The International Ideology of Library and Information Science:

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  • This article was downloaded by: [McGill University Library]On: 21 November 2014, At: 05:01Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954Registered office: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UK

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    The International Ideology ofLibrary and Information Science:Stephen Karetzky aa Clifton, NJ, 07011Published online: 17 Mar 2009.

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  • Ill. THE PUBLIC SERVED

    The International Ideology of Library and Information Science:

    The Past Three Decades . Stephen Karetzky

    SUMMARY. The essential elements of the Anglo-American ideol- ogy of international library and information science have been stable for the past thirty years. The approach stresses the significance of "integrating" information on a global scale while restructuring ex- isting communication channels to decrease Western power. It is held that an internationalized profession can play a vital role in the attain- ment of world peace, justice, and understanding.

    The tenets of Western international and comparative library and information science, which are largely of American and British ori- gin, have remained remarkably consistent for at least the past three decades. While there is some diversity of opinion on some points,

    Address correspondence to Stephen Karetzky at 195 Harding Avenue, Clifon, NJ 0701 1 .

    O 1991 by The Haworth Press. Inc. All rights reserved. I73

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    there is a high degree of agreement on the major theses among those active in this area of the profession.

    Perhaps the most significant belief among leaders of this field is that we now live in a "global village" in which the various nations must cooperate and unite. Many believe that library and informa- tion workers can be instrumental in realizing the dream of One World because our field itself is international, in posse if not in esse. Thus, John F . Harvey has commented on "the one world philosophy permeating this field,"' and Lester Asheim has written of "the hoped-for One World of Librarianship."' To B, C. Vickery and A. G. Brown, international cooperation and "one world of in- formation" are inevitable: "As information science continues to develop, so also will international cooperation, for . . . information science, both in its theoretical base and its practical applications, is essentially international in character."'

    In the preface to their landmark Encyclopedia of Libraty and Information Science, editors Allen Kent and Harold Lancour state that they are committed to building a new discipline-an integrated library and information science-and that they "are equally com- mitted to a 'one-world' concept of their science."' (Their goal was to produce a work which was "non-natural.") Sylva Simsova maintains that "internationalism is a natural outcome of life in a global village in which neighbors of different cultures learn to live with one another."' She holds that "international understanding, which has often been given as one of the objectives of comparative librarianship, will follow as mutual understanding reduced any ar- eas of fri~tion."~ Others are even more optimistic: Richard Kryzs and Gaston Litton predict that extraterrestrial librarianship will someday supersede global librarian~hip.~

    D. J. Foskett asserts that all humans will perish unless ignorance and mistrust give way to knowledge and understanding. Since li- brarians hold key positions in the international communications net- work, through our cooperation and mutual assistance in librarian- ship "we make a genuine contribution to the achievement of peace and happiness for all men across the ~ o r l d . " ~ The librarian Louis Shores believes that "our professional destiny is to lead this trou- bled world out of its current dilemmas by teaching people every-

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    where to compare their ideals and their societies."' Libraries could become centers for fact-based dialogues on issues of war, peace, trade, and education, and also help develop a world culture that focuses on the advancement of humankind.

    Closely connected with the concepts of One World and interna- tional cooperation is the idea of The Integration and International- ization of Knowledge and Information. By supporting the "univer- sality and integration of knowledge," Robert Vosper holds, we would help heal the world's wounds, a world divided by ideologi- cal, linguistic, political and religious differences.1 "Perhaps the universal language of the future will be MARC!"" he remarks. Vosper reminds us that the dream of universal bibliographic control is an old one for librarians, citing Konrad von Gesner's sixteenth century Biblioteco Universalis.

    Information scientists such as H. J. Abraham Goodman, Manfred Kochen, and Eugene Garfield are enthusiastic proponents of the international coordination and dissemination of the world's knowl- edge to solve the problems of mankind. Inspired by the writings of H. G. Wells, they call their hoped-for product "The World Brain" or "The World En~yclopedia."'~

    THE EQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF INFORMA TION

    A strong faith in the benevolent result of the integration and inter- nationalization of knowledge leads to a third major idea of those who are influential in Western international and comparative librar- ianship: the concept that information generated in the West-partic- ularly information of economic value-should be made available throughout the world. E. J. Josey sums this up with his statement: "Equal distribution of data is certainly needed on the international level."" Like Josey, Joseph 2. Nitecki extrapolates from a concept sometimes applied at a national level and declares that the failure of libraries lo cooperate internationally to give full information access to all is "di~criminatory."'~ However, the free flow of information is frequently opposed when there is a perception that it may in some way promote Western influence in the world. Thus, while the gov- ernments of the United States and Great Britain have consistently

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    fought the efforts of the communist countries and the Third World to bring about a "New World Information and Communication Or- der," it is supported by many of those active in the field of interna- tional librarianship."

