A Librarian’s restless soul

I love reading any kinds. I read billboards, newspapers, books (printed and digital), advertise, etc. I like reading and find meaning inside it. I assume that many people has similar interest as I am. It is also one of the reason I chose to become a librarian.

I soon learn that similar objective could have many approach. I found that my interest to read, find meaning and use the information has been practiced differently by other people and other community. People’s perception to library, librarian, printed, online, and verbal information are so diverse and beyond my comprehension. It is new in a way that the the school curricula and teachers ever taught. I knew it but very little reference that I had and the teachers in library school ever confirm or brought up the issue. It was as if library and information as social item (or product) have a fixed consencus definition and value.

I think diversity should be one issue to be considered as part of information science. Without it, I felt lost in the community where I served. It maybe easier if I am working with homogen society like students in university or a telecomumunication company. There is common sense for most of library students to dream working in a financially established institution. It offered good remuneration and many additional securities. Only small part of library students ever think of going to grassroot or community-based NGOs to work as knowledge officer or infomobilizer.

Aside of the little material gain, the students are not equipped with community organizing skills to perform the task. How do you approach a community that focus on life survival to reading habit, library concept, and encourage them to write and produce information? How do build connection with rural complex issues to your “empowerment” agenda? How do you absorb and communicate oral culture community to the written culture?

The concept of librarian as book-keeper or information-manager only touch the surface of the information substance because the information and knowledge lies in the heart of community daily practice. The continuing debate about low reading interest and reading comprehension has yet touch the
Indonesian people way of knowing and the way they perceive the world. Sense of information is very communal and personal.

The low penetration of newspapers or reading materials and the widespread of television are seen as part of the problem. Some research, pilot projects and programs have been made in effort to proved relation between information availability with poverty reduction. But the projects have yet able to understand the community’s way of knowing and way of reasoning information.

My work with activists from CBOs and NGOs has bring new meaning to my library knowledge and experience. I begin to see the adult-popular education way, community organizing, and political literacy. I begin to know about power analysis and I learn that it can fit perfectly into the library and information studies. Therefore I am planning to make a research outline about community’s way of knowing: case study of Kertosari and Pasrujambe village community in Lumajang Regency. The community has strong tradition sense and connection. There is also a telecenter established on 2006 which still operating, if not surviving. I’ve visited the place 3-4 times and it left impressive note on how the digital communication tool come into the lives of its people.

I’ve read (reference will follow) that community who practice and rely on oral communication develop different strategy to document and distribute the messages important to them. One of the strategy is to had reading together in the form of pengajian (Koran studies), monthly gathering, village meeting, art exhibition (dancing), periodic rituals, incantation (mantra), etc. There is advantage and disadvantage of the practice but some said it is useful to transfer and strengthen community’s established values. Also the community that under military or colonial rules will develop other distinctive communication way.

There must be some research done on this topic. I intend to find the time to search and read them. The topic has been going on my head for a long time. I need to bring peace to my restless soul. In the middle of library institutionalization and many near-to-death public libraries, I must do something.

Malang, 6 November 2011


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