Review of Information & Society – C. Keyport
The journal Information & Culture takes an historical approach to the study of libraries and information systems. Initially I thought this journal would take a multicultural approach to library and information systems due to the title. Because I would eventually like to end up in a tribal library this seemed like a good fit. I quickly realized that this journal has a scope of actually looking at interactions between society and all types of information and libraries, both modern and historical. It turned out to be a really insightful journal into the ways in which library and information systems have functioned historically and how problems and ideas of the past have a way of coming back to the present and popping up in the future. After reading two years of this journal the following ideas or trends have made several appearances: librarians and/or informational professionals taking action in society, computer programming and information system updates, and the transitioning of facilities and institutions from original purpose to current needs.
To begin things, one of the first trends I picked up has to do with librarians being advocates in society. This is a topic we have discussed in class and it was very nice and reassuring to read in a national, peer-reviewed journal that this is something librarians really think about. The example that stands out most to me from the past two years of this journal is an article about a woman by the name of Lura G. Currier, a Mississippi state librarian at the Mississippi Library Commission (MLC) in the era of the United States Civil Rights Movement from 1950-1967 (Cook, 2013). As with most articles in this journal, to show a point or an example of a trend specific case studies were used. This case study examined the internal struggle Currier faced as a Mississippi state employee and information professional. She had to battle herself everyday because her personal beliefs contradicted the state’s laws on treatment of and information access for African American patrons. We discussed a similar issue in 450, but it was particularly interesting to read an article about one specific person’s experience. In the end, Currier ended up being known as an:
articulate woman who earned an international reputation for her tireless and successful work to expand and improve library services in a state whose had citizens had been dubbed a ‘people without books’ just one year prior to her employment at MLC (Cook 2013, 134).
If Currier wasn’t enough of an example, one of the more unique articles was a look at Kansas pioneer women who created a community library because after the move West they felt the one thing their community lacked was books and literature. These former city men, women and children were lured from homes in the city to this new land in Kansas where ads claimed, “THE FINEST CROPS IN THE WORLD”, cheap land, and beckoned people to come see “THE NEW LAND IN AN OLD COUNTRY” (Weaver 2013, 50). These pioneer city women pooled resources and used their city smarts to bring books to this new undeveloped part of America. These examples are the most standout examples of the trend shown in Information & Culture regarding the library’s role in social advocacy.
The next trend seen frequently in this journal is the idea of advancing technology and how this is best to be handled. Many articles take a look back into history in order to show what was once considered to be amazing new technology and how that new technology was received and incorporated into library and information institutions. The technological article that really represents this perspective is about the history of information transmission in 1857 after the Fort Tejon earthquake. People travelled on horseback in order to find out information about the expanse of this earthquake. People were interested in the science of the earthquake as well as the affects the earthquake had on surrounding LA communities. This article looked at newspapers, first hand accounts, and a few other types of sources in order to look at how information was spread at this time, especially concerning major events. The conclusion of this article circles back to discuss the limitations and advantages of information circulation in the mid nineteenth century in comparison to what limitations and advantages we have with technology today (Finn 2013, 215). Many articles looked at a historic technology trend or use of information sharing and related it back to how we use a similar system today.
The final and most important trend, in my opinion, is the trend for libraries to assess where they came from as an information agency and where they need to go to continue to fill the needs of their patrons. Libraries today need to be at the top of information trends in order to be the most effective for their patrons. One article discussed a British library and its new usage of staff magazines/newsletters in order to keep staff up to date with library and societal happenings at work and in the community. This new trend of staff written reports and magazines took place in the early twentieth century and was a way for staff to transition their library culture to a bit more modern culture that its patrons were a part of. The article begins with the words, “Much is made nowadays of the arrival of a network society” (Black 2012, 143). This exemplifies that the article and the journal that published said article is looking to examine the new societal arrivals and their impact on library and information professionals. It is important for libraries and information agencies to reflect on their past and use those reflections to improve upon their work in the future. This is what the British public library was doing by finding a new way to keep staff involved in the updates of the library. Nowadays staff newsletters have been replaced with blogs and wiki posts, but this article is an example of the start of increased communication in the workplace to better serve the patrons.
Looking at historical trends as a basis for current trends is the basis of the journal Information & Culture. This scope allows librarians and information professionals to examine past historical trends as a lens for the future. Such trends include librarians as social advocates, technology advances, and the transition between historical and modern usages of libraries and information agencies.
- Black, Alistair. “Organizational Learning and Home-Grown Writing: The Library Staff Magazine in Britain in the First Half of the Twentieth Century.” Information & Culture: A Journal of History 47, no. 4 (2012): 487-513.
- Cook, Karen. “Struggles Within: Lura G. Currier, the Mississippi Library Commission, and Library Services to African Americans.” Information & Culture: A Journal of History 48, no. 1 (2013): 134-156.
- Finn, Megan. “Information Infrastructure and Descriptions of the 1857 Fort Tejon Earthquake.” Information & Culture: A Journal of History 48, no. 2 (2013): 194-221.
- Weaver, Diana. “Letters to Lucy Johnston: Addressing the Need for Literature on the Kansas Prairies.” Information & Culture: A Journal of History 48, no. 1 (2013): 50-67.