I belong to one of the first generations to grow up with computers. The Digital Age shaped my childhood, my adolescence, and continues to shape my life: I do not remember a time before the Internet. Compared to previous generations, I have spent my whole life with an unconsciously high degree of computer literacy. Perhaps because of this fact, I have always accepted both computers and access to the web as a way of life, I never considered the theoretical implications of access to information until I discovered the opportunity to study information sciences. I realized that although I have always been privileged with access to information. This is not a universal reality, even for people in my own community. It is my desire that as librarian I can act as an integral link between the public and information.
Initially, Michael Buckland’s categories of information seem self-evident: information-as-thing is required for the process of informing, which in turn is required for information-as-knowledge. However, unlike Buckland, I never separated the tangible from the intangible, the carrier from the content. This distinction is important: the carrier must be available and accessible for the content to be available. Just because the information exists does not mean that those who need it have access to it. The basic purpose of a library is to enable open access to information. I believe that it is incredibly important to understand how and why information is organized and that access to information is essential. When you consider the wealth of information available online, it seems overwhelming. I chose to remain in an academic environment in order to better my understanding of how information can be accessed, obtained, and used. It is my goal to use this understanding to inform and educate the public with the ability to inform themselves.
In order to educate and inform themselves, the public must first have access to the information they need. As information professionals, librarians have a special understanding of information access. It is the profession’s responsibility to make sure the rights surrounding intellectual freedom (and access to information) are protected. These rights are an integral part of democratic rights as citizens. Intellectual freedom and access to information are important issues, and as such need professional advocates. The grave error of conflating neutrality with professionalism has barred the librarianship from their desired status as professionals. Professional neutrality is not only impossible, but also counterproductive for the librarian profession. The concept of a professional obligation of social responsibility (as critiqued by David Berninghausen) is equally ineffectual. In order to receive respect as professionals, librarians must advocate for library values. In order to be effective advocates, they must have clearly defined values. The profession must stand behind the professional definition of their values and defend them, not only because it is their mandate as professionals and as citizens, but, more importantly, because these values have immense societal value.
My decision to pursue a Master’s in Library and Information Sciences reflects my belief in the importance of access to information and my desire to understand and organize information so that it is readily available for everyone. The advancements Digital Age should not present a hindrance or confusion but rather more open accessibility to information. Information as a commodity should not be expensive. It is a commodity that should be widely available and open for all. It is a commodity that is a privilege but should be a right. My goal as a librarian is to inform and connect users with the information that they need and the ability to process and pursue the information that they need.
BDP Photography graciously granted me permission to use his beautiful images of this library. To see the rest in the series, and to see more of his work, please click here.