Column Editor: Mary E. (Tinker) Massey (Retired Librarian) <email@example.com>
We have arrived at a new year and changes that bring challenges to all libraries.
In the past, we have seen different challenges for different libraries dependent upon monies available for our functions. Now, we have been drawn together to find relevant solutions to problems we all share. There is a push to receive, develop, publish and create our information systems digitally — ONLY! If we never include the older materials, this will be a daunting task and still leave our facilities looking for physical space to house those older materials. Most libraries, no matter what size, are working on their own grants to protect the rare materials that provide us with the history of special subjects still developing today. I am reminded of my own experience with my Information Brokerage firm finding information for doctors and others who desperately needed the knowledge of a rare disease or human condition to solve a present problem. When searching a current need/problem in the seventies, I found that I had to wander back through the journal articles of the fifties to find relevant information for the doctor. I was surprised, but the doctor explained that this human condition had not been noted in the literature for many years. That is why he used my firm to find that lost information. If we start with the current years of publications only, we miss important material that is vital for doctors and others. Making older information available to researchers is a major task and a necessary one. It’s not only something to think about, but a MUST! We cannot cull portions of the data to soothe our need for “ALL DIGITAL.” As digital becomes more and more primary to our needs, we also discover that libraries are destroying the older data as unnecessary. Some of the rare materials a single library owns, once well-known and preserved by hundreds of libraries, are now known in only 1-5 institutions. How soon will that become none, as we determine someone else should keep it, not us? That day has reached our doors, and we can no longer rely on others to do our work. Our responsibility is to procure, organize and provide access to as much human achievement as possible, or else we will need to recreate that effort everyday. Have we forgotten our mission? Are we being goaded by administrators who cherish space rather than providing their researchers with as much raw data and knowledge as possible? We cannot be expected to create something from nothing. Have you experienced a loss of contact with the Internet because of natural disasters? If earlier data was unnecessary, I would hate to find data banks empty when information had been lost as to how we could create electricity, because the primary source had been lost. If you had to re-create a method to obtain a basic system because of disaster, could you? Who would you ask? Who could you rely on? The decline of the library is based on this change! We are becoming less able to supply answers. Do you find this something to think about? I do! If the library system as a primary knowledge source dies, it will be because we allowed it and ignored the early signs of decay. Think about it, and find a solution!
Leah was appointed Executive Director of the Charleston Conference in 2017, and has served in various roles with the Charleston Information Group, LLC, since 2004. Prior to working for the conference, she was Assistant Director of Graduate Admissions for the College of Charleston for four years. She lives in a small town near Columbia, SC, with her husband and two kids where they raise a menagerie of farm animals.