Guest speaker Ann Thorton opened the 2014 Spring Symposium with her address, “Engaged Librarianship.” Thorton’s speech, inspired by an August 2013 report ‘New Roles for New Times’ addressed the ways in which the New York Public Library system is adopting the best practices to become involved with and help meet the information needs of New York City Library Patrons.
Thorton advised the audience on the need for libraries to stay on top of social, cultural and economic shifts to help the community. Recent Pew studies indicate that Americans view libraries as trusted and valued institutions. “Libraries still stand out,” said Thorton. Technological advances and the globalization of American culture are driving forces impacting the ways in which American people are using their libraries. In New York City, social and economic extremes and high diversity have the greatest impact on library services. Thorton notes these services include: ESL, senior services and programs, handicap services and otherwise. Thorton spoke highly of the NYPL’’s “Daddy and Me” program at Rikers Island, a program for the incarcerated to engage library services and preserve families.
According to Thorton, and engaged librarian can be defined by these attributes: “understands needs, has an outward focus, is credentialed and credible, is current and in touch, understands digital environments, possesses key personal qualities, and brings passion to work.” Engaged librarians are also providing educational services to students in a culmination of after school and summer programming. Engaging with students after school enhances scholarly productivity and these students become “effective ambassadors for the library,” said Thorton, “the basis of library use is education.” Libraries are feeding the creation of new knowledge. And although public librarians today have become “digital media mentors” Thorton reminds us, “Reading is still important, books are still important.” Emerging technologies has not yet displaced these cornerstones of libraries.
Ann Thorton is has been the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the New York Public Libraries since 2012. She is responsible for reference services, preservation, collection development, fellowship programs and exhibitions at four research and eighty-seven branch libraries in the NYPL system. In her previous fifteen-plus career as a leader in the NYPL system, Thorton has led efforts to make physical and digital collections more accessible to users. She is a recognizable name and authority figure in library-use instruction, eBooks and Internet in libraries. Thorton earned a BA in English from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and her MLIS from Florida State University.
A recording of this address can be viewed here. (The Cisco WebEx add-on is required)