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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Tunnel vision

Focusing on one map as being the most important for librarians to understand puts one into a dangerous position of judgment, where actions taken from analyzing one single map can create drastic, unforeseen problems. Geographic areas are composed of complex interrelationships of elements being characteristics and attributes, relating to cultural and physical geography. One of the advantages of GIS, which we'll need to argue for later in this course, is its ability to layer attributes onto a map in order to expand one's perspective of that geographic region. Only the right combination of variables can shed light on one particular problem. Nevertheless, if I am to choose a map that is most relevant for library professionals in this day in age, I will choose the "Newest Arrivals" map on page 28. The reason is because recent immigrants are often the most in need of the services that libraries can provide, being at no cost to them. The dynamic nature of societies necessitates an awareness of librarians to those changes. As in the case of New York Public Libraries, there are programs offered to a multitude of ethnic backgrounds. These populations should have assistance in acclimating into our society, and libraries can provide much of this assistance. A close runner-up to this map, though, following Marxist criticism slightly, is the "Notable Strikes and Lockouts" map on page 75. I believe that one can tell a lot about a geographic region by the industries that the region supports. Additional information is needed, of course, but one can draw inferences from some of these trades, such as income-level, political activity, natural resources, and population densities.

3 Comments:

At 10:55 AM, Blogger Keary said...

I agree with you that choosing just one map is going about it the wrong way. So many of the maps in the atlas were valuable that selecting just one seems wrong. If I were to actually use the atlas in library development I would look at most of the maps included. However, I do agree that the new arrivals map on page 28 is most pertinant. This map can be used for library planning and collection development among other things. That is why I believe that if I had to choose just one map from the atlas it would be that one. The maps on educational systems and tourism are also interesting though. Both of them could contribute to understanding user needs of an area better.

 
At 11:15 AM, Blogger Ben said...

Yeah, I thought about the educational systems and tourism maps as well, but thought they restricted population to a higher-income bracket, since the map only included higher education. I suppose, though, that colleges can provide resources and jobs to their communities.

 
At 12:16 PM, Blogger Jeff Gibbens said...

These are nice points. Public libraries especially in urban areas have always been created in support of the Americanization of immigrants. Wayne Wiegand made this point repeatedly in his Library History classes. There were a flourishing book trade, coffeehouses with reading materials, and private for-profit lending libraries in the colonies and early US long before the Boston Public Library came into being. I think that the Boston Yankee elite of the 1850s deserve some credit for recognizing that it was in their class interest to create spaces to provide a form of public education to immigrants. But like early colleges (for example, Dartmouth) intended to educate Native Americans, the public library acquired civic meanings that overshadowed the philanthropic intentions of the founders.

Alas, the strikes map shows where industries used to be in the state. Other than Kohler, which continues to dominate Sheboygan county, a lot of the mines and factories in the state are long gone. A different issue of historical emphasis: it would be good to have a complementary map dealing with the post-1950s history of labor, with a title like "the rise and fall of collective bargaining." Labor in the US has not faired well in direct action, except for a short period in the late 1930s. Left-wing scholars have had a tendency to glorify direct action, when the real victory for organized labor was won during the 1950s when provisions for job security, extended benefits, and cost-of-living adjustments became the rule. And it is these gains that have been eroded systematically over the last 25 years.

 

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