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Libraries as Buckets

At the well
Photo by zzzmarcus.

For this first post of 2013, I thought it would be good to start with a metaphor for the role of libraries in today's world. In his introduction to participants at the 5th Rizal Library International Conference (RLIC), which was held at the Ateneo de Manila University last 25-26 October 2012, Jose M. Cruz, SJ, likened knowledge to drinking water at the bottom of a well. Libraries, he says, are "the buckets that allow us to draw the water from the well."

I'd like to think that this blog, though not a library, has also served as a bucket that has helped librarians and other readers to draw knowledge from the large—and sometimes misleading or confusing—well that is the World Wide Web. It is in this spirit that I resolve to continue updating this blog at least once a week.

The full text of Fr. Joey's introduction is reprinted below with his permission. Thanks to Teng Montejo for the transcription.

Incidentally, pdfs of the presentations shown and/or papers delivered at the RLIC may now be downloaded at the conference website.

Jose M. Cruz, SJ

On behalf of the Ateneo de Manila University, I welcome you to the campus and to the conference.

You may occasionally have heard the expression "thirst for knowledge," referring to the need and desire of human beings to know more so that they and their communities can have more and be more. Libraries, archives, and museums can play a crucial role in satisfying this thirst.

Although the surface of our planet is mainly water, water for drinking and planting cannot be the salt water of the seas. There is, thus, a need to search and draw plain water, that is, water without the heavy dose of minerals and other elements that make it undrinkable.

This reality points to the task and responsibility of repositories of knowledge and culture to be selective in their holdings. We seek then drinkable water: water that is clean, fresh, nourishing and life giving. If you want an image, we find this kind of water at the well. At the bottom of the well is much of the knowledge that human beings and societies need to survive, to sustain their way of life, and to advance.

Libraries, archives, and museums are the buckets that allow us to draw the water from the well. Needless to say it is thus an absolute necessity that these be in good shape: no leaks, sufficiently large in size, and always ready to serve. For while available information is enormous, access to it is still quite limited. At this conference you have decided to look for better ways to provide access.

You honor the university by choosing it to be the venue for your conference. Know that you are welcome here. Thank you and good morning.

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