Librarians as agents of social change

Speaking at ILI2011 about the role of libraries in a post conflict society, Fedja Kulenovic told his audience that "war is the opposite of libraries".This seemingly extraordinary statement makes absolute sense when you consider that times of conflict bring disinformation, loss of trust, cessation of conversations and, sometimes, destruction of physical resources (two million titles were lost in the conflict in Bosnia and Herzogovina and the national library was destroyed).There is so much potential for librarians to make a real difference in 'turbulent times'.  Feda outlined the role of librarians in providing inspiration, creative spaces, and creating opportunities for healthy and positive dialogues between different populations.   They can rebuild the information landscape too, helping society move away from misinformation to clarity and balance.  There is scope to educate people in the information skills that can contribute to economic growth and prosperity.This theme of supporting the development of information and media literacy skills, (in this case against the background of the Arab Spring), was also discussed by Kayo Chang.  In such circumstances, students need to understand a range of information issues, including maintaining online reputations, analysing information and working within the law.Speaking at the same session, Maria Cotera reminded the audience that there are many people in the world who are information poor.  Maria volunteers for a charity that seeks to bring library services, and literacy support, to prisoners in Africa.  Such services can be completely transformational to disenfranchised populations.Key lesson - librarians really can contribute to transformation - of individuals and society.Maria Cotera, Kayo Chang and Fedja Kulenovic were speaking at Internet Librarian International 2011.