An early morning drive south from Loveland to the Denver airport gave me time to reflect on the evolving nature of library conferences. I delivered one of the keynotes for the Colorado Association of Libraries annual conference (CALCON) this year and was thrilled to be invited to attend the entire event. What I discovered in the meeting rooms and hallways and at the receptions and dinners with Colorado librarians was a spirit of innovation and inspiration, a renaissance of the state-level meeting. The sessions were interesting, useful, and engaging. The atmosphere was welcoming, inclusive, and vibrant.
I must admit my eyebrows raised when one of my students in the Hyperlinked Library class shared a job description in our discussion devoted to emerging ideas and trends. Trenton Public Library (TPL), NJ, was looking for an “Innovation Catalyst Librarian.” The interest grew as my students dissected the duties and requirements, comparing their own experiences and suitability for such a position. I have seen a lot of cutting-edge job descriptions before, but this one was different.
We spend a lot of time talking about various forms of literacy. Various approaches have risen up and faded quickly—transliteracy, metaliteracy, etc.—but the idea remains: How can everyday folks navigate a continually plugged in, all-access world? I think of these skills as life literacies or simply how we make sense of the world.
Summer wanes, and it’s back to school for LIS students, their professors, and the folks who support them in so many ways. At graduation ceremonies, we always acknowledge the family members and significant others who help LIS students along the path toward their degrees. Let’s shine a light on the importance of current librarians, administrators, and those who work alongside soon-to-be librarians. Their impact might be just as strong as the support of family and friends.
“It starts with us.” I use that phrase on a slide in my talks and course lectures and whenever I get the chance to talk about librarians, libraries, and our continual adaptation to societal and technological change. It’s also closely related to my thoughts on professional development and learning in the workplace. This isn’t sweeping organizational change; this time it’s personal.
Have you read about the “Full-Stack Employee?” In a think piece published in Medium, author Chris Messina—the creator of the hashtag, no less—offers this definition: “the full-stack employee has a powerful combination of skills that make them incredibly valuable. They are adept at navigating the rapidly evolving and shifting technological landscape. They make intuitive decisions amidst information-abundance, where sparse facts mingle loosely with data-drenched opinions.” It’s a tech-heavy take, but bear with me, as Messina broadens the definition: “Full-stack employees have an insatiable appetite for new ideas, best practices, and ways to be more productive and happy. They’re curious about the world, what makes it work, and how to make their mark on it.”
Let’s take some advice from sex columnist Dan Savage to improve connections between research and practice. Savage’s Lovecast podcast features a segment called “What You Got?” highlighting recent studies from sex and relationship researchers. Savage gives scholars a few minutes of airtime to report on how their findings might relate to listeners. What a brilliant way to get the word out about research! Maybe a similar segment could find its way to Steve Thomas’s “Circulating Ideas” podcast, a show I always enjoy.
A FEW YEARS AGO at the American Library Association’s (ALA) annual conference in Anaheim, CA, I had dinner with librarians from three large universities. The conversation turned to something they had in common: they were all moving print book collections at their respective institutions off-site to make room for student spaces. Back then, this was a big deal, and these administrators met with opposition and angst from their constituents.
Speaking here and there, I’ve logged a few airline miles over the years and visited some pretty cool places. A short while ago, I was coming back from the New York Library Association conference, flying from Albany to Chicago, and I was seated next to a friendly young man who asked me what I did for a living.