I happened to click on a headline that said President-Elect Obama had made his most specific statements to date about how he hopes to stimulate the economy. The article, “Obama sketches out recovery plan,” was in CNN’s Money section. One of the five main goals: “modernize classrooms, labs and libraries.” (There was also “rebuild crumbling roads, bridges and schools,” which gives hope to those of us working in the transportation sector.) I found Obama’s Weekly Address on YouTube, and yes, he used the word “libraries.”
One reason this is so encouraging to me is because there are not many transportation librarians, and we are forever trying to prove our worth. Here, in a four-minute video, the President-Elect mentions both transportation (roads and bridges) and libraries among his top five focus areas for stimulating the economy. In contrast, back in mid-2006, the draft version of the Strategic Plan of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), which oversees the National Transportation Library (NTL), did not include the words library, libraries, or librarians! During the public comment period, I and a good number of other transportation librarians submitted comments on the draft. The result of our efforts was the appearance of this sentence in Appendix B, “Stakeholder Input,” of the finished Strategic Plan: “Include the role of transportation libraries in information sharing and dissemination of research results.” For many years now, we’ve studied not just Library Science, but Library and Information Science – and I attended University of Arizona’s School of Information Resources and Library Science in 1996 and 1997 – and in this final document, the word “information” appears 151 times, and libraries are treated as just an afterthought. The PDF of this document is 202 pages long, and includes the word “libraries” only one time. The video above is only four minutes long, and touches on a variety of issues, yet it also includes the word “libraries” one time.
Thank you, Mr. President-Elect, for understanding the value of libraries, and the need to support them. You give me hope for the future.