    A fourth concept generally accepted by those active in this field is the belief that centralized planning and government direction and assistance will be needed to attain the goals of international librari- anship. (Interestingly, this coexists with the apparently contradic- tory belief that governments have failed to bring the people of the world together.) Kryzs and Litton predict that during the lifetime of their readers "Within each country certainly, or within a world gov- ernment possibly, legislation will be enacted that will assure the realization of the constituent elements of a global librarian~hip."'~

    Vosper strongly supports central planning and government in- volvement, noting that the USSR has been the world's leader in this with the West trailing, but improving." Foskett implies that the cen- tralization found in Eastern Europe never actually stemmed from communist political philosophy but rather from a desire for effi- ciency.'' In an article on the international library education, Martha Boaz attributes the failure to centralize American international edu- cation to the fact that the United States does not have a ministry of education." She quotes from World Education; An Emerging Con- cept: ' I t will only be a matter of time until one world government is formed, unless separate national loyalties through gross miscalcula- tion and chauvinistic aims destroy us first.'" Frederick Kilgour ex- presses the less commonly heard view that it is the United States, rather than the highly centralized countries, which is promoting the free international exchange of inf~rmation.~'

    CULTURAL RELATMSM

    A major reason why many Western leaders in this field have been optimistic about the possibilities of international cooperation is that they have seen strong underlying similarities among apparently dis- parate social and political systems, e-g., between democratic and communist societies. Thus in the 1960's, Foskett remarked that in Eastern Europe the library was expected, among other things, to

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    foster communist propaganda. Some in the West would disagree, he noted,

    . . . but it is no different, in principle, from the patriotic fer- vour displayed by some American libraries in praising the American way of life. In fact it would be hard to find a really vital public library that was not, in one way or another, com- mitted to the attainment of objectives that its society held to be worthwhile. We in this country [The United Kingdom], for example, cheerfully involve our public libraries in such things as productivity campaigns; do we ever pause to ask ourselves what is the aim of such campaigns?"

    Similarly, in 1973 Harvey wrote:

    In a socialist country with a strong, central government, like Bulgaria, certain differences of organization and administra- tion can be expected when comparison is made with Switzer- land, having a different political and economic system. How- ever, this paper assumes most of these to be differences in practice, not in policies, principles or goals. Perhaps, even USSR libraries can be examined by an American with stan- dards modified only partially.

    The degree to which libraries in Bulgaria and Switzerland are comparable would decrease primarily as their goals dif- fered. Of course, school library service philosophy, in social- ist countries, for instance, is tied closely to the political, eco- nomic and social systems and attempts to reinforce them with many books explaining the socialist philosophy. However, po- litical books in capitalist country school libraries are likely ,to explain the local political system, also.'>

    H. Allen Whatley finds many similarifies between the philosophy of book distribution in communist countries and that in the West, and equates Stalin's purges of library bookshelves in the 1920's and 1930's with the practice found in democratic countries of relegating some volumes lo restricted-access collections."

    The playing down of distinctions among different societies is fa-

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    cilitated by the discouragement of value judgements, which are considered to be relative, and therefore moot." It has even been stated that the successful international library worker is distin- guished by a "lack of strong political and ethical ideas, his bland- ness. In fact, he finds strong feelings of any kind likely to be inhib- iting and ~bsolete."'~ To some extent, this approach is engendered by a desire to create a science of comparative librarianship. How- ever, another influential factor is indicated by a criticism expressed by one of those involved in the field, A. D. Burnett: the tendency for Westerners to omit the full truth from their reports on other countries because of their desire to promote international har- mony."

    Interestingly, it has been considered productive in this field to praise the countries of Eastern Europe and the developing world while criticizing the West. As already noted, some of these judge- ments revolve around the centralization of library affairs and the international dissemination of information. At one conference on international librarianship, Patricia Schuman and E. J. Josey de- voted much of their speeches to criticizing the United States.18

    According to veterans in this area of the profession, even the Western librarian who attempts to assist other countries is suspect:

    1. The International Man must be ever on guard against neocolo- nialism. His ideal is service, but his obligation is also to coun- teract Western money and guns. Is he subtly peddling political or religious views along with his suggestions and advice?I9

    2. We do not think of ourselves in political terms when we offer professional assistance to libraries, but the political implica- tions are always in the minds of our hosts. Our protestation that we have no motivation other than pure altruism and pro- fessional commitment must contend with the incontrovertible fact that history, both ours and theirs, argues against so inno- cent an intentions."

    It is held that library school courses in international and compara- tive librarianship should impart to students the basic philosophy described in this article. (In addition, the idea that all courses in library and information science must be taught from an international

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