to be reasonable and resolve long-standing complaints from reference librarians about colleagues who just were not doing their share of the work. The incident taught me that a good faith suggestion for reference librarians to work with their department head to jointly set performance standards for librarians to help insure fairness could be portrayed by the union as a nefarious attempt to impose forbidden quantitative standards on professionals. I’m told that the union used this attempt to collaborate as a club to beat state government negotiators with during the bargaining for the next contract.
I will explore my reasons for embracing librarian unionization as part of an antidote for certain self-defeating management philosophies and practices in a little bit. Right now, I will note that I didn’t expect to have a whole lot of impact with this April 2003 article. I was wrong.
The collective professional response to “The Suicide of the Public Librarian” was extraordinary. When the April 15, 2003 issue of Library Journal appeared, it almost immediately it became a topic of lunchtime conversations among library administrators, librarians, and support staff. There were, of course, the usual contradictory letters to the editor.4 Conversely, the responses that were less public proved to be the most revealing. LJ Editor-in Chief John N. Berry III, who was teaching his regular seminar on professional writing for Dominican University in the summer of 2003, told me that he was using the article as an example in his class because, among other things, it had generated an extraordinary number of negative communications from the administrators of the public libraries that were so highly ranked by Thomas J. Hennen Jr. and his HAPLR ratings. John did not offer—and I did not request—the identities of the libraries and directors involved. I am thus unable to tell you the names of the complaining directors and the full extent of their negative feelings about the article. John did joke about watching my back so I suspect that a lot of managers were less than happy about the article.
Library Journal received most of the outraged communications. However, one director of a highly ranked public library complained to my dean, several times. She was convinced that I was attacking her and her library and really wanted my head. This director must have been disappointed to learn from Dean Pru Dalrymple that (a) I did have tenure and (b) Dominican University supported the intellectual freedom of its faculty.
For the most part, "The Suicide of the Public Librarian" brought me a very different type of communication, one that was illustrative of the cost to library morale of following the corporate business model. I received a number of very reflective, frequently poignant, obviously confidential emails from the human victims of deprofessionalization, the demoralized librarians working in public libraries from California to Virginia. Among other comments, these librarians wrote

  • “Seems as if you opened a can of worms with your LJ article. Good for you;-)”;

  • “Wonderful article—absolutely on target. Perhaps JPL [Jonestown Public Library] is elsewhere, but [name of Georgia library] fits the description remarkably”;

  • “Although you did not mention the library system, it could have been [name of Maryland public library]”;

  • “Your recent article in LBRARY JOURNAL is all the rage her at [name of California public library]. Perhaps you were really writing about our library system! Every professional insult that you describe is in full bloom here. But we consider it a homicide perpetrated by our administration, rather than a self-inflicted demise.”

  • “I want to thank you for giving the adult services librarians at [name of Illinois public library] a moment of validation. Two of our librarians discovered the article and quickly made copies for the rest of us, also passing it on to management. The smiles in the Adult Services Workroom have been rare and they were large on that day.”
And, on a more positive note, at a library that I will actually name

  • “As a librarian with a recent MLS degree, the notion of the demise of the degree is pretty scary. Fortunately, CPL’s [Chicago Public Library’s] administration seems to be committed to MLS positions with good salaries.”5 [Good for you Commissioner Mary Dempsey.]
So, you might ask, why did a long-serving library administrator attack public libraries that were doing nothing more than implementing business ideas sold to us by a generation of consultants and conference presenters? Why attack practices institutionalized by some of the nation’s leading public libraries? The answer is simple. These business approaches are incredibly detrimental to the survival of public librarianship as a profession because they reflect

  • a critical misreading of fundamentally important American values;

  • the pervasiveness of a for-profit management philosophy within the public library community that erroneously privileges the corporate concept of information provider over the historic, more realistic, and better supported role as center of lifelong education;

  • the dominance of corporate “information” and “knowledge” principles within programs accredited by the American Library Association;

  • the inability of many, including public library boards and directors, to comprehend the essentially educational nature of the public library’s recreational and informational roles; and

  • inherent bias within the business model towards management of the public library by MBA-educated managers, not library directors with professionally-relevant educations. Standard business practice within the corporate area. The August 26th,
2005 issue of the Chronicle of Hither Education reported, in academic year 2002-2003, that 5, 314 “library science” master’s degrees and 127,545 “business and marketing” master’s degrees were awarded. Assuming a normal distribution of intelligence, that suggests that there are more or less 24 business educated managers for every potential library manager educated every year. Since, in the business model, managers are presumed to be able to manage anything the implications for librarian leadership in the library as business future should be clear.

