- Our Enduring Values Revisited: Librarianship in an Ever-Changing World by Michael Gorman
Michael Gorman’s Our Enduring Values Revisited: Librarianship in an Ever-Changing World comes close to what I have been searching for, first as a student pursuing a masters of library and information science (MLIS) and then as an established librarian: an overview of libraries and librarianship that contextualizes and historicizes the profession, a book that helps readers see the big picture. In the fifteen years since Gorman wrote Our Enduring Values: Librarianship in the 21st Century (Chicago: ALA, 2000), we have seen new digital technologies become so entrenched that it is difficult to imagine a world without mobile devices such as iPods, Kindles, and smartphones; social media applications such as Face-book, Twitter, and YouTube; and crowd-sourced databases such as Wikipedia and the Internet Movie Database (IMDb).
Though much has changed in fifteen years, Gorman exhibits the same faith and commitments, writing, “Fifteen years ago, I wondered if the world of libraries had been turned upside down and if the time had come for librarians to beat a retreat. I did not believe that then, and I do not believe that now . . . I believe that librarians have a duty, now more than ever, to organize convincing rebuttals to those arguments and to revisit the values that inform our profession.” (p. xiii) In Our Enduring Values Revisited, Gorman considers what has changed and what persists and examines the values that have informed and continue to inform librarianship.
Gorman directly addresses steward-ship, service, intellectual freedom, rationalism, literacy and learning, equity of access, privacy, and democracy. He shows the connections between libraries and similar institutions such as archives, museums, and galleries. He offers a useful introduction to major library thinkers and theorists such as Melvil Dewey, S. R. Ranganathan, and Jesse Hauk Shera, and he situates librarianship within a broader historical and philosophical context. At the core of Gorman’s value system is a belief in the “greater good.” Libraries, he says, “must be directed to benefit not only the communities we serve and the wider society, but also every single member of that community and the wider society; that is, the direction that should underlie all our activities and should be the principle—animated by our values—that guides everything we do in libraries.” (p. 212)
In spite of the emphasis on “every single member” of our communities, the absence of any substantive discussion of diversity within libraries and librarian-ship is notable and problematic. Our communities and our profession have grown increasingly diverse, and this issue has been overlooked for too long in studies of libraries and librarianship. Examinations of the future must consider diversity [End Page 447] within local and global contexts, especially in relation to the “greater good.” Gorman does, however, address many controversial aspects of our profession and weighs in on a range of issues, most notably the current state of library education (“a disaster verging on catastrophe”) and the mind-set of some administrators (who “know the cost of everything and the value of nothing”). (p. 85, p. 95) Not everyone will agree with Gorman, but his ideas encourage readers to ask new questions and think about the work we do.
Gorman is passionate, and he seems intermittently avuncular, irascible, entrenched, and visionary. Throughout Our Enduring Values Revisited, he reveals a deep commitment to the centrality of libraries and the importance of librarianship. In this detailed overview of the major challenges we face, Gorman convincingly shows that libraries and librarianship are worth fighting for and believing in. [End Page 448]
University of Windsor
Windsor, Ontario, Canada