With a degree in English Literature and advanced education my parents have so generously funded…along with decades as a librarian and an Administrator…I like to think of myself as “well-spoken”. I occasionally even relish the notion that I might sometimes rise to the level of “eloquent”: However, I read an article today on the “IMLS Blog” that purported a notion that was so obvious- but presented as NEW- that it left me with none of these attributes. My only response was… “Duh?!”
Be that as it may, I still felt it was worth sharing. The ideas presented (clearly new to the researchers and participants of the work) are, in my opinion, simply reaffirmations of what many of us in Public Libraries already know and work toward every day. Their findings also reaffirm my belief in the necessity of a common mission of Public Libraries:
“To provide the open and equal access to information that is necessary for the existence of an informed citizenry able to participate in their government.”
The question of the project detailed in the article:
What role can public libraries play in the highly visible and expanding domain of Open Government?
Public libraries are the best-positioned community anchors to address the demand-side of open government. In addition, with a bit more strategic vision and planning, they can play a key role in helping ensure that open government activities align with community aspirations and that citizens have the capabilities to contribute to the opening of government in useful and meaningful ways.
One of the most revealing things I learned was that public libraries have a long history of supporting the opening of government through many of the services and resources they provide. However, this role was hidden in plain sight due to the lack of common language and understanding both within the public library community and between public libraries and open government experts.
Adopting a focus on the demand side of open government will provide public libraries with a much needed common language and a strategic planning platform to help match their programs and activities to their communities’ needs and capabilities. Focusing on the demand side of open government will assist public libraries in developing key partnerships with government and other entities, helping government officials, government agencies, nonprofits, and private organizations have a direct resource to the community and its needs. It will also allow them to play a significant role in and benefit from the open government trend.