I’m going to post these quotes without any commentary; I think they hold up well on their own. Some background: 70 years ago at an ALA Executive Board Meeting (October 1945) they devoted a morning to discussing the future of librarianship. The conversation was summarized and published in the A.L.A. BULLETIN from February 1946. Here are a few notes that I found interesting and still relevant today:
If the profession seems to lack dynamism some of the responsibility rests with administrators. All too many still hold professional members to routine work and give what seem valid reasons why all must take their turn at essential clerical tasks.
Any dynamic program must seek to make local communities and college faculties aware of the role of librarians as contributors to the sciences, the arts, and all departments of constructive living, and that part of their function takes them outside the library walls.
All the publicity, the radio spots, the window displays, and the most gifted public relations official will fail unless individual librarians (I do not mean administrators) are given opportunity to extend their intellectual horizons continually and to increase their communal knowledge and their scholastic contacts so that clients come to recognize clearly their educational and social function.
As to coverage, brought into the picture by Mr. Richards, Mr. Ulveling, and Miss Rothrock -- deploring the low percentage of use of libraries --I agree that it is deplorable, but I am convinced that the answer is not just a question of obtaining finances for exploiting all the new devices -- the film, the record, the phonograph, television -- which will insure us a new dynamism, but something more basic, even more fundamental, important as that is, than a reorganization which will free the heads of departments, as Miss Herbert urges, “to do the thinking and planning.”
We need an improved type of professional personnel, a conception of administration which would make use of all the thinking, all the ideas and potential planning of the entire professional body in an institution, not just of departmental heads.
Another factor, which I think continues to be lost sight of or to be unconsciously pushed into the background, is this: It is not alone the salaries which discourage “the girls” from being drawn into the profession, as well as those already in the profession, but the fact that advancement beyond a certain point is rare. Top positions more and more often go to men, sometimes of lesser caliber and less experience. In professions in which women are in the minority this is understandable, but women are still in the majority in librarianship and yet, when it comes to a chief librarianship, they stand but little chance.
Personally, I believe in the Campbell soup method. It is very nearly impossible to pick up a magazine without coming face to face with a colorful Campbell soup advertisement or a glamorous liquor ad. The first makes you hungry and the second makes you want to go right out and imbibe. This method must be good. Even religion is catching on. “Go to church next Sunday” is the exhortation I’ve been noticing on billboards and in magazines these last few years.
I should like to know what an advertising campaign on a national scale would do for libraries. I’d be willing to wager that it would up their status as a matter of course. Communities generally get what they want if they want it hard enough, and when the people as a whole get library conscious they will tend to demand better libraries.
…we have been prone to skip or be afraid to touch things that are local, instead we “take up Czechoslovakia"; but in my opinion the most local and immediate necessity is a re-examination of education for the profession not in a limited area or of a few library schools, but of the whole field, especially of faculties and admissions.
And the next most important assignment should be a more clean-cut reclassification of professional responsibilities so that personnel of outstanding qualifications would be available to carry on effectively.
Read more of my “past voices” series.