Culture Influencers: Dean Riley

Dean M. Riley, professor of Library Science and director of Moody Library, was invited to speak at the 2019 Library Instruction Round Table Annual Summit sponsored by the Texas Library Association, which took place at Sam Houston State University in Dean RileyHuntsville on Sept. 13. His session was entitled, “Stewardship of Mind,” and explored humans as information creatures who persistently create information. Information contained in human DNA makes physical existence possible. Social information (who, what, where, when, why and how) is required for people to provide a living for themselves. Everyone has an information sphere in which they operate (e.g., white collar, blue collar, including the homeless). The works of Drs. Claude Shannon, Michael Buckland, Brenda Dervin, and Werner Gitt demonstrate that information demonstrates a theory of communication and includes objective and subjective elements. Shannon provides the basic theory. Buckland shows that information has an objective side enabling researchers to act upon it. Dervin’s subjective side shows that information is not static and moves on a timeline. She sees humans as information designers because one’s educational background, life experiences, faith and worldview help students determine their interpretation of research needs and database result sets. Dr. Gitt coined a new term to add to Shannon’s theory – apobetics, or purpose. Did the information achieve the purpose for which it was intended? It is most intriguing that the Oxford English Dictionary defines “information” as “to give form to, to give shape.” Altogether, this can lead librarians to see the image of a potter’s wheel for understanding what information is.

Mr. Riley also discussed stewardship, which is relatively new to librarianship, except for archival work. Librarians have a great responsibility to understand, organize and guide people to find information. They are also accountable to those they serve. The reward of being a good steward are the positive comments received from students, suggesting that the work of the librarian has achieved its purpose (apobetics). Stewardship also means being servant-leaders.

Today’s librarians need a new understanding and metaphor to guide them in their efforts serve students better. Information matters in the 21st century. Information is priceless because information comprises human existence (DNA). Information is also timeless because it can affect and change anyone, anytime.