The PLA Blog | Official Blog of the Public Library Association

Philadelphia Freedom

Over 200 years ago there was a lot of talk about freedom in Philadelphia. At the PLA 2012 Opening session Robert Kennedy Jr.’s speech about alternate energy resources reflected the unnoticed quiet decline of freedom. Mr. Kennedy pointed out that our energy options are changing and they are changing for the better. Technology has improved so much that solar energy is cost effective and it doesn’t harm the environment. What is required is a large initial capital investment and the result is low cost sustainability.
Why then have we not widely adopted solar power? According to Mr. Kennedy, these beneficial energy changes have not occurred because we no longer live in a free society. Corporations control our government and the energy status quo provides them immediate profit whatever the costs to our future.
Why are we the people not alarmed by this? One reason is because we don’t really have a free press anymore. The news we receive is spun and filtered through the corporate lens with an eye to marketing to us, keeping us consuming, distracted and ignorant. So what does this have to do with public libraries and librarians? What is our take away?
I don’t think the take away is that public libraries are bastions of freedom in a free society or energy change agents. No, the takeaway should be deeper than that. That libraries need to spend time learning about new library technologies, do some real critical thinking about how these technologies can improve library services. Instead of clinging to the status quo physical book lending model think outside the box and apply some old time library science to the situation. For example, apply real cost analysis to ebooks and physical books. Remember to include the cost of facilities and staff to maintain and manage the collection after initial purchase. Analyze ebook collection usage and test the 80/20 rule (on average only 20% of the collection circulates). PLA Conference provides a great opportunity to exercise our freedoms to learn and think.