Librarians and society

Freedom, Prosperity and the Development of society and individuals are fundamental human values. They will only be attained through the ability of well-informed citizens to exercise their democratic rights and to play an active role in society. Constructive participation and the development of democracy depend on satisfactory education as well as on free and unlimited access to knowledge, thought, culture and information.

The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups.”

So says UNESCO in the introduction to its Public Library Manifesto . The manifesto goes on to say:

“The librarian is an active intermediary between users and resources. Professional and continuing education of the librarian is indispensable to ensure adequate services.”

Professional librarians are dedicated to providing access to information and resources and work to a strong ethical code.  The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) Code of Professional Practice contains the following clause which emphasises the role librarians must fulfil:

“One of the distinguishing features of professions is that their knowledge and skills are at the service of society at large, and do not simply serve the interests of the immediate customer. Members should therefore:

1. Consider the public good, both in general and as it refers to particular vulnerable groups, as well as the immediate claims arising from their employment and their professional duties.

2. Promote equitable access for all members of society to public domain information of all kinds and in all formats.

3. Strive to achieve an appropriate balance within the law between demands from information users, the need to respect confidentiality, the terms of their employment, the public good and the responsibilities outlined in this Code.

4. Encourage and promote wider knowledge and acceptance of, and wider compliance with, this Code, both among colleagues in the information professions and more widely among those whom we serve.”

This website will publish the facts about Public Library Services in the UK, and about the work librarians do. Its aim is to provide a balanced view of the service and the profession, and to discuss some ideas for the way forward. We don’t want to lose our libraries, and we aim to ensure future generations continue to enjoy access to the fundamental values identified by UNESCO and provided by free unbiased public libraries and librarians.

9 thoughts on “Librarians and society

  1. Michael Allaby

    Like countless millions of people I acquired and developed my love of books as a child through the public library within easy walking distance of my home. Free public libraries are civilized and civilizing places. They must not be allowed to wither.

  2. Giles de la Mare

    As a publisher for over fifty years and a long campaigner in the past for academic libraries through the Publishers Association, I know how essential all libraries are for the health and well-being of society at all levels, especially for local communities. The word ‘civilization’ has been used in this connection with good reason. What is happening at the moment makes me think of the Chinese Cultural Revolution which began in the mid 1960s, and was the exact opposite of what it might imply: with its banning of books and its deliberate attack on cultural artefacts, among many other things, the devastation it caused was irremediable. Does the present government wish to be remembered for such cultural philistinism? It will be, if it fails to put brakes on the library cuts — to say nothing of their insane measures that will very probably cripple the universities.

  3. Janice Wright

    How can we hope to achieve our ‘Big Society’ if we remove, for what is for many, the focal point of their cultural and community life?

  4. KarJg

    I am a librarian and although there is always those silent moments when a stranger asks what I do and I reply I am a librarian. Reactions are varied but so many times the reaction is followed up by a story of how that person used their library and how important it has been in their lives. From my former Education IT employer who found salvation in their local library when growing up, learning from their street corner University to everyday people in meetings who tell me their son/daughter grandchild loves going to the library for story times and craft events.

    1. Nick James

      Silences when you said you were a librarian? I used to be a cataloguer – we’re talking tumbleweed!
      Libraries have always been the bedrock of civilization. Long may they continue.

  5. Borgduck

    I use to love using this library. I put in my support for this library, during the threat of closure consultation of 2011. I even put in several responses under my own name & some false alias’. But, I wish to withdraw my support because of the mental-health stigma I’ve been constantly suffering these past few weeks at the hands of a few few staff, but, mainly [details redacted to protect the identity of the member of staff].

    The past week I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable & unwelcome when all I’ve wanted to do was use the computers & go home.

    1. Gary

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience. It might be worth contacting the library service with your concerns.

  6. Karen

    Could you give me an idea of how much training a librarian undertakes in order to be qualified? In our village we are challenging council plans to remove librarians and replace with volunteers – no info has been given yet on how much training these people will have. we’d like to challenge the council on how they think someone given a few hours training can possibly do everything the librarian does


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