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Librarian radicals of the sixties

I don't think there's actually a written rule on this anywhere, but there seems to be an accepted tradition that each Doe Lecturer reads through all of the previous Doe lectures as they prepare their own.  Some months ago, I received from Ana Cleveland, last year's lecturer, a large blue binder containing copies of all of the previous lectures.  Apparently each lecturer sends the growing collection on to the next one.  Kind of a quaint tradition, given that all the lectures are now available online, and have been for years.

Since the lectures have been given every year but one since 1967, they may have to start naming the lecturer two years ahead instead of one, just so that there's time to get through them all.

I'm enjoying the reading.  I find that it illuminates much of my frustration with the Library 2.0 crowd and their apparent belief that their view of a new technological, patron-centered librarianship represented some kind of radical break with the past.  To wit:

The medical librarian of 1967 lives in a period of changing concepts, dramatic new methods, everwidening scientific horizons.  To meet these challenges he must welcome the future with patient flexibility and ready enthusiasm.  He is aware that no generation of librarians has seen such a swift transformation of techniques and that no generation has seen such a rapid expansion of scientific knowledge.  In looking toward the immediate past he may think of the medical librarian of thirty years ago as a complacent follower of accepted procedures, not as a pioneer in a brave new world.  (Gertrude Annan, 1967)

Recent emphasis [in the Bulletin of the Medical Library Association] is on the demands of medical research and education and on the techniques of an electronic world.  (Gertrude Annan, 1967)

Today the typical medical librarian must be an administrator, educator, researcher, collector, public servant, fund raiser, accountant, architect, psychologist and public relations expert.  With this enlightened viewpoint in mind, I object to being classified as the stereotyped librarian of twenty-five years ago.  I object to following outmoded policies and procedures.  I object to the status quo attitude and lack of experimentation and desire on the part of some for improved methodology for librarianship.  (Alfred Brandon, 1969)

Medical libraries are the recorded experiences of mankind in its attempt to study and take action on the problems of health and disease.  Their purpose is to bring the information gathered in the past to bear on the questions of the present and the future, and thus to break down the barriers of time and space.  (Estelle Brodman, 1971)

You can find similar statements in just about every one of the lectures.   That's why I never could figure out what was "new" about what the Library 2.0 folks were saying, other than that they were enchanted with the latest shiny thing.

The immediate challenges we face always seem new, of course.  There's always a new technology that presents great opportunities if we can figure out how to use it wisely and well.  But the philosophy, the approach, the ethic of librarianship that supports us in making our decisions was well-articulated over forty years ago.


Jean Shipman

I found the same to be true when I was preparing my end of the year speech as MLA President and was reviewing documents on the association's beginning. It's good to reflect on the past occasionally.

Thank goodness we work in a profession that is constantly challenging us to be the best we can be and encourages others to be the same for the benefit of many!

Margaret Henderson

How true. I laugh at all the talk from young librarians about older librarians stopping progress. Who do they think put catalogues online? And they don't know the headaches I had with the first online journals in the early '90s. Anybody else beta test Grateful Med? I think we need to distinguish between age and mindset. Some people are born old and inflexible no matter what the profession.


I don't know if I qualify as part of the 2.0 crowd or not, but I do find myself amused by and participating in the "radical break" discussions at conferences. At some point during these conversations, I find myself wondering if this isn't just another generation finding a way to be enthused by the possibilities of the profession they've chosen.

I was even more amused when, while doing research for a conference paper discussing inter-generational differences, I ran across the following article:
Giancola, Frank. “Should Generation Profiles Influence Rewards Strategy?” Employee Relations Law Journal Summer 2008 34(1): 56-68

The article referenced a video from the 1970s discussing those upstart Baby Boomers with the some similar complaints/descriptions to what I've heard about Gen X/Y'ers and Millenials. While not completely on track with what is being describing above, I can't help but see parallels.

And if anyone feels the need to judge my librarian street cred or figure out where I stand in the generational discussion:
* Yes, I remember Grateful Med (though I was phasing out when I joined the profession)
* I did take the 3 day Medlars training
* And yes, the Internet made me want to become a librarian.

Scott, I can't wait to hear your Doe lecture!

Ellen Todd Hanks

Yes, I was also a Medlars trainee, but my training was 5 months! Ah, what a heady feeling it was to be in the National Library of Medicine surrounded by all the future gonings-on. I was a more or less brand-new librarian, had no background in medical anything, and just loved it all! I remember Grateful Med as a somewhat onerous piece of software, but at the time, it was really needed.

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