Mary Popp Acceptance Speech
for Beta Phi Mu-Chi Chapter Service Award, April 1999

Thank you very much! This is truly a great honor for me. I am both humbled and grateful to be the recipient of the Chi Chapter Beta Phi Mu Service Award, and to join the many previous recipients whom I admire a great deal.

I wish that I could be with you in person today, but I very much appreciate Rita Barsun's willingness to serve as my "voice."

I want to start by taking a few moments to say thank you to the many people who served as mentors over the years, whose words and deeds taught me how to be a librarian. There are many more on this list than all of you will have the patience for me to list, so I will just include a few:

I would also like to say thank you to all the wonderful librarians I was so lucky to have as graduate assistants over the years. They have taught me more than they know.

It's not often, though, that I get a captive audience. It's a heady thought! I would like to use the remaining few minutes to talk about an issue that must be important to every practicing or retired librarian in the room, to every libray educator, and, especially, to every student: the future of library education.

This is such an important issue that the American Library Association, on the 30th of this month, will convene the first of a series of discussions, an invitational Congress on Professional Education. IU's own Shirley Fitzgibbons is a member of the Steering Committee.

I believe the future of our profession is too important to leave to a chosen few delegates. There are opportunities for all of us to get involved: a listserv, conference discussions via the World Wide Web, by reading the invited and contributed papers, the materials on the Steering Committee's background reading list, and the reports of the chair. More information is available from the Congress web site at:

The Congress has already incited controversy within ALA. Some groups see it as too little too late. Others are frustrated that few concerned ALA groups have been invited to attend. Still others worry that library educators have not been involved enough. Except for the last concern, I believe these worries are largely irrelevant. I would like to suggest to you that, as practicing librarians, we open up four topics in this discussion:

1. It is vital that library concerns continue to be part of the mission and goals of our schools, and part of their names as well. The L word does not have 4 letters. It can be spoken in polite company.

2. The profession and our educational system should begin to think of the MLS and continuing education as a continuum. Not just a mindset change, this change in thinking needs to break down the barriers of time and place to make it easy for librarians to continue to learn and grow throughout their professional lives.

3. Library and information science education must not lose the foundations of library and information use practice: the user service ethic, collection management, informational services, organization of information with attention to classification and controlled vocabularies, and good management practices. These core values must be strengthened in the curriculum (every student should be required to take classes in these topics) and made meaningful to students. Library and information science schools also must not rely exclusively on practitioners as instructors in these areas. We need full-time faculty who will carry out needed research in these areas.

As a librarian who graduated from SLIS 26 years ago, I have forgotten many things I learned and many others have become obsolete. But those core concepts are the things that shape my practice today as I do such things as create a web-based online catalog and develop a plan to revise the libraries' web site. I don't think that core knowledge goes out of style or becomes totally obsolete.

and, finally,

4. We must attract to our profession people who are not afraid of change and teach them values and skills that will allow them to embrace change without becoming slaves to it.

Thank you for listening to my concerns. I hope that you will follow the ALA discussion very closely. And thank you, too, for honoring me today. I will always be grateful.

Chi Chapter Home Page