The problems with disappearing ink

March 24, 2009

Last Tuesday evening, the Fort Atkinson city council approved the contract for services related to the library’s expansion project with Uihlein Wilson Architects.

We are very excited to enter this next chapter and will work diligently to ensure that we move forward in the most thoughtful manner possible.  More about that as the design process unfolds.

I wanted to take a moment to publicly thank James Debilzen, reporter for the Daily Jefferson County Union…as well as all the staff and the Daily Union itself.  James wrote the story about the library’s building project that appeared on the front page of the newspaper the day after the city council meeting.   James not only wrote about what transpired at the meeting, but he also did his research regarding the history of our project which allowed him to write an informative, detailed, and accurate story.

James and I joke about the fact that when he first started work at the Daily Union he was told by staff that he’d have to cover the library’s building project…just like the five reporters before him.

Okay, so we’ve been at this project for quite awhile!

All this time, in fact for its entire history, the Daily Union has had a presence everywhere in the community.  They report on what matters to us.   They ask questions and share information. They hold folks accountable and, more often then not, bring people together.

I’ve been privileged to know most of their staff over the years.  I have yet to find a reporter who wasn’t interested in and passionate about telling our very own local stories.  The Dwight Foster Public Library, the treasure trove of stories, is more than a little thankful that we have an official storyteller among us.

There is enormous value in having a local newspaper.  As “the information place” our library needs the Daily Union to help us provide information to the community.  As a depository for local history, we would not have consistency and depth without them.  The newspaper provides a great community service.  Ventura County (California) sheriff Bob Brooks penned an editorial  in the Ventura County Star that thoughtfully details the many ways in which a local newspaper matters to citizens.

So what can you do?

You can subscribe.  You can advertise.  You can support the advertisers by spending your money with them.

At the library, we’ve made the decision to subscribe to several copies, one for daily reading and one for archival purposes.  We also purchase all of the newspapers on microfilm so that we have a permanent historical record.   We advertise our jobs openings in their classifieds.  As an individual, I support them with a personal subscription, have given it as a gift for others, and read the ads so I can frequent the advertisers in town.

As the world of publishing continues to change and some newspapers across America are ceasing publication, I think it’s vital that we make an effort to support and preserve what matters.  Web sources absolutely have a place at our information table.  A strength of the web is its speed and fluidity.  But that is also a fundamental weakness.  As a librarian, I’m not a fan of the unverified, undocumented or uninformed.  I’m also no fan of copyright infringement, plagiarism, or disappearing information caused by someone else pulling the plug on what’s accessible.  Whenever I think of the “here today, gone tomorrow” possibilities of web information I am reminded of that old childhood prank where you splash someone in specially prepared disappearing ink and…

…discover later (thankfully) it has magically vanished!

But I digress.  All of these troubling activities are happening on the web already.   That isn’t to say there aren’t worthwhile and valuable Intermet resources available (with unparalleled connectivity options) as well as entrepreneurial opportunities with enormous possibility.  What I am trying to convey is that I think as a society we must understand (in a way that spurs action) that worthy content costs money to create, produce, and preserve.

I sincerely hope newspapers will stop disappearing.  We need them to help us not only make sense of our world in the here and now but also to record it (with accountability and permanence) for later.  Newspapers…like libraries…are central to democracy.  They matter.   The Daily Union really matters.

The  disappearing ink thing wasn’t all that funny when I was 12.  It’s a lot less funny now.

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