Dr. Loriene Roy, Ph.D., is a professor of the School of Information at The University of Texas at Austin. As a writer, researcher, and presenter, she has won numerous awards in library-related and academic fields. She has kindly allowed us to re-post the following piece, which originally appeared on the blog Transcending Boundaries to Increase Cultural Understanding Between Countries.
Established from the estate of an American, Mr. John E. Fetzer, who made his career in radio and television programming and who also owned a championship baseball team (the Detroit Tigers), the Fetzer Institute (USA) is planning a unique event that will take place in September 2012 in Assisi, Italy. This Global Summit on Love and Forgiveness will present positive examples from around the world that illustrate the impact and potential of expressing love and forgiveness. Sixteen sectors were organized to represent different professional sectors including the Information and Communication Professions Sector. The Sectors are nominating cases to be highlighted at the Summit, each case connected to the values of the sector and also demonstrating the potential for proceeding to a “creative next step” with Fetzer support.
If we understand that “Forgiveness is a complex construct without a consensual definition, “then it is not “forgetting, condoning, excusing, or justifying.” Where do libraries lie within these scenarios of love and forgiveness? This presentation examines the core values of our field within the context of cases that were selected as exemplars of love and forgiveness. Did these cases rely on library services? If so, was this reliance overt? If not, why not? In any case, what can be the library’s role in furthering love and forgiveness? Libraries are trusted institutions that are ideal for supporting public forums on topics of deep concern. They serve all members of their communities and are advocates for those who might be disadvantaged due to economies and reduced access to information. Libraries provide community members with the tools to engage in civic discourse, including topics related to love and/or forgiveness. Libraries are meaningful during good times and essential during economically challenging times. They are trusted locations that community members turn to for information and for assistance in skills development. They are venues for community engagement. In times of social stress, libraries are ideal locations where individuals can gather to learn, share, and engage in dialogue. Libraries were established to serve growing immigrant populations. Conversations about serving multicultural populations are even more needed today. Libraries have long served as champions for intellectual access to information; their services, presence, and righteousness in the wake of often oppressive (e.g., anti-immigrant) legislation and behaviors are needed even more than ever if societies are to move closer toward love and forgiveness.
Libraries are sometimes underappreciated institutions–yet those who have not visited libraries recently still respect them for their historical pasts and for their services related to books, reading, and children. Today’s libraries have social commons, information commons, and are the third living space outside of home and work; they are laboratories for discovery. In the midst of misunderstandings around the world, the library–especially the public library–stands as a trusted and unbiased institution for change and a sanctuary for protecting freedom and human rights. It is important to include the library community at the Global Gathering. It is positive and logical to highlight the work of libraries internationally in supporting multicultural library services.