Reaping What You Sow or the Public Library in the “Information Age”
According to the October 1, 2002 issue of the Tacoma Washington News Tribune, local City Councilman Kevin Phelps, to help reduce an $18 million city budget deficit, proposed a radical change in public library service as a way of avoiding a looming financial disaster. It was a plan praised by other members of the council as “forward-thinking and progressive, ” particularly since public libraries were “’somewhat of a dinosaur.’”
As summarized by the News Tribune’s Peter Callaghan
To [Councilman] Phelps, the growth of the Internet and the home computer means libraries needn’t be places but systems. Fewer libraries could manage data and deliver books via the mail. Poor people who want to visit could be given bus passes. He envisions just one library—a fancy new model downtown that might even attract tourists.6
In countering the these arguments, Callaghan wrote that Councilman Phelps’s plans for drastically restructuring the city’s public library were based on two fundamentally flawed assumptions, the first one being the idea that the concept of library as physical space is obsolete and the second one limiting the library to being simply a storehouse of information. To counter these misunderstandings, Callaghan wrote about Tacoma’s “10 libraries” as the “living rooms of 10 neighborhoods,” offering safe places for latchkey kids after school, rooms for community meetings, the ability for seniors “to read papers and stay current,” Internet service for those without home access, and sites where “parents can give their children the gift of reading.” Callaghan thought it particularly important to note in his column that “museum and library visits are a predictor of later school performance.”7 By definition, “school performance” is a component of education.
Values in Conflict
From a business perspective, information is less a profession and more a commodity. As long ago as the year 2000—close to an eternity in “Information Age” years—Mary Corcoran, Lynn Dagar, and Anthea Stratigos published the results of a in-depth study of information provision for the corporate sector in a small article entitled “The Changing Roles of Information Professionals: Excerpts from an Outsell, Inc. Study.”8 Here, the authors explored the developing competition to corporate information professionals represented by the Internet and even by the vendors who compile and lease the very databases that can be used from desktops by corporate employees without the immediate assistance of “information professionals.”
In particular, the authors asserted
Information professionals are working within an industry that is moving toward the commodity stage. Standard procedure for commodity businesses is to lower their operational costs as the price point is driven down.9
Note the phrases “commodity stage” and “as the price point is driven down.” Today, public libraries purchase or lease a range of commodities, including cell or landline telephone service, Internet access, printer cartridges, pencils, and pens, “products” all seen by the market as being more or less standardized. In the new world of information as commodity, suppliers of information, including public libraries, must increasingly distribute their product on the basis of price and convenience Think about it. Is your public library’s information service cheaper or more convenient for people, particularly voters, than Google?
In a world where information is a commodity and Google and its current and future competitors provides good enough information very conveniently and almost free of charge to anyone with a home Internet account or access to a library terminal, once unthinkable things are now being thought. A few years ago, a public library trustee cornered me at a business conference held at Dominican University, asked a very reasonable question, and provided his own answer. I did not have a tape recorder on me at the time but his comments were roughly along these lines.
If all that public library directors talk about is electronic information, why do we need master’s degree librarians in public libraries? We have some pretty good community colleges around Chicago. Community college graduates with associate’s degrees in information technology probably know more about electronic information than master’s degree librarians. Since there is a glut of IT graduates, they can be hired at half a librarian’s salary and might even do an even better job. (Personal communication with speaker)
Think about it. For years our professional rhetoric has been telling our local communities that the public library’s value lies in being a community information center in the corporate mode. People are beginning to take us at our word. They are starting to advocate changes in public library service from Tacoma to Chicago based on the same corporate information model that we often hear about at our annual conferences. Realistically, how can we justify employing professionally educated librarians in an information-as-commodity world demanding lower price and greater convenience? The short answer is, we can’t. The market won’t let us.
Modeling Businesses and Numbers Games or How Did We Get Into This Mess?
In the late 20th century, the business model took hold in much of the American library community. In a fundamentally important development, American Library Association-accredited programs changed from educating librarians to educating “information professionals.” In part, this was an understandable move. Business generally ignores librarians but embraces information specialists, knowledge managers, and competitive data analysts. Also, the market for electronic information products has been booming for years. In this environment, universities could make a lot of money teaching and researching the creation, collection, analysis, and dissemination of electronic information, even before the rise of the World Wide Web offered new opportunities for attracting students, grants, and new faculty positions.10 If you are young enough, it was probably your ALA-accredited program education that first set you on the yellow brick information road while you were working on your master’s degree. Many professors still believe it is the way to go. The slightly older members of the audience, who may have been in the field as long as me, probably heard business model presentations at ALA, PLA, and OLC conferences delivered by corporate consultants, business leaders, and library and information educators. Out of the best of intentions, and probably for less than their usual billing rates, or even free of charge, such presenters offered you their finest advice on “branding” the public library as a preeminent information provider based on the corporate mode. Usually, such branding involved cost-saving and deprofessionalizing steps such as those implemented by the so-called “Jonestown Public Library” described in my article. More recently these same or other presenters, again out of the best of intentions, are telling that you must really, really, really cut costs so that your public library can compete as an information provider in a globalized environment. Your competitors, often well-educated residents of the Indian subcontinent, can provide quality professional services, including information services, to Americans at a mere fraction, perhaps as low as one-eight, of our domestic costs.11
From their perspectives, many educators, consultants, and corporate leaders speaking at this and other podiums were really trying their best to help you reshape the public library along market lines. They liked the public library and wanted to help insure its survival. This is so even if adopting the business model means hiring professional librarians only as managers, centralizing all your collection development, firing your fulltime reference librarians while hiring library assistants to provide a human presence at the information desk, and, in the very near future, offshoring the real professional reference work, including maintenance of your web site, to Bangalore, India.
Hennen and the HAPLR Rankings
Whether or not he chooses to admit it, the Thomas J. Hennen Jr. and his “Hennen’s American Public Library Ratings” (HAPLR) fit precisely into the business mode that so threatens librarian professionalism.12 It is much too late to stop him, the Hennen genie will not go back into the electronic data bottle. Hennen’s misleading library ratings will probably undermine the future of public libraries for at least a generation or more.
In truth Hennen is a classic American entrepreneur. Americans love rankings and “We’re number one!” is a claim advanced about almost anything. A national treasure of public library data was just sitting there, incredibly underused and available in computer accessible form through the Federal-State Cooperative Service. No one at the federal or state level was using the data to rank public libraries. In part, this was an ethical response to the reality that numbers do not indicate quantity. But it was a decision that also reflected political reality. If easily challenged ratings of public libraries were promulgated by government agencies, the lowest ranked libraries would undoubtedly complain to their elected representatives. In addition, what library board would vote to pay annual dues to an association that used flawed numbers and formulas to rank its library low in state or national rankings. There were no competitors. The government provided Hennen with an incredibly valuable information resource that he was free to manipulate anyway he wanted—and start his own business while doing so. But inherent in Hennen’s product is a bias towards reducing costs. Such as bias does not support paying the levels of salaries necessary to retain talented librarians necessary to carry out the public library’s educational roles. Already, stories about public librarians becoming school library media specialists, in part for higher salaries, are far too common.13
Disagreement with using a business model for public librarianship should not be construed as being opposed to proper accounting principles unlike, for example, an Arthur Anderson or Enron. Many opponents of the so-called business model, myself included, really believe in the admirable goal of keeping your financial records so well that state or local auditors never, ever, can document an audit exception. The ideal of honest bookkeeping can also be a part of the educational and recreational models of public librarianship.
The Marketplace versus the Public Library
Whenever we adopt the language of information educators, business consultants, corporate information specialists, and knowledge managers, we overlook a critical reality of contemporary life—the logic of the marketplace provides a very limited role for the public library. It leads, whether we will it or not, to the so-called “forward-thinking and progressive” ideas of Tacoma Councilman Kevin Phelps. As we just discussed, Phelps grabbed our own “library as information center” professional rhetoric and took it quite a bit further, to the point where he was advocating one centralized source of library provided information in a city that hitherto supported ten neighborhood branches. He did offer to build a new central library as tourist destination and have the city provide bus passes to it for those too poor to get own a computer or pay for a ride to the new central library after all the branches had been closed down. To him it probably was a substantial concession.
If following the corporate, for–profit model represents a road that seems likely to lead to the demise or severe diminution of the American public library, is there an alternative that offers more hope?
Fortunately, there is such an alternative. And best of all, it is a realistic option based on a philosophy that is supported by some of the strongest values of American culture.
The “Old” Public Library 101
