|Image [cc] San Mateo County Library
Librarians, both as individuals, and as a profession, are constantly navigating the tidal shifts of how information is consumed in the age of the Internet. Whether it is understanding ways to disintermediate resources so that the librarian is no longer a gatekeeper to that resource, but rather a promoter of getting it in the hands of the user, or finding ways to provide services regardless of space or geographic location, our world is in constant flux. Many of us look at this as an opportunity to advance ourselves and our profession rather than see it as tsunami that is burying us. Perhaps one of the best statements that I’ve read regarding this idea of riding the tide to the next wave or being sucked under by it, came from Barbara Quint in her Searcher article called ‘Concierge’ Librarian.
Although I don’t believe that Quint was directly responding to the recent Forbes article on The Best and Worst Mater’s Degrees For Jobs (which named a Masters in Library and Information Science the worst), she definitely gave us something to use to counter this article:
First, let’s shake off the blues, the depressing fantasy that we information professionals, we librarians, have failed and have no future. We’ve got to stop asking the question, “Would you send your child to library school?” followed by a mournful negative shake of the head and a deep, noisy sigh. We’ve got to stop thinking of our future as something someone else may not allow us to have. Instead, what do we want to see happen? What do we want to do with our talents and energy and experience and principled commitment? After all, it is those qualities — talent, energy, experience, principles, and commitment — that brought the world to where it is today, to the Information Age. As long as we have those qualities in us, we can make a new future both as individuals and as a profession.
In addition to this statement, I also thought about how Quint finished her article by promoting (in an anecdotal way) the idea of there shouldn’t be less librarians in the workplace, there should be more. I thought about that and adapted the idea to law firms. Imagine if each practice group had a librarian there to manage the information (both subscription and free) and to make sure everyone knew how to find it, use it, and do so in a way that saved the firm money and made them not only efficient, but also effective. That is something I think we definitively need to promote both as individuals and as a profession.
One other thing that I saw today that I thought also drove home the idea of the new future as individuals and as a profession, was my friend Jean O’Grady’s interview on Bloomberg Law discussing this very topic. This is well worth the 8 minute investment to listen to how O’Grady discusses the importance of not standing still and not holding on to old ideas that just don’t work any longer. She makes an off the cuff mention that the Library Space may come to look more like an Apple Store where people go to learn or invest in new products or ideas and then go back to their offices better prepared to answer the challenges they face.
Seeing articles and interviews like these make me feel better about riding that wave of change that is constantly rolling in on this profession.