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Symposium at SJU Stresses Libraries’ Importance in Modern Age

Monday, March 31, 2014

At a recent conference held at St. John’s University, several speakers—including the country’s most prominent librarian—emphasized a common message: libraries change lives, and their presence in local communities is vital.  

The symposium--featuring presentations by Barbara Stripling, Ph.D., president of the American Library Association (ALA), and Christian Zabriskie, founder of Urban Librarians Unite--took place at the Oakdale Graduate Center on March 15. Cosponsored by the Division of Library and Information Science and the Suffolk County Cooperative Library System, the event drew approximately 100 library professionals, many of whom are alumni of SJU’s Library and Information Science graduate program.

"Libraries matter more than they ever have,” said Jeffery E. Olson, J.D., Ph.D., associate provost for academic assessment and director of the Division of Library and Information Science. "We want to validate their work and show our support for the Long Island library community."

In the era of Google, the myth that libraries are somehow less relevant must be dispelled, Olson stressed.  “Many of the most valuable resources on the Internet are not free, and through a collective effort we can purchase access and save money," he said. “The physical space serves as a place for communities to interact and share information.”

That was never more apparent than in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Olson noted. "The response of community libraries was amazing,” he said. “People had a place they could go to that was warm and dry—where they could recharge their electronic devices and get information they desperately needed."

Stripling encouraged attendees to sign the Declaration for the Right to Libraries, a public statement of the importance of libraries for individuals, communities, and the nation. “We change lives through the relationships we establish,” she said, “and that begins at the moment someone receives a library card.”