"What is it about?" The question came from a friend at the American Library Association conference in June. I had mentioned that I was editing a new journal, and told him the title. I started to answer "Well, it's about libraries in the Third World" but I had to hesitate. This is not so much a journal "about" libraries as it is "of" libraries; indeed it is "by" libraries, in the sense that librarians are the embodiment of their libraries, and librarians many from the Third Worldare the authors of the content.
The ALA conference brought some 20,000 librarians to Chicago, an assembly that may have exceeded in number the total of librarians in all the developing countries. Probably each person who came to the conference had some professional purpose in mind, some item of business to be dealt with, some colleague to see, a library to visit, an exhibit to look at. The conference was about all these fragments of librarianship, more so than it was about its stated "theme": "Information Access: Back to the Basics." A few of the fragments approached issues of the Third World and its needs, but very few. I suppose not many American librarians, or British or Italian librarians, spend much time thinking of their less fortunate colleagues in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. Conversely, how many librarians of Kenya or Bolivia are following the actions of the ALA, or the Association Francaise des Bibliothecaires? Is librarianship really about local situations, rather than about global professional movements?
We who are involved in TWL are thinking in global terms. We have named our journal after one of the three socio-political systems that have been prominent in our time. We have observed the blending of two of those systems that is now taking place, as the "first" and "second" worlds draw together. We now look for the time when Third World Libraries will be an obsolete title, when the Third World has also blended with the rest. Our small publication effort moves in that direction. It brings together professional thought from all those worlds, for the benefit of all, since we all benefit when the poorest of us is even slightly enriched. Our fundamental purpose is to offer a forumunique among the international journalsdedicated to aspects of librarianship in the less favored regions.
TWL has one special aim, which is to illuminate the role of libraries and information in national development. We request members of the profes- sional community in every nation to reflect on this point, and to send us essays, historical accounts, or reports. After all, our fundamental belief as librarians is that libraries promote what is "good"and the final good of a society is its own progress, which allows the individual to progress as well. Perhaps that is what libraries are about.
Of course to discover the nature of that shadowy conjunction between the library and the nation's progress we need facts on which ideas and theories can comfortably rest. So TWL is also about data, about events, about successes and failures. Readers of the journal will find an open forum for the recording of their experiences. We anticipate that a sharing of such experien- ces among librarians of the Third World will be of particular importance, flowing as they must from similar professional environments.
"What is it about?" After a few long seconds I answered him: "I am not really sure, yet. We'll soon find out." G.A.M.
© 1990 Guy A. Marco
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