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Opinion Column - Sample 2

Existential Life Lessons from David Bowie and Mahatma Ghandi

"Ch-ch-ch-changes"
--David Bowie

Why is it that many bands are one-hit wonders or have a brief, shining period of success and then fade into oblivion only to be heard from again on compilations and TV shows, such as "Rock of the 80s?"

Because they don't change; they allow themselves to become stale and outdated.

David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust - rock star, actor, and icon is arguably one of the most malleable pop culture figures of all time. He has migrated from one generation to the next with unabashed transformation, living, in effect, his own lyrics to "Changes:" singing "time may change me, but I can't trace time."

Librarianship, like Bowie, is arguably one of the most malleable professions in recent years. Looking at Bowie as an example, we know that we must continue to embrace change in order to stay relevant to this and future generations. And, also like Bowie, while we embrace change, we must continue to be what people love about libraries - we certainly don't want to turn off our loyal fan base.

As a result, we still introduce people to the love of reading, but we also introduce people to computers, email and the Internet. We have story hours for children and parents, and we also have classes on how to surf the Internet designed specifically for parents and children (as well as for many other age groups). We provide reading lists for all ages, as well as lists of Web sites.

While libraries and librarians could have turned their backs on the digital revolution, we instead embraced this major change and, if anything, helped to propel it forward. Libraries are, after all, playing an increasingly important role by providing free access to information resources and technology to everyone. Is there anything else out there that can make that claim?

Libraries will continue to be the great equalizer in our society by providing this free access to information, and also by showing people how to access the information they need - whether it's on the Web or buried somewhere in an ancient book. Teaching others how to find, use and evaluate information is a unique skill that librarians bring to a society suffering from information overload.

You must be the change you wish to see in the world.
-- Ghandi

So far, we have been leaders in the digital revolution. Yet I keep hearing the question, "Won't the Internet make libraries obsolete?" As we all can attest, new technology is making libraries even more vitally important, especially in rural and under-served communities throughout Montana where people often do not have access to the Internet at home.

Libraries have always been places of opportunity, self-help and lifelong learning where we can find what we need for our health, school, jobs and family. And with today's library technology, libraries are reaching beyond their walls to connect to the larger, global community. Polson reaches Paris and Big Sky accesses Beijing. Today's library technology means that information from around the world is just a few clicks away and affords us opportunities like never before.

There is no doubt that libraries are changing, and will continue to change as new ways of managing information become available. The libraries that we know and love today will likely be very different places with very different offerings in just a few years. Changing and moving forward is continuous, hard work. Librarians must continue to embrace change, while simultaneously leading the way for change in information management - being the change we wish to see in the world.

  • Montana State Library
  • P.O. Box 201800, 1515 East 6th Avenue
  • Helena, MT 59620-1800
  • Phone: (406) 444-3115
  • Fax: (406) 444-0266
  • msl.mt.gov