The Librarian Shaming tumblr highlights anonymous “confessions” from our field. Some are humorous, some shocking. Some will make you think and maybe reconsider assumptions. This shameful confession perked me up when I discovered it: “I want to replace all librarians with tech people with great customer service skills and teaching ability. I want the library to have its own Genius Bar.” While a bit narrow in focus, this statement resonates on an instinctive level with me as an LIS educator.
Column from Michael Stephens (email@example.com), Assistant Professor at the School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University, CA
A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities, includes this finding: “Some 90 percent of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63 percent saying it would have a ‘major’ impact.” What’s intriguing is that only 29 percent reported that it would have a major impact on the respondent and respondent’s family. In other words, 90 percent of folks do not want the library to close, but many fewer would feel the negative consequences.
The turn of a calendar year is a good time to remember reflective practice, whereby you take a moment, think about what you’ve learned, the experiences you’ve had in your workplace and career, and pull all of those things together as you encounter more choices. This process is cyclical.
I was honored to give one of the keynote addresses at the 2013 Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA) conference. There, I met many New Zealand LIS professionals and got a glimpse of how they work. I also became intimately acquainted with the integration of Maori culture into New Zealander LIS professionals’ lives. The Maori are the original citizens of the two islands.
I unpacked (slowly, slowly) my new iPhone 5S in a major moment of personal technolust. Upgrading from a quickly aging iPhone 4, the larger screen size, fingerprint identification, and enhanced camera pulled me in. It also caused me to reflect on the mobile device and its touchstone role with people in general and librarians in particular. What a history we’ve had together!
Deep in the conversations streams of the Hyperlinked Library MOOC (massive open online course), the large-scale professional development course I’m coteaching this fall for more than 300 library folk, my thoughts turn again to the concept of librarians as facilitators of learning. It becomes clear to me that as learning goes on the move, we not only must keep up with significant changes in education environments but aim to become connectors and collaborators within our users’ learning spaces.
A few months ago I suggested that one of the things preventing librarians from working at web scale might be “a lingering emphasis on collections over users.” I and others have argued that the evolution of libraries and library service will include a pronounced shift from libraries as book warehouses to libraries as centers for discovery, learning, and creation via any number of platforms. I might have been guilty of a bit of collection bashing in these discussions, and recent occurrences of collection trashing have given me pause.
There’s a lot of consternation out there about training our workforce. Recent articles from voices in the field of library and information science (LIS) have questioned the value of the MLIS or pointed toward an uncertain and evolving future. Former LJ editor in chief Michael Kelley’s “Can We Talk About the MLS?” garnered much attention. Kelley argues that the profession should have a serious conversation about the values and merits of formalized, professional LIS education.Kelley’s call for discussion is a sound one and is echoed in Brian Kenney’s similarly themed piece in Publishers Weekly, “So You Think You Want To Be a Librarian?”. Kenney’s frank approach looks beyond collections to interaction. These articles struck a nerve; the resulting links, comments, and discussion serve as evidence of librarians’ interest in the topic and, perhaps, their sensitivities to these issues. Why the consternation? Librarians want libraries to succeed, and they know that libraries must evolve in order to succeed. The future of libraries is closely linked to the skills of newly minted librarians.
“BEING ADAPTABLE IN A FLAT world, knowing how to ‘learn how to learn,’ will be one of the most important assets any worker can have, because job churn will come faster, because innovation will happen faster,” writes Thomas Friedman in The World Is Flat. I’ve invoked this “learn to learn” mantra before, but recent shifts in the opportunities for librarians and library staff to learn have brought me back to it.