Unearthing the Library’s Value: Why Bother?

Sponsored by University of Toronto Press

Recorded on 07/20/2020
Posted in The Authority File

Episode 142

In our capitalist society, libraries—free, public spaces—continually face the challenge of trying to prove their value through quantitative, tangible means. But what about the emotional value? The abstract, qualitative worth?

The opening chapter of Dr. Toni Samek’s co-edited volume, Minds Alive: Libraries and Archives Now, poses the controversial question: Libraries—why bother? As budgets shrink and librarians struggle to prove their institutions’ worth, Dr. Alice Crawford’s chapter dives into the appeal of considering libraries through qualitative rather than quantitative means. Dr. Samek explains: “The traditional metrics of counting and tracking and using the records becomes problematic, so I think what’s she’s trying to do is really just inform and drive broader attention to equity, diversity, and inclusion, and thinking about the need for more sophisticated ways and metrics of understanding where we’re at and where we need to be.”

In this third episode, Dr. Samek discusses how this provocative chapter answers the existential question of what’s the point? by coupling libraries with our fundamental rights. “I think what she does is really connect us to, in her own way, thinking about the universal declaration of human rights, and how much of those articles really do relate to humans’ interaction with information.”


About the guest:

Toni Samek
Professor, School of Library and Information Studies
University of Alberta


Listen to the rest of the series: