I was really disappointed last week that, due to some personal issues, I was not able to take part in #libcampldn and, specifically, to run the session on librarians ruling the world with Anna Brynolf. I understand the session went really well and I’m grateful to Anna for picking up my idea for a session and running with it…particularly after I had to drop out.
The idea for this session was borne out of a personal interest of mine in terms of the profession and whilst it sounded like it was a light hearted session (one that might have included, say, supermarkets organising stock in Dewey Decimal etc), it had a serious intent. What I wanted to explore was how society would be organised if it was based on our ethical principles (see CILIP’s list here - PDF).
So, for example, what kind of world would we live in if the pharmaceutical industry was forced to be transparent and provide information on drug trials (Bad Pharma played a big role in my thinking about this)? What issues would it raise? Would it be a good thing? And what about transparency and freedom of information? How and to what extent would they impact on society? Should there be limitations? Or should we ensure access to all information for everyone? What system of government would we have*? How would the publishing industry be orientated? And what about privatisation? Is it possible to have privatised industries under a system of full transparency? And so on…
The reason why I was particularly interested in these areas is because I so rarely see these sorts of issues addressed. I don’t mean in terms of librarians debating the nature and role of government, I mean the extent to which we discuss the big issues in our society that we should be involved in. And that not only should we be involved in these discussions, we should be leading on them, making clear our expertise and ensuring that we are seen as the experts.
I think, and this may be naive, but I think that getting out there and demonstrating our expertise and relevance is how we ensure that society understands our value and importance. By getting involved in social issues and showing that not only do we have a deep understanding of these issues, but we have some ideas about their solutions, that is how I think we can ensure that when people think ‘librarians’ they don’t think books and silence, but they think of us as valuable information experts. It is not done through making out we are somewhat self-obsessed. We need to, in my view, look inward a little less and outward a little more. We may not rule the world as a result but we can, perhaps, change it a little.
* For what it’s worth, I think it would be a slightly anarchistic society.