Portable MSLIS – Chapter 1

It occurs to me in reading Chapter 1 in The Portable MLIS: Insights from the Experts that historically there seems to be an odd dichotomy in human nature that plays into the motivation behind libraries: the human need or desire to record and preserve history and the human need or desire to control history. This is certainly a more socio-cultural observation but I find it interesting that while the materials, technology and even the physical space has changed, the underlying human desires are similar.

Even in today’s modern libraries, librarians have a clear degree of power that is truly unspoken. The librarian whose job it is to determine what to include in a collection, what to exclude and what to simply ignore has a tremendous responsibility to the patrons he or she serves and it goes without saying that this could easily become a position of public control. Without ever even speaking to a patron, a librarian could alter which information is available and easily impose his or her own beliefs on a complete stranger who could easily be completely unconscious of the manipulation.

This does not mean that I am assuming all librarians are out to promote their own ideals; quite the contrary, it seems that in modern American libraries and the American Library Association uphold a certain moral standard to prevent such an abuse of power and that most librarians hold themselves to a high moral standard. Not only this, but I think it is fairly evident that the desire to preserve information has become the norm in the American library whereas the desire to control information has been replaced by the desire to make information available.


Rubin, R. E. (2008). Stepping back and looking forward: Reflections on the foundations of libraries and librarianship. In Ken Haycock & Brooke E. Sheldon (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts. Westport, Connecticut, Libraries Unlimited.