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Meetings and Committees
Because the Commission was to have a very small staff and because its charge was considered urgent, the members decided at the outset to meet frequently and regularly. Twelve day-long sessions were held between September 20, 1971, and the end of June 1972 with most of the members present at each meeting. In addition to meetings of the full Commission—all of which were held in Washington, D.C.—Commission committees have met and worked together in Washington and elsewhere. The chairman has appointed several committees to investigate spe. cific aspects of the Commission's responsibility and to provide recommendations for Commission review. Some of the major problems on which special committees are now working are the identification of the information needs of various groups of users; the assessment of adequacies and deficiencies in current library and information handling systems; and the application of new technology in libraries. A complete list of committees is given as appendix III.
From the beginning the Commission members have recog. nized that their comprehensive charge was only a part of a wide. spread concern for library and information problems. Library associations and professional societies in communications, computer sciences, publishing, education, indexing, abstracting, television, and photography share the concerns. Government agencies and their libraries throughout the executive branch are involved as is the Library of Congress. These groups and agencies are important to the Commission because it is with their help that some of the Commission's plans will be made and carried out. To ensure that their ideas and concerns receive Commission attention, the Commission initiated contacts with them almost immediately after it was appointed.
The first contacts were made at Commission meetings. Throughout the year the Commission has invited agency and professional society representatives to the meetings to learn about their activities and future plans. Private and public funding agencies, including the Council on Library Resources, Inc., the Office of Science Information Service (National Science Foundation), and the Bureau of Libraries and Learning Resources (U.S. Office of Education), have explained their policies and programs. The Commission has also heard from government agencies that provide information and publications, including the largest Federal libraries and the National Technical Information Service. It has discussed problems of mutual concern with representatives of libraries of many types and with informa. tion specialist organizations from several fields. A complete listing of the individuals and organizations heard at Commission meetings is given as appendix IV.
Contact with these groups is considered vital to the Com. mission and they will be invited to participate in Commission deliberations from time to time in the future. The Commission hopes that joint programs of study and action will be the natural outcome of these meetings since it shares with these groups the objectives of better library and information services. Regular contact with allied public and private groups is a staff respon. sibility; the contacts will be used to share as well as gather information. The Commission, in the course of establishing this liaison, has visited three great libraries in the nation's capital: the Library of Congress, the National Library of Medicine, and the National Agricultural Library.
With all of the Commission meetings in Washington, D.C., it was logical to establish liaison first with Federal agencies and groups whose headquarters or regional offices are also in or near the capital. However, the Commission recognized that li. brary problems and information needs are not the same in every sector of the Nation. Reports would be needed from State and regional groups and particularly from articulate users in other areas. Accordingly, the chairman appointed a committee to plan a series of regional hearings. The committee, chaired by Mrs. Bessie Boehm Moore, outlined three meetings for fiscal year 1973. A Midwest regional hearing was planned for Chicago with later hearings scheduled for San Francisco and Atlanta. The regional hearings are designed to:
1. Provide an opportunity for people from all sectors of society to place before the Commission their viewpoints on libra. ries and information science and service.
2. Foster an understanding of the role and progress of the Commission's work.
3. Expose Commission recommendations and plans to early criticism and review by those who may be affected by them.
Working Philosophy of the Commission
The basic working philosophy of the Commission is user oriented: the user of information must benefit from all Com. mission work. The phrase "user of information" should be in. terpreted in the broadest sense—not limited to present users of libraries or of other existing information services. Planning relevant information services for users who have no service that matches their current information seeking habits may indeed be one of the greatest challenges to the Commission. Within this user-oriented context, the Commission's major concern has been the setting of goals and priorities for action. A review of the literature dealing with the wide variety of problems experienced by libraries and information systems produced a substantial array of important issues. Some problems seem to affect only one type of library; others are common to every type. The activities of the information producer, the author and the publisher have a great bearing on what can be done effectively by the indexer or the librarian. With help needed at every level, the Commission set two important goals.
The first goal is to direct its efforts at meeting the needs of all users of information and all libraries. The second is to work toward equal access for all. These goals have guided the Commission in each of its subsequent actions. These first goals have been stated in widely disseminated Commission resolutions:
Resolved, that the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science should give first priority in its planning effort to providing new and improved services that will be helpful to all libraries in the country and their users, at every level of society.
Resolved, that the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science believes that national equality of access to information is as important as equality in education.
The first resolution expresses the commitment of the Commission to balance its activities, not favoring in its studies or planning the development of one type of library or information system over another unless all users are thereby aided. The resolution also implies that the Commission must understand users' information needs in a better way than these needs have been understood previously. The activities to reach this under. standing are discussed below.
The Commission considers the second resolution fundamental. While the ideal of equal service for all is unanimously accepted, it is a difficult goal-one that may take a long time to achieve. Geographical dispersion of the population is the most obvious of several obstacles. The improved and cheaper communication techniques needed to surmount these obstacles are not in the immediate offing. Still, the idea of equal access is a useful guiding ideal for the Commission's work in the years ahead.
Within the framework of these objectives, the Commission has carried forward its planning task. In developing a response to current user needs and in providing equal access to information, the Commission also realizes that its plans must make use of available resources efficiently. Grandiose schemes calling for expensive new information systems and libraries could fall of their own weight. Instead, programs are needed that will simplify, organize, and strengthen effective services and eliminate or change the ineffective ones. This will result in savings that can be used to provide new and expanded services as they are re. quired. To reach this goal requires study, research, experiments, demonstrations, and careful evaluation of results.
Organization of Library Service
Priority has been given to the understanding and development of the patterns of library and information system organizationthe networks, systems, consortia, and cooperatives that provide information and library service to users. The Commission has studied with care the recommendations of the 1970 ALA/ USOE conference on networks. It has examined the ideas formulated by the National Academy of Sciences in the Wigington report." Published reports ranging from the Baker report (1958)' to the Martin report (1972)* have been given careful attention. Special consideration has been given to the report of the National Advisory Commission on Libraries. The Commission members have also reviewed the existing State plans required by the Office of Education in administering the Library Services and Construction Act. Representatives of organizations who appeared before the Commission have been encouraged to express their views on the development of effective interlibrary cooperation.
Evidence from all sources makes it clear that though expressions of desire to cooperate are plentiful, cooperative activ. ities are tentative ones limited to a few areas of library service. Barriers to total and effective cooperation exist at many levels. The Commission recognizes that its planning for better organization of library service and the development of useful networks rests on the progress it can make in five areas:
1. Understanding the information needs of users. 2. Financing of libraries and information systems.
3. Assessment of adequacies and deficiencies of present li. braries and information systems.
4. Application of new technology to users' information problems.
5. Improved staffing of libraries and information systems. Each area is discussed below.
Information Needs of Users
The information needs of users are not well understood. They must be defined and measured before detailed planning can be completed.
A preliminary study of these needs, prepared for the Commission by Dr. Ruth Patrick and Dr. Michael Cooper, concludes
1 Joseph Becker, ed., Interlibrary Communications and Information Networks, American Library Association, Chicago, Illinois, 1971.
? Information Systems Panel, Computer Science and Engineering Board, Libraries and Information Technology: A National System Challenge, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C., 1972.
3 President's Science Advisory Committee, Improving the Availability of Scientific and Technical Information in the U.S., U.S. Government Printing Office, 958.
* Public Library Association, A Strategy for Public Library Change: Proposed Public Library Goals—Feasibility Study, American Library Association, Chicago, Illinois, 1972.
U.S. National Advisory Commission on Libraries, Library Services for the Nation's Needs, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1968.