Thursday, June 23, 2011

Remarks at the Native Daughter Award

Yesterday there was a wonderful reception at the Norwich Holiday Inn honoring Maureen Sullivan, a native daughter of this community and incoming president of the American Library Association. From her remarks it is clear that she is the sort of insightful, energetic person ALA needs at its helm. She understands that the status quo for libraries, based on assumptions about our role as community assets, is categorically untenable. I was honored to be among those asked to address and congratulate Maureen, and I would like to share those remarks with you:
Maureen credits her time as a teenager working at Otis Library for her success. “I remember being able to go and have the whole world of books open up for me,” she said. “It made me attuned to the ways libraries contribute to every child’s education, but also how a library contributes to a community.” As a consultant and educator, and as she proudly acknowledges, a “real librarian” she is a catalyst for change and innovation, sharing her knowledge and skills with others who share with her the same love of reading and learning. That is an important commitment and essential to being a real librarian. There was a time, not that long ago, when the status of libraries as community assets was unquestioned. Libraries were in so many respects inviolable institutions. There was an implied consensus about their importance to the common weal, to education and the maintenance of community fabric; they were unassailable. That consensus has frayed. Being, through your actions a catalyst for change is integral to the definition of being a real librarian.
Being a real librarian describes a commitment of time and energy to planning, assessment and advocacy, based on the understanding that not making the investment of time in these areas leads to awful consequences. We at Otis have learned from two years of retrenchment, reductions, furloughs and pain. That pain was a great antidote to the assumption that we could conduct business as usual, or that as an “acknowledged community asset” we would always have enough, do enough and know enough to survive. The new mantra is test, probe, identify opportunities, collaborate, advocate, think in terms of the library as a community center, and NEVER assume anything!
Acknowledging the need for change, questioning and eschewing the status quo are essential to the definition of a “real librarian,” and we are pleased to offer our congratulations to Maureen Sullivan, a deserving recipient of the Native Daughter Award in recognition of her achievements.

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