Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Crisis Within Michael Gorman

ALA President Michael Gorman's essay in the May 2006 American Libraries has engendered a lot of commentary in the biblioblogosphere--most of it negative.

Gorman's issue for his year as president was the supposed "crisis" in library education: library schools don't teach students what they need to know, faculty focus on research of no value to libraries, etc. Gorman wrote:

If you believe, as I do, that there is a crisis in library education that threatens the very existence of libraries and librarianship....

Well, no. A very nice rebuttal to Gorman's Crisis is this article ("Crying Wolf"). Encroaching technology is a threat to Gorman's personal view of librarianship--that explains the eschatological language.

The bottom line is there is no crisis in library education. Gorman wasted his year as president promoting discussion of a problem that doesn't even exist. I predict Gorman's imagined crisis in will disappear from the public marketplace of ideas on the day his tenure as ALA President ends. It's nothing more than a manifestation of his own personal fears--like the monster in the movie "Forbidden Planet." When Gorman leaves, the "monster" will vanish as well.

Information Science will prove to be something like the savior of Library Science rather than the beast that killed it.

No one agrees on a definitive definition of librarianship, but Gorman's definition is certainly the librarianship of his youth. But the profession continues to evolve and technology will always be a far more important part of it from here on out, because technology is more important to our culture and our users. Libraries must reflect that.

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