Karen Gill from the Newport News Public Library System and I (Jeanine Finn from the School of Information at UT Austin) had a great conversation this morning.

There are many shared values between journalists and librarians — both are positioned within their communities as trusted sources of information and are dedicated to informing citizens.

We share some challenges, for example, Karen noted, “Librarians and journalists are both challenged by prioritizing the need to provide entertainment that will draw the public while also providing information to create an informed citizenry that is able to uphold the American ideal of democracy. The question of ‘Do we give them what they want or what they need?’ and/or ‘How do we do both?'”

Some of our differences include our approaches to balancing timlieness and credibility. For example, librarians are interested in providing the most thorough and accurate information from the most credible source. While journalists are also interested in this, they often are operating under intense deadline pressure that doesn’t allow complete perfection but rather must go with the best they can get to meet their deadlines. How can we learn from each other’s modes of operating to balance the best of both approaches?

I shared some of my experience with Radical Reference — a librarian collective (the “radical” describes the novelty of our approach rather than the politics) that supports the work of independent journalists and researchers.

Karen shared some of what she learned from writing her master’s thesis on the relationship between civic engagement and newspaper readership — very relevant to our future conversations I think.

What surprised me? I am pleasantly surprised by the optimism of journalists about their role in educating citizenry. In my opinion, we in the library world often wind up being somewhat “behind the scenes” in our communities. I think parternship with journalists would be useful in helping more of us take a more pro-active view.