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Image is a multifaceted word that can be used in different ways depending on different contexts. For the purpose of this wiki definitions and examples will be used that pertain best to the field of library and archival sciences.


The word image derives from the Latin term imago, generally used as a noun it is an artifact that reproduces the likeness of some subject—usually a physical object or a person. The Miriam Webster's Online Dictionary defines it as a tangible or visible representation;a visual representation of something. Most often when one thinks of an image we think of photographs or the moving image, however an image consists of maps, illustrations, drawings, paintings, graphs or charts. Images as objects in the three dimensional sense could be a carving or a statue. With the advent of computer technology there are now virtual images. All of these examples play an important role in information studies, and institutions dedicate resources for the housing, preservation, and research of images. Image as artifact relate cultural, temporal, factual knowledge. We are able to visually learn from images, as supplier of evidence, images capture movement and change in time. There have long been arguements focused around whether an image holds implied meanings or real representations of truths. Often images reflect on the complicated relations between subjectivity, meaning, and cultural values. A relevant debate, but perhaps out of scope for this forum, the larger issue at thand is image and the way the library is publicly perceived.


Early on the image of the library and the reference librarian have been important topics for many working in the field. Certainly Samuel Swett Green as an original founder of the American Library Association had an interest in the image of library/librarian. The organization was formed around the purpose of promoting libraries and as the original Charter of 1879 states, at "disposing the public mind to the founding and improving of libraries." His novel idea of the mingling, "roving" reference librarian has certainly helped shape the role of the librarian and thus public perception. His essay on "Personal Relations Between Librarians and Readers" relays how the reference librarian has an initial opportunity in making patrons of all walks of life feel comfortable in the library, establishing the means in which to make the library popular, a place in the community "of such beneficient influences that it cannot be dispensed with."


However, throughout time the prevalent image of the library itself has been a heavy one; burdened with the weight of all the knowledge and books they so unglamorously house. When describing a library words like "fun" and "exciting" usually do not enter the picture. The librarian as well, stereotyped rather drably, as the infamous intimidating, bespectacled female. When dealing with reputation and longevity, such typecasts are not helpful. Active movements to change these conventions do exist. There are campaigns to transform the image of libraries and librarians, such as ALA's @ Your Library which has a primary goal to "update the image of libraries and librarians for the 21st century, sustaining and strengthening their relevance." Some international advocates are, Englands Love Libraries and the IFLA's Campaign for World Libraries, having the same intentions. In this revamping of image, libraries have introduced new activities and services to reach the further needs of diverse communities. Dynamic spaces have been created, like the Seattle Public Library and San Diego's Geisel Library, in hopes of attracting the attention of a larger audience. At times it teeters on a fine line of what is/is not the role of library/ reference librarian as we try to modernize this system. But, the matter of image and how the public perceives the library as an institution is an important one, its very sustenance depends on it. As libraries evolve, the image will evolve, and as we move into more web based virtual reference it will be interesting to see how and what changes take place.


image as representation:

see also W.J.T. Mitchell and Roland Barthes


a popular conception (as of a person, institution, or nation) projected especially through the mass media:


Sage Goodman