10 challenges for the library profession

Over the next week or so I’ll be posting summaries and reviews of the many excellent sessions presented at the recent EBSLG conference at Ashridge Management College (5-8 May 2009), The first session was led by Tony Sheehan, Ashridge’s Learning Services Director.

tony

Tony identified 10 challenges that currently face the library profession and which were also intended to answer the increasingly asked question: “Do we need libraries at all?”

Tony’s 10 Challenges:
1. Business
Librarians should be integrating with all parts of their organisation and avoid their library becoming a silo. Collaboration and connectivity are therefore key.
2. Workload
Information has grown exponentially but our capacity to absorb it has not. There is an ever widening zone of ignorance.
3. Search
Librarians are now answering more complex research questions than ever. This shift is important and will help us to erode the zone of ignorance (see above). 
4. Attention
We are now driven  by info-lust and distracted by content and therefore hyperlinking off in our own minds all the time. Mistakes arise from our ‘emotional tagging’ of information and recognising misleading patterns. After Bazerman and Chugh, we need to bring the right information into our conscious awareness at the right time.
5. Complexity
Librarians are now facing brand new problems and the answers are frequently to be found in different disciplines.
6. Connections
The Internet now offers us connections. Shirky: “Each URL is a latent community” – the trigger for richand engaging conversations – the launch point for creativity”. Technology is providing us with connections that should be fully utilised. e.g. the lizard spit that may provide the answers to diabetes.
7. Communities
Networks of knowledge (such as EBSLG) are now more important than ever for librarians. See book: The Wisdom of Crowds and e.g. of checking out TripAdvisor before choosing a hotel.
8. Technology
What we all now experience at home, technology-wise, is setting the standard for our experience at work. We can do almost everything electronically now. e.g. of use of World of Warcraft by CISCO for job selection process!
9. Personalisation
Eagleton refers to the human situation of “hasty, random choices with little thought and evaluation”, which we’ve arrived at through Google and the search engine revolution. Critical information skills have been lost and librarians have to ensure that they are still on the agenda by providing the best of both worlds (Google and information portals/services).
10. Reflection
We should be spending more time reflecting, thinking and learning and less time doing. Space is important. We need this in order to keep up with the latest trends.
Conclusion:
Libraries and librarians can still be valuable if they can keep up-to-date and respond to organisational, individual and environmental needs. The problem is that many library services are currently invisible.

Although there was nothing particularly groundbreaking about Tony’s presentation, I found it to be both affirming and relevant.
His call for librarians to spend more time relecting and learning in order to keep up-to-date was actually the final catalