The so-called Darien Statement bothers me...

The so-called Darien Statement can be found at http://www.blyberg.net/2009/04/03/the-darien-statements-on-the-library-and-librarians/. I'm going to express a few of my thoughts here. There are some areas where the statement bothers me.

The statement is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. The statement of responsibility indicated in the relevant blog post indicates that John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor came up with this. I'm going to restate some of it here. I will attempt to interleave replies.

Purpose

"The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization."

How does that square with enabling legislation in most cases? Public libraries are public institutions and normally are creatures of statute. Libraries can only do what is authorized by statute. I imagine that the integrity of civilization is not something allocated as a responsibility of libraries in enabling legislation.

"The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change."

History has shown instead that the purpose of the library has in fact changed. With the rise of "third space" theory and more, libraries have shifted in focus from being only storehouses to additionally being commons.

"The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence."

How this can be read depends upon your definition of "The Library". As for that definition, there seem to be multiple possibilities.

"Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict."

That cannot happen in a public institution. Insubordination is a firing offense in most government bureaucracies and librarians generally do not have tenure protections that might insulate them in these cases. There are normally only two choices when faced with instructions you cannot follow: resign or comply.

"Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will."

Over time, the "why" does change. LCSH was arbitrary until Lois May Chan was contracted to study its systemization. We still assign subject headings, but the reasons underlying those headings and our choices are different now compared to thirty years ago.

"A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library."

I would think effective public communication would be more essential as the Nebraska video game case showed. If people had communicated, that whole mess would likely not have happened. Without keeping lines of communications open, taxpayers and those who oversee libraries are likely not to care about the library's role and instead prefer to cut budgets for better favored pet projects.

There is more to the statement but I won't address that at this time. In the end, it reflects a view of professional practice I've rarely encountered. What the statement aspires to seems to not be the norm in the US.

Comments

Why bother reading...

Because sometimes reading a document in its entirety is necessary to make a balanced evaluation of the content instead of judging and extrapolating from one statement that is simply meant to impress upon the reader the historical, as well as, the future importance of the idea of "the library". Now, if it is nonsense to make a statement so seemingly grandiose, then fine, but lets not belittle the effort to try and make sense, put in context, delineate the boundaries of our institutions and the professionals expected to uphold said institutions.

The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity....

"The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization."

No it is not, that is just silly. Why bother reading past that nonsense.

Stephen, don't criticize it, debate it!

did you see many of the comments about the list producing lively debate, or stimulating debate, or making a cheese sandwich for debate...??

I agree that it's immensely flawed in execution, but noble in purpose. Every year, some librarian(s) thinks he can fix whatever seems to be wrong with the public perception of libraries, and everyone cheers for three or four days.

I don't think much of the list. And as long as my boss doesn't print it out and leave it on my desk, these librarians can synthesize any quantum library theory they choose. Just don't tell me I'm required to follow it. "Inspires and perpetuates hope"..??... Hell, it's like they just stopped short of saying, "Enables truth." But that would have been just plain silly.

You sound ready to instigate

I'm not the only person on the planet with an adverse reaction to this. Steve Lawson got pooh-poohed in the comments when he raised valid concerns. On the NZ-Libs list there was a wonderful discussion making fun of how even having Darien in the title harkened back to a horrendous economic failure by then-independent Scotland that resulted in the Act of Union of 1707 with England. Some thoughts by Kiwi librarians expressed in the thread last night resulted in posters using the word "infuriated" with regard to the text.

I did refer the statement to the in-house above average patron for him to read. He characterized the text as Orwellian. A set of aspirational statements like that with the assumption that the work librarians do is the sole bedrock to civilization and that librarians are masters of all is not a statement of principles, it is a religious text. Through work experience in the private and public sectors, I have seen that the world definitely does not work at all the way the text indicates it should.

A higher priority for libraries today would be improving communications. The whole video games incident in Nebraska could have been avoided if people actually talked to each other and interacted. Statements like the one from Darien do not promote that as it instead puts librarians on a pedestal that all others should bow before. Statements like the one from Darien can serve to needlessly impair relations between staff and those charged with oversight when more cooperative relations would be called for.
________________________
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
PGP KeyID: 899C131F

I think you mean Steve *Wilson*

I think it is Steve *Wilson* that you believe was pooh-poohed in the comments, not me.

The So-called Stephen Michael Kellat

The so-called Stephen Michael Kellat clearly has superhuman abilities that I lack. I can't see where the Darien Statement does not "puts librarians on a pedestal that all others should bow before." I suspect that if every librarian had such insight and understood this, the Darien Statement would be much more popular among under-appreciated librarians everywhere.

Thank goodness he had a so-called "above average patron" review the statement for us! The value added to the conversation by knowing that this nameless patron called it "Orwellian" is but a small taste of the sort of contributions the so-called Stephen Michael Kellat routinely makes.

The purpose of the Library overrides the institutional mission

Perhaps you have missed the significance of the capitalization of the word "Library" throughout their manifesto. All three of John, Cindi, and Kathryn have written about their experience with writing this document, and Kathryn talks about the fact that the purpose of the Library overrides individual library missions on her blog:

When we were writing it, I thought of stories of librarians practicing librarianship beyond the day-to-day running of a library. How were these things still librarianship ? Alia Muhammud Baker, the Librarian of Basra who smuggled priceless manuscripts into private homes during bombing in Iraq. The protests by Australian librarians against internet filtering. The New Zealand Librarians and their attempts to influence their government to stop section 92A of their copyright act. The American Library Association’s stand on banning books.

Perhaps you need to stop thinking about the administration of the library, and more about the survival of the Library.

so-called anything

The "so-called anything" out of the corner of the ring really starts off a discussion on an adversarial note.
The so-called StephenK's blog states that third place theory has changed the purpose of the library, but not so. See "Libraries in Public before the Age of Public Libraries" by Adam Arenson in _The Library as Place_ ed. by J.E. Buschman and Gloria J. Leckie.

The Darien statement reflects library values and sets forth the ideals toward which librarians strive in our efforts to develop mission and goals. The Darien statement goes beyond the ALA guiding principles [Diversity, Equity of Access, Education and Continuous Learning, Intellectual Freedom, and 21st Century Literacy] and provides a series of positive statements to activate equity of access.
So-called Insubordination is often the only way to make change happen.
Sure you might lose a job and piss off idiots, but standing up for what is right often requires insubordination.

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