Obiter Dictum

Woman's virtue is man's greatest invention --- Cornelia Otis Skinner

Tuesday, April 26

Yay. Somebody gets it.

Ruth Holladay

Indianapolis Star

Dear Ms. Holladay:

We write to express our appreciation for your thoughtful column printed in the Star on April 26. In your report you raised some of the very basic issues concerning quality public services tax-paying citizens should expect from a modern community library. The Indianapolis Marion County Public Library has a rich history of providing excellent, professional response to the needs of not only our county citizens, but needs for Indiana citizens in general. The new building will be a structure symbolizing civic pride just as other communities in Indiana (Fort Wayne, Fishers, Noblesville, and Carmel) have found recently.

It is indeed true that public library services are changing in many respects. Recently, interns from our graduate program at IUPUI helped to usher in many changes in technology supported information access through a program funded by the Gates Foundation. These interns serviced over 90 public libraries in Indiana, including IMCPL. A more inviting and popular collection is also basic to the enhancement of the new facilities IMCPL has already constructed on a very innovative basis at many locations in the county.

Although IMCPL faces what we understand to be very difficult financial decisions, a dramatic shift away from professionals in key management, subject expertise and service positions can result in deterioration of public services regardless of how efficient support staff may be. The expectations for professional librarians today have increased in these areas:

  • Evaluation of services so that needs of specific groups in the community can be identified and addressed.
  • Development and coordination of outreach services so that the most effective means can be used to get resources to special groups such as the elderly, the disabled, and others who may be underserved for meeting their information needs.
  • Advancing full civic engagement so that the public library, including its departments and branches, becomes more collaborative with other community organizations to address the information needs for all local citizens and organizations – whether nonprofit or for profit.
  • Taking steps that encourage philanthropic efforts for fund-raising and grant-writing that help to improve services and reduce the tax burden.
  • Creation of special programs in cooperation with the public schools, community organizations for adults and other agencies so that information can be presented by experts at community library locations around the county.
  • Instructional sessions, conducted by knowledgeable library professionals, in the methods to search new electronic information databases and how to make wise information selection and use decisions. The Information Age demands that all citizens, young to elderly, become wise information consumers and professional librarians, as teachers of information literacy, can help achieve this goal.

The IMCPL director and her excellent staff face some very difficult decisions. Perhaps choices have been made and there is no turning back. Perhaps the quality of public services will be monitored so that meaningful information education and delivery will not be lost in this new community structure we all look forward to using. It is our hope that a high quality staff of professionals will be part of the future showcase as well as the structure itself.

Daniel Callison, Professor
Executive Associate Dean
Jean Preer, Associate Professor
Marilyn Irwin, Associate Professor
Indiana University
School of Library and Information Science – Indianapolis


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