Welcome to Richard Kearney's Web Site


In his article, "The Top Ten Web Design Mistakes of 1999," web guru Jakob Neilsen argued it's bad form for people who throw pages up on the web to be anonymous. Nielsen wrote, "biographies and photographs of the authors help make the Web a less impersonal place and increase trust. Personality and point-of-view often wins over anonymous bits coming over the wire."

Because I also favor an internet where impersonality is at a minimum and trust is at least possible, I include the following personal details:

I'm a native New Jerseyan; born 1964; hold a B.A. in sociology from my beloved Rutgers-Newark (1986), an M.L.S. from the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers-New Brunswick (2000), and an M.A. in history from William Paterson University (2005); the latter institution is also where I happen to work. Before becoming a librarian I worked in international education for eight years. I am interested in all kinds of things including politics, history, religion, music, literature, philosophy, science, and mathematics. I've been a socialist all my adult life. I work with computers every single day but am not really interested in them.

My interest in libraries goes back to childhood, when after learning the basics of reading I first set foot in the Johnson Free Public Library in Hackensack, New Jersey. Most librarians love books, of course, but from an early age it was the words "free" and "public" that most intrigued me. As time passed I came to understand it wasn't the books that made libraries special places but rather the roles they played in their communities and the fact that their doors were open to everyone. What I love about public libraries is that they are democratic institutions.

Thomas Jefferson, a firm believer in libraries, saw them as cornerstones of every citizen's democratic education. Along with locally controlled common schools, Jefferson regarded libraries as places specially equipped to "enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom." Expand this eighteenth-century vision to include everyone and you have an ideal we could carry far into the future. Not everyone agrees with this notion. Some people think we'd be better off viewing libraries as just another "customer service" provider, to be run "like a business" and modeled on the example of bookstores or other institutions that have more to do with profit-making and commodity exchange than with educating citizens to defend liberty. I am strongly committed to a service ethic, but I believe the idea of citizen service - where every person is a citizen of the world - is larger, richer and more worthy of our support. We should resist invitations to debase the promise and reality of libraries.

I find the major issues surrounding new information technology in libraries and the phenomenon of "digital libraries" are social rather than technical in nature. We can all help define what future libraries will be like, but I think librarians have a special responsibility to fight for freedom and equal access as this definition is hammered out. For this reason I belong to the American Library Association's Intellectual Freedom Round Table. Keeping libraries strong means keeping their central role as democratic institutions in focus at all times. By standing fast against censors and other enemies of liberty, we can all get practical lessons in the meaning of freedom.

This is one of my favorite pictures, taken at a May Day party my wife Mary and I hosted in 1992 when we were living in a dumpy apartment in West New York. The day was kind of surreal because it happened to coincide with the rebellion that broke out in Los Angeles after a jury in Simi Valley acquitted four police officers who had been on trial for beating Rodney King. Like most people we were outraged by this miscarriage of justice. We considered cancelling the party because many of our guests were uptight about traveling from New York City (fearing similar events would transpire there), but we opted to go ahead with it because we had bought a ton of food that would otherwise have gone to waste. Most of the guests calmed down after a few drinks. Mary and I were married six months later. I still haven't calmed down.

Richard K. Kearney
271 Farrant Terrace
Teaneck, New Jersey 07666
Last Revised: May 9, 2008