If you are old enough, the first course that you took in the information schools that used to be library schools described the public library as having educational, informational, and recreational roles for its service community. Following 1945 and the end of World War II, the American public library profession began privileging its informational function and diminishing its philosophical commitment to its educational and recreational responsibilities. A major symbol of this conceptual transformation was the post-war Public Library Inquiry, a massive study of America’s public libraries funded by a then-substantial $200,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation and carried out by the Social Science Research Council under the direction of political scientist Robert D. Leigh.14 In the report’s summary volume, entitled The Public Library in the United States, Leigh and the other project staff emphasized that a mainstream professional ideology existed within the public library community supporting the commitment “to serve the community as general center of reliable information and to provide opportunity and encouragement for people of all ages to educate themselves continuously.”15 This thrust clearly favored information provision and relegated educational activities to a secondary place. The Inquiry also dismissed the importance the public library’s recreational role or “’Giving people what they want’” as a distinct negative. It further asserted that librarians who viewed the public library as a “free, miscellaneous book service supported by the public for that purpose” were cleaving to a course of action that would diminish or even doom the institution in the new communications age.16
In the public profession of the last half of the last century, information was king, lifelong education was tolerated, and the ever-popular recreational role of the library was a source of embarrassment.
The “New” Public Library 101
As is so often the case these days, the Internet has changed everything in the provision of information. In the first-half of the 21st century, it is becoming increasingly clear that the public library’s informational role, a role increasingly identified with the delivery of what is now a commodity, has to be rethought. Library web pages are potentially quite useful to local taxpayers—think about all those licensed and other sources of information provided 365/24/7 that have been identified and validated by librarians. Then think about the competition composed of Google and other non-public library Internet sources of information. Can the public library—and professional public librarian—really compete with the other providers of the information commodity in this Googlized world? If not, what can the public library and librarian do to meet critical public needs and thereby safeguard their future?
Embracing the Educational Model of the American Public Library
It might be a little embarrassing for all of us to confess that the Ohio Library Council really didn’t need to bring me here today. You already have the direction that you need to take. I urge you to go to the OLC web site and open the web page dealing with “Library Funding History.” After the obligatory quote from Andrew Carnegie, the first sentence of the first section—the one sub-entitled “The Funding History of Public Libraries”—briefly says it all
The history of public library funding in Ohio trances the growing commitment of its citizens to the importance of life-long learning.17
That sentence doesn’t say that the citizens of Ohio are willing to pay a lot of money to make public libraries a more expensive alternative to Google or the next Microsoft browser update. It says that Buckeyes are committed to lifelong learning and have seen—and may well continue to see—the public library as a vehicle for helping to insure that ongoing learning opportunities and resources are made available when needed. Legally, the State of Ohio seems to agree; the law on public libraries is placed in Title XXXIII Education in the Ohio Revised Code.18
Ohio is not alone is this regard, the State of Idaho creates public libraries “as a part of the provisions for public education.”19 Indiana proclaims, “the state shall encourage the establishment, maintenance, and development of public libraries throughout Indiana as part of its provision for public education.”20 Illinois, the “Land of Lincoln,” the ultimate autodidact, may describe the purpose of public libraries most poetically. In Illinois, public libraries may be established “to provide local public institutions of general education for citizens.”21 I like that phrasing—it flows.
A 21st Century Local Public Institution of General Education
Critical to the survival of professional librarianship in the 21st century is the acceptance of the reality that long-ago legislators, trustees, and librarians were correct in deeming the public library to be fundamentally an educational agency. In the words of Boston’s famed 1852 City Document No. 37, the public library should be seen as a publicly supported continuation of the “great work” of “the school and even the college and university.”22
This educational obligation is grounded in professional librarianship. It is why we should avoid implementing a model of the public library that is grounded in contemporary corporate practices and forces talented personnel out of public service and into administration as a condition of their employment as professional librarians.
An Agenda for the Survival of the Public Librarian
Before offering details of an agenda for the survival of the professional public librarian it is important to stress that we are not talking about a pale imitation of a classroom instruction that even as long as seventy years ago was seen as providing “too much teaching and too little encouragement of learning.”23 Rather, we are talking about creating a learning environment for voluntary activities—not mandated K through 12 instruction. In this conception of the public library professional librarians are educated and employed for the primary purpose of facilitating the ongoing self-education, defined in the broadest possible terms, of a spectrum of community residents ranging from pre-school children to senior citizens.
Tentative Components of the 21st Century Public Library Educational Agenda

