I, TOO, SING AMERICAHow public libraries can encourage civicengagement via information technology
Of all the ethical responsibilities of libraries, encouragingcivic engagement must be near the top of the list."Libraries can help mitigate the downside of new technology by emphasizingcommunity connections that are both face to face and electronic, and byorganizing and disseminating local information for local residents"(Schull, 2004, p. 65).
Citizenship“Be Informed Citizens” is the first of the 17PLA Service responses from 2007.
What does it mean to be a citizen? Schudson (1998): to deliberate via dialogue, never forget the rights of minorities, nor ones responsibility to posterity, and to demand of oneself “ordinary but not heroic efforts at information-gathering and civic participation” (p. 309). Civic activities are one measurement Civic attitudes are another
What does it mean to be a citizen? Habermas & Arendt: the public sphere is “a discursive arena that is home to citizen debate, deliberation, agreement and action” (Villa, 1992, p. 712). A “public voice” is characteristic of civic engagement, as separate from private conversation. My definition of civic engagement: any activity or attitude reflecting the individual’s relationship with civil society, within the public sphere, particularly when using the public voice.
DivisionsBoth the digital divide and falling rates ofcivic participations point to growinginequities that can be addressed bylibraries.
Trust & inequity "Trust in others rests on a foundation of economic equality. When resources are distributed inequitably, people at the top and the bottom will not see each other as facing a shared fate" (Uslaner & Brown, 2003, p.2). Inequity = little trust = less likely to participate in civic life. Particularized trust = bonding Generalized trust = bridging
Social capital Social capital: the benefits of reciprocity, networking, a nd trustworthiness that can be earned by individuals, institutions or communities. Libraries have social capital. Libraries build social capital.
The Digital DivideThe digital divide is both caused by and further causes civic disengagement and lack of social capital.
Falling rates of participation Voting rates are down from earlier in the century. People belong to fewer community organizations. Belonging to organizations increases civic engagement, even things like bowling leagues and book clubs.
Alliances Library partnerships can: establish new constituencies build wider support broaden and diversify sources of funding (Marcum, 1996, p. 197). Increase bonding & bridging forms of social capital.
IT & Civic EngagementPessimism about possible deleteriouseffects of IT on social structures sparksassumptions about social fragmentation.
Pew Internet & American LifeProject Internet use actually increases the likelihood of using public spaces, of connecting locally, and of having rich and diverse networks. There may be downsides to IT and civic engagement, but using Facebook and a cell phone is not causing damaging social networks. Civic engagement was increased among IT users.
IT & social capital spiral Path dependency Low social becomes a capital given if one has no idea Can’t build another path social No IT exists. capital via IT information Can’t access IT
Agape vs. StorgeHistorically, motivations for encouragingcivic engagement have been paternalistic.
Storge Storge, the Greek word for love of a parent for a child: an elitist sentiment in statements such as “persons should be induced to read” to “raise personal character and condition” (Seaver, Gardner, & McCleary, 1852). McCabe(2001): “most people arent interested in serious education and intense civic engagement” is dismissive (p. 31). Hearkens back to a popular image of librarian as contemptuous and holier-than-thou.
Agape Agape, the Greek word for unconditional love for one’s fellow humans. Library services offered BY community members (including the librarians themselves) FOR community members. No hierarchical distinction between librarians and users.
IT in LibrariesIn the virtual environment, therefore, it is the communitythat is understood to be the source of power in the waythat the material world was understood to be in anenvironment that valued vertu, and the spiritual in aworld focused on virtue. (Braman, 1996, p. 308)
Library use & IT At the local, regional, and national levels, the stories people tell are more powerful than the tools they use” (McCabe, 2001, p. 150). Internet use has revived, not destroyed, libraries (Friess, 2002).
Over-used cliché or critical meme? The “Yes We Can” ideal of individual engagement has spurred a cultural movement of self-empowerment via social networking. Critics such as John Buschman (2003) question the legitimacy of the capitalist model of technology: “libraries diminish the quality of the public sphere within their walls in the unthinking shift to the entertainment resources and products of the “new” economy” (p. 74).
Recommendations?4 ways in which libraries can add civic engagement-building IT-rich services.
AlliancesBuild alliances with othercivic groups by hostingthem both online and inthe physical library.Pay librarians to buildsuch partnerships throughorganization membership.
ThirdspaceIncrease both virtual andphysical thirdspace, andspur conversations withprograms on local topics.Go where the peopleare, such as pubs andfacebook instead ofwaiting for them to cometo the library.
Reflect the communityReposition the libraryimage from aloofinformation provider byactively reflectingcommunity life.This image was shot by adirector who shoots &uploads photos of allsorts of communityevents.
Use artHost nectarian artexhibits online and inthe library, to engagethe community withlocal ecology and toactivate conversationon the psychology ofplace.
Conclusion:Today, new information technologies can increase, rather than decrease, the viability of thecivic engagement aspects of a library’s mission. Mounting inequities of information accesscan by reined in by the use of public library technologies, as long as librarians are aware ofthe moral implications of access policies. The innovative and ethical use of technology inpublic libraries can enrich our communities morphogenetically.
ReferencesBraman, S. J. (1996). From virtue to vertu to the virtual: Art, self- Most images were Microsoft organizing systems, and the net. Readerly/Writerly Texts: Essays on clipart, but the following need Literature, Literary/Textual Criticism, and Pedagogy, 3 (2), 149-166. attribution.Buschman, J. E. (2003). Dismantling the public sphere: situating and sustaining librarianship in the public philosophy. Westport, CT: Falling rates of participation: Libraries Unlimited. http://www.cmsathletics.org/intr amurals/2007-Friess, S. (2002, July 25). The Web didnt kill libraries. Its the new draw. Retrieved May 1, 2010, from Christian Science Monitor: 08/news/Spring_Bowling http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0725/p02s02-ussc.html Thirdspace:Marcum, D. B. (1996). Redefining community through the public library. http://api.ning.com/files/ykz2VB Daedalus , 125, 191-205. SUxmhLHE56uHeMAQAnyNP*McCabe, R. B. (2001). Civic librarianship: Renewing the social mission of w5Z0- the public library. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. D6eGGBz7u8X4XuNL76C1UWSchudson, M. (1998). The good citizen: A history of American civic life. CAGQsPVlHC5fN9NmL9cCZY New York: The Free Press. gTK9nRsBO72vW9S91m1/discSchull, D. (2004). The civic library: A model for 21 st century ussion.jpg participation. Advances in Librarianship , 28, 55-81. Reflect the community:Seaver, B., Gardner, H. J., & McCleary, S. F. (1852). Report of the http://www.flickr.com/photos/les trustees of the public library of the city of Boston. Boston, MA. terpubliclibrary/4544700087/Uslaner, E. M., & Brown, M. (2003). Inequality, trust and civic Use art: engagement. American Politics Research , 31 (3), 1-28. http://synapticstimuli.com/we-Villa, D. R. (1992). Postmodernism and the public sphere. The American are-nature/ Political Science Review, 86 (3), 712-721.