One of the things I have discovered since I began working in international development is that many, many development projects deal with information issues. It’s not surprising – information is the issue of our time. What is surprising is how few librarians are involved. Development professionals know their stuff, and they’re running great projects. What’s happening, though, is that people are reinventing library services.
The Question Box project that’s being piloted in India and Uganda is, at its core, a reference service. As far as I can tell, no librarians were involved in developing this project. Now, of course I’m not saying that no one should address an information need without first consulting a librarian. I’m all for creative people finding creative solutions to problems. But librarians have been thinking about information issues for an awfully long time, and I know we could make significant contributions towards finding those creative solutions.
The question is, how do we get a seat at the table? You might guess from the title of this post that I’m not going to recommend sitting around and moaning that no one ever asks for our advice. We need to get out there and offer our advice. We have significant expertise when it comes to solving information problems, and we shouldn’t be shy about sharing it.
I know many librarians are involved with IRRT, IFLA, and other independent library development projects. But I don’t know a lot of librarians who have stepped outside the library circle to engage directly with development professionals. It seems to me that we need to solidify a new branch of librarianship – a fusion between librarianship and development.
When I was considering going for a masters I debated between library science and international development. I even know someone who went after both degrees – by pursuing an MLS at Simmons and a masters in international affairs at Tufts (simultaneously, mind you). Why not have a full-on dual-degree program that would produce international development librarians (or information specialists, if you prefer) who would have a solid grounding in both fields?