Saturday, January 28, 2006

Rural Public lib.- week 1

Rather than re-cap what we discussed in class about this article (D. Marcum, "The rural public library..."), I thought I'd use this space to raise a broad theoretical issue. We talked about how the voices of the actual rural patrons who used the Hagerstown, MD, library and/or bookmobile in the early 1900's were very difficult to find. To me, a connected issue to this is, how do we find the voices of non-readers or writers in a history of libraries? In other words, we are doing a history of reading, so how can this history include people who are not literate, or are from oral cultures (either older cultures such as Am. Indian or current cultures like the Hmong)? I think this is an important part of history, and can be very difficult to find. By definition, a culture or people who are oral, or for whom a written language is very new, are going to be hard to include in histories which rely on the written word. But I think it is very important for historians and librarians to seek out these voices. One way libraries can do this now is to seek out elders in cultures such as the Hmong and record oral histories, folk tales, stories, etc. and thus include their voices in the current record. Any other thoughts on this?


Brendan said...

Great question. I agree that it's vitally important to seek out these histories of cultures and groups of people that haven't necessarily been heard from. As to how, oral collection seems to remain the most viable option, despite the fact that it is time-consuming and sometimes unreliable. And using that as a starting point, how would these histories of marginalized cultures, in relation to their "library" usage, fit in to a comparison with our current notion of what a library is. Would ancient tribes of Africa, or the Hmong culture in Southeast Asia have similar structures in place for the collection and preservation of important materials, stories, information, etc.? Obviously, the form would be drastically different, but what about the general idea? If someone comes from a culture that doesn't necessarily value this sort of information repository, how would they recognize the possibilities presented by a public library? The concept of what a "library" should be seems to be very individualistic, which just emphasizes the point that these types of perspectives are not available in great numbers.

Nancy S. said...

I think this idea brings up a major question 'what is the role of the librarian?'. I believe it isn't a librarian's position to CREATE information - here in the sense of gathering voice recordings. It is the librarian's job to collect and compile these sources to make them available to patrons. If librarians were to undertake projects such as this where would the line be drawn? Would groups begin lobbying librarians to get books published and sound bites recorded? I think ideas like this need to be carefully considered as it would redefine what a librarian is and does.