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Shelf Talk 50: Upon Entering My 30th Year

This month I start my 30th year as a master’s degree-bearing, professional librarian. As I look back, I see so very much that has changed. My first position was to staff the Reference Desk at a college library in Virginia. Though reference service still exists at most libraries, it is very minimal. The service is often offered from one, combined, physical public service point as well as online. Physical reference resource collections have been absorbed into the general, non-fiction collections with the designation of “noncirculating.” I estimate that close to 90% of what I did with my time in that first position of the Fall of 1992 has been replaced by Internet-based infrastructure and tools. Technology has greatly impacted what libraries of all types offer in resources, services, and programming. Things change and libraries adapt. My first position in a public setting was to direct the public library in Bloomer, Wisconsin from 1998 into 2001. At that time, it was becoming obvious to me that public libraries needed to start aiming to be community living rooms, playrooms, and/or dens. This was strongly confirmed when we were awarded a mini grant to offer a gaming event for the kids of the community. We had so many kids that we could not fit into the building. It was a great problem to have that night. In those days people thought it was interesting that I deployed a Thomas the Tank Engine activity table in the children’s space. Now we see that sort of thing in most public libraries. Nevertheless, an on-going evolution that impacts me personally working from a Biblically Christian worldview within the profession, is what I view as the general decay of American culture and society. Earlier this summer I presented a workshop at the Annual Conference of The Association of Christian Librarians. Here are some of the “bullets” that were in my PowerPoint slides. It would require many pages for me to fully support and contextualize the following points; but I will simply offer this selection one after another here, and I invite you to converse with me about them at any time in person. I believe the points are strategic and important to offer for thought. Concerning the “inside” of the library profession… it is increasingly hostile to traditional approaches to parenting and parental responsibility. It attempts to promote “amoral” behavior which is an impossibility coming from post-modern school of thought. More recently it also pushes a disregard for local point of view. Concerning the library service environment… much of our clientele is tired, hopeless, and angry and exists in an economy that needs broadly educated tradespeople. Concerning Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion, etc. in library collections... resources (in Mississippi County) are funded mainly by the local sales tax of people with all types of beliefs and values. Collections need to be built in tandem with the titles requested by the readers. Regardless of how the American Library Association has controlled the language, resources are not banned if they are accessible in a timely fashion. Concerning the rise in beliefs that challenge “Americanized” Christianity… public libraries are not and should not be viewed as safe spaces in regard to maintaining point of view nor worldview. Censorship of anti-Christian thought promotes the censorship of Christian thought as well. Putting Christian content into the public library is much more workable than attempting to remove “trash.” Public library content is driven by the local culture. The culture is created by the citizenry. The citizens are our neighbors. To change library content, be the means to allow God to change your neighbor. Feel free to drop by my office or stop me on the sidewalk or at a football game for further discussion. There is a lot behind the sentences presented above, but as I enter the decade of the home stretch of my career, I see quite a few matters of growing concern in the world of public librarianship

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