by LJ Frank
When I first began directing libraries back in the 1980’s I was the guest speaker at a large audience of Rotarians offering my philosophical insights into the benefits of literacy, a knowledgeable community and the wonderful resources available to them through their central library and branches. Upon finishing my speech, the very first question from the audience was as follows: We appreciate all the system has to offer but, when will you be assessing the parking space needs so citizens can have better access? In other words, if you want us to use the libraries build some free parking, besides we already pay taxes for the library’s existence. A follow up concern is the talk of another branch. And part of the equation is what’s it going to cost and who’s going to pay for it (what’s in it for me)?
Pragmatism! It’s a thought process that involves practical action with the dollar amount playing a decisive role along with the “sustainability” of the project. It’s easy to say government is the problem. If it’s the problem, create a vision that feeds the hunger for good information. Visions are not created by feeding the wealthiest. That’s a path to greed and anger. Visions are not revealed in 20-year actions that involve the economics of oil access and opening doors to corporate heads not “employees” with soldier-pawns on foreign soil, rather than feeding the hungry mind and body. Words come easy in a political theater that is being played out on both micro and macro stages. It only takes one incident to ignite the downstream effects of a mistake.
Pervasive non-profit issues focus on staff, board, politician and community education and development. What is the value and asset of a library or other non-profit to a community? I have heard some very intriguing tales from my clients as a non-profit consultant. Directors of non-profits, like libraries, are in effect, lobbyists for the information and knowledge asset of a community. It’s about literacy among other objectives for everyone. It’s an investment with a calculable return on the human mind and effort.
The public library for example is a political creation. Politics in an urban setting is more volatile than ever. It’s messy. Polarization continues to occur throughout the country – add the pandemic, severe climate change related issues, artificial intelligence, and a host of other salient challenges, things are and will get messier than they are now unless there are some changes that are a bit quicker than evolutionary.
Critics are ubiquitous regardless of profit or non-profit organizations and no one is unaffected. The days of the professional critic that knew what she or he was talking about appears antiquated. They are there, amid the social media shuffle.
Databases on all levels need to be free, that means no subscriber fees, that is, if you want an informed, literate, and knowledgeable citizenry. Why should the acquisition of knowledge cost money?
Electronic interface, will increase, and the Mission Statement of academic and urban libraries will need to coalesce serving an increasingly diverse “educated community’ for the sake of sustainability. Non-profit visions will be revised, dramatically, soon. Poverty whether intellectual, mental, or physical is abusive and violates compassion and ethics.
Struggle and crisis are an opportunity to learn, and more competition is not necessarily the answer, rather enlarging the opportunity to engage, envision and lead through collaboration. Engagement requires people with differing ideas with a common destination though the road is non-linear and stony.
To purposefully disinform is to foment revolt. If a revolution occurs will there be a reformation in thought and practice? Are we nearing the juncture where a Renaissance of thought will occur as result of the politics of bloody flag waving under the rubric of patriotism?
Humans have already merged with machines. How much do humans want to retain control? What will the future cost of work be to a civil society when hardware and software outpaces the average human capability?
The architectural design of our cities, cultural and non-cultural buildings, programming, and our technologies will affect the future designated space of the human as a participant in her or his own existence.