What is your library mission statement or manifesto?

For an upcoming event, I am working with a speaker who is not from the library world. He asked, “is there a commonly held mission statement or manifesto that would resonate with all librarians?” Good question…

On our own website, we talk about OCLC’s mission and purpose. (I’ve added the emphasis here and elsewhere):

Libraries fuel learning, research and innovation. Together we make breakthroughs possible. Both big and small. Whether we’re supporting advancements on the leading edge of science or helping children build a strong learning foundation, shared knowledge is the common thread. People can find the answers they need to solve important problems in their lives, in their communities and in the world.

The American Library Association (ALA) has a distilled core values of librarianship which is easier to point to than to reproduce in full but in glancing at this, providing access is front and center. This is tied up with concepts like democracy, education and lifelong learning, intellectual freedom, and social responsibility. But access comes first.

I also found this from the Urban Libraries Council, a word cloud made up from member libraries’ mission statements – the Urban Libraries Council of course represents large public libraries in the US and Canada.

Mission Cloud from the Urban Libraries Council

I also asked colleagues, who supplied some great suggestions.

  • Eric Childress nominated S. R. Ranganathan’s “five laws of library science.” (Of course, my colleagues Lynn Connaway and Ixchel Faniel recently “reordered” those laws).
  • Jim Michalko pointed me to the Association for Research Libraries’ text mined corpus of strategic plans, which may help to show where commonalities are for collaborative investment. Terms that were common among many of the plans include: research, learn, teach, collaborate, create, innovate. 
  • Ricky Erway reminded me of our 2009 Support for the Research Process: An Academic Library Manifesto which urges research libraries to remain relevant in support of scholarly research and publishing.
  • Roy Tennant nominated David Lankes’ formulation, “The Mission of Librarians is to Improve Society through Facilitating Knowledge Creation in their Communities” as well as his own further distillation, “The mission of librarians is to empower individuals and the communities of which they are a part.” [Roy has an entire blog post on this at the Digital Shift.]
  • Jackie Dooley proposed Andromeda Yelton’s “Libraries are really about transforming people through access to information.” (From a recent Boston Globe article.)

What is your mission statement or manifesto of choice? What guideposts do you have for your own work? Leave a comment and let us know!

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