THE BRIGHT, NEW YOUNG LIBRARIANS graduating from our LIS programs are the best news in this awful period of library decline. Every semester my classes at Pratt Institute in New York and Dominican University in the Chicago suburb of River Forest bring a new cohort of students, each as good as or better than the one before. Enrollment in these programs is growing. Each class encompasses an array of refugees from earlier careers—scholars, lawyers, doctors, teachers, booksellers, business managers, public health workers, and administrators and faculty from higher education—as well as young people from many other fields.
Their rich experience is strengthened by strong skills in the application and management of digital technology to make their work more efficient and better informed. Most of these people are digital natives, with both competence in the use of rapidly changing technology and deep understanding of its potential.
These librarians in the making, indoctrinated by their studies in our core values and enlisted in our culture and style of service to society, are a tragically untapped resource for innovation and change. If we can find places for them to apply their ideas, they will lead the transformation of librarianship
as we move more deeply into the uncharted future.
Beyond their tech savvy, they bring us their familiarity and comfort with current collaborative working models, team efforts, and the urgency to innovate and compromise at the same time, to listen as well as to communicate. Seemingly more gregarious than previous generations of librarians, they are exceptional at working directly with the public, even the difficult public.
These future librarians are exceedingly more receptive to the knowledgeable handling of competition, opposition, and resistance to change than our profession has demonstrated in past decades. After all, they have grown up in a crowd and know how to work under conditions that require both cooperation and competition.
Their patience with older librarians like me is admirable, especially with our need for assistance with the new working tools and style brought on by technology. That patience reflects their embrace of the source of our great libraries. They understand how and why we cherish our traditional models and are convincing me that the best values of old can be central to our future.
The impending tragedy is our apparent inability to put them to work with us. It isn’t easy in these impoverished times, but we must find resources and new methods to make sure these new librarians quickly join our ranks. Full-time employment in libraries is, of course, best. Short of that, we have to find other ways to engage them and feed their dedication to the field. Internships, fellowships, temporary positions, even volunteering can bring great new ideas and talent to libraries while offering these grads much-desired real-life library experience upon which to draw.
This problem demands the attention of the entire profession, its schools, and its organizations, at every level. We need more programs and investment from the American Library Association and its units and divisions, tapping into the growing reservoir of talent we are currently missing.
It must be addressed at every institution. Every library of every type must find ways to recruit these new librarians and build a more robust future through their creativity, energy, and desire to work with us.
If we neglect to enlist these versatile and eager newcomers, we ignore our future. It would surely be wasteful. It could be fatal.
|Lead the Change is a library leadership seminar that brings together library thought leaders to show participants how today's top libraries are leading change and transforming their communities. Attendees are lead through a series of exercises to help bridge key thoughts to individual leadership objectives to help them harness their ideas, their innovation and their ability to lead.|