  1. Understanding that the heavy tax support accorded American public schools indicates a general willingness of the culture to support programs that are seen as educationally beneficial to voters and their families.

  2. Recognition that privileging the master’s degree from a program accredited by the American Library Association, by hiring whenever possible staff possessing the traditional educational “gold standard” of the library profession, may be the only viable method of avoiding ongoing librarian deprofessionalization as dictated through use of the corporate business model in public libraries.

  3. Awareness that a unionized professional librarian workforce represents a potentially valuable ally in resisting the imposition of the business model within public libraries by trustees and other government officials willing to accept a lower level of professionalism in return for reduced cost. Through working to maintain the numbers of professionally educated librarians, such unions provide a contemporary countervailing force to the imperatives of deprofessionalization and help insure that the future ranks of library administrators are filled with professionally educated librarians.

  4. Leadership by national and state public library associations in identifying the knowledge, understanding, and skill needed by professional librarians in the educational model and in insuring that present or alternative American Library Association-accredited programs offer courses and degrees that embody and convey such requirements.

  5. Comprehension that “recreational” activities of the public library, when analyzed, often support priority educational objectives. Examples of this phenomenon include the advancement of learning through entertaining preschool programs, the facilitation of youth writing abilities through challenging teen poetry slams, and maintenance of adult reading abilities through appealing book discussion groups.

  6. Understanding that the learning centered model of the American public libraries requires a particularly strong librarian presence in children, young adult, and reader’s advisory services.

  7. Realization that the educational model of the public library requires facilities designed or renovated to emphasize such learning spaces as small and large learning rooms, computer labs, art galleries, and performance spaces/meeting rooms with portable stages.

  8. Knowledge that in an Internet-facilitated world the public library’s role in making possible effective information use is primarily educational and lies in the (a) provision of instruction, frequently via workshops, in employing effective information tools and techniques for validating the information acquired through various means and (b) acquiring or identifying of useful information resources and the facilitation of their use in Internet-facilitated environments.

  9. Discernment by state and national associations of the need to study the effects of the HAPLR rating system and to explore developing alternative procedures that better measure public library quality.

  1. Bill Crowley, “The Suicide of the Public Librarian,” Library Journal, April 15, 2003, 48-49. See also, Bill Crowley, “Save Professionalism,” Library Journal, September 1, 2005, 46-48.

  2. Thomas J. Hennen Jr. “Great American Public Libraries: The 2003 HAPLR Rankings,” American Libraries, October 2003, 44-48.

  3. Crowley, “Suicide.”

  4. “Letters,” Library Journal, July 15, 2003 and October 1, 2003..

  5. Email messages to author of July 30, 2003, April 14, 2003, April 14, 2003, May 12, 2003, May 17, 2003.April 16, 2003.

  6. Peter Callaghan, “Councilman’s Plan to Cut City Libraries Is Far from Courageous,” Tacoma (Washington) News Tribune, October 1, 2002. (accessed October 2, 2002).

  7. Ibid.

  8. Mary Corcoran, Lynn Dagar, and Anthea Stratigos, “The Changing Roles of Information Professionals: Excerpts from an Outsell, Inc. Study,” Online, March/April 2000, 29-30, 32-34.

  9. Ibid., 29.

  10. Bill Crowley, “The Control and Direction of Professional Education,” Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50 (1999): 1127-1135.

  11. See Susan S. DiMattia, “Offshoring Hits Home, Library Journal, April 1, 2004 and Charles Murdock, “A Leading Export? Your Jobs,” Chicago Tribune, August 22, 2004, sec. 2.

  12. Hennen, “Great American Public Libraries.”

  13. Jennifer Bromann, “Trading Places,” School Library Journal

  14. Robert D. Leigh, The Public Library in the United States (New York: Columbia University Press, 1950), 3.

  15. Ibid., 223.

  16. Ibid., 223-225.

  17. Ohio Library Council, “Library Funding History,” n.d. accessed August 8, 2004.

  18. Anderson’s Ohio Online Docs, “Title XXXIII Education—Libraries.” accessed August 17, 2004.

  19. Idaho Statutes, Title 33 Education, Chapter 26 Public Libraries, sec. 33-2601. accessed March 27, 2003.

  20. Indiana Code, Title 20 Education, Article 14 Public Libraries, Chapter 1, sec. 3. accessed March 27, 2003.

  21. Illinois Library Association, Illinois Library Laws & Regulation in Effect January 2004 (Chicago, IL: Illinois Library Association, 2004), 24. (75 ILCS 16/1-10).

  22. Boston Public Library, Report of the Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston, 1852 (City Document No. 37) (Boston: J. H. Eastburn, 1852), page 4 of 11. accessed June 7, 2004.

  23. Sir Henry A. Miers, “Adult Education in Relation to Libraries,” Library Journal 58, no. 8 (15 April 1933): 335.

The Suicide of the Public Librarian by Bill Crowley


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Critical to the survival of professional librarianship in the 21st century is the acceptance of the reality that long-ago legislators, trustees, and librarians were correct in deeming the public library to be fundamentally an educational agency."

I think BC's own government concurs with the above statement as evidenced by the government's decision to take the Public Libraries Services Branch out of the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Aboriginal, Community and Women’s Services and reassign it to its more appropriate home -- The Ministry of EDUCATION!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006  

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