The Utah Library Association (ULA) dove headfirst into failure on February 19–20. Along with the Salt Lake City Public Library (SLCPL), ULA hosted Strikethrough: The Utah Library Association Failure Workshop. Billed as an interdisciplinary discussion of failure for librarians, it brought together librarians, medical doctors, and performance artists.
Submissions for Backtalk should be 850 to 900 words and sent to Meredith Schwartz at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until there is a body to take responsibility for reviewing LIS programs globally and granting the strong ones accreditation, a large number of librarians will be banned de facto from participating in our increasingly mobile information age economy. Having been a sometimes struggling expat myself (I lived in the UK and in Taiwan before Texas and the UAE), I know a little about trying to find work abroad; it can be a hell of a lot harder than it was for me, especially if you’re brown-skinned and English isn’t your first language. An international standard for accreditation for LIS degrees would go a long way toward fixing this for librarians in the eastern and southern hemispheres who want a fair shot at jobs in the northern and western hemispheres and in the complex, frustrating, bewildering, and lucrative Middle East.
In his Wall Street Journal (WSJ) January 11 op-ed piece, “In Age of Google, Librarians Get Shelved,” public librarian Steve Barker writes, “The role for librarians and public libraries is shrinking” because of emerging information technologies. Five respondents disagreed in letters to the editor reprinted a week later by calling attention to librarians’ ability to ferret out “higher-level information” and their capacity “to readily decipher between the relevant and irrelevant information” that has been made possible by the profession’s “metamorphic shift to information science.” And American Library Association (ALA) president Sari Feldman justifiably concludes, “At a time of information overload and growing gaps between digital ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots,’ the roles for dynamic and engaged librarians are growing.”
The inconsistent treatment of readers’ advisory (RA) as a core service for adults in public libraries has led to inconsistent demand for quality RA education, which has further led to inconsistent service. Jennie Maas Flexner noted as far back as 1934 that the “need for specialized education is as evident in [readers’ advisory] work as in every other department of the library.” This is still true, and the need is still not being met. Two gaps prevent RA from being taught in a way that would make it the core public library service it should be.
Great strides have been made in bringing physical accessibility to buildings and public spaces, including libraries, since the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law in 1990. However, even after 25 years, much work still needs to be done in the area of providing persons with disabilities full access to these same spaces and resources, including digital counterparts.
In our turbo-charged world, we are expected to work at a fast pace, move in the fast lane, and not fall off the fast track. If life is speeding up, we need to go faster or, better yet, perform multiple activities simultaneously. We hold speed in high regard, paying premium rates for quick delivery and instant gratification. Best-selling business books equate speed with efficiency, accomplishment, and success. But there is a hidden cost to such an existence.
A colleague once told me that librarians get into management like penguins falling off an ice floe. While it’s not the most flattering image, it felt a little too apt during my first year as an assistant director. Moving into leadership has been the single most formative experience of my career. It’s also been one of my most difficult professional challenges, and sometimes I still relate all too well to a flailing, flightless bird dropping into icy water.