LibraryCamp session proposal #15 from Ben Taylor of Red Quadrant (AKA @antlerboy) has drawn some heat over on the wiki. We thought it was better to continue the debate here on the blog rather than on the wiki session proposal page so it doesn't confuse people just looking for the session details. Please have a read and add your comments below.
Ben proposed a session on...
'Bringing the politics back into libraries and libraries back into politics - can we create a more meaningful campaign for libraries' (from @antlerboy)
This is based on a theory that there are two (maybe three) rather sterile and competing theories of libraries at present:
A) libraries are a good thing, they served me when I was young, where would we be without them, jumpers as goalposts etc.... they should never change and I'll fight to the death to keep 'em
B) libraries are a good thing, they just need to be brought into the 21st Century, we need fewer, better, more efficient and effective and achieving more for less.
(and maybe the occasional 'challenge' of (C) 'libraries are dead to me and the web or whatever has taken over, forget about them')...
We all know that these characterisations are feeble caricatures of the rich and complex (and sometimes failing, or at least stumbling) reality. But when it comes to the national headlines, it really seems to be a case of (B) - usually the politicians in charge, those managing the finances, and those reporting directly to them versus (A) - usually the user groups, authors, defenders etc. Neither seems to really speak for the broad public and I think there's a slight underlying fear that (C) is true and it's all just deckchairs and titanics.
So for just one session my suggestion is that we go beyond the mechanics of building better libraries (pleased to see some rich material in that vein in the above - and quite a bit on a broader canvas too), and try to write a real political manifesto for libraries - not being scared of being political but making the social argument - what can we get people to actually vote for?
Not sure if that makes sense, so please hack it to pieces!
@shedsue think this may link to the above: RD Lankes arguing, unusually, in favour of the Libraries are Obsolete motion at a recent Oxford style debate http://quartz.syr.edu/blog/?p=1567
@tomroper There've been a lot of attempts at library manifestos over the years, at various levels of the explicitly political. But I wonder how something meaningful can be constructed at a gathering where few if any library users are present.
@alan_wylie In response to @antlerboy - I don't know of any user groups, campaigners/defenders or authors who believe that libraries should never change but you are right there are lots who'll "fight to the death to keep 'em" As for these "defenders" et al not really speaking for the broad public I think they probably stand a better chance of achieving this than a consultant and a room full of library staff would!
And as for Library Camp writing a political manifesto for libraries I was under the impression that it was neutral and non-political organisation (if such a thing exists!)
@walkyouhome I was under the impression that LibraryCamp isn't an advocacy campaign for libraries, so perhaps this session runs counter to the stated aims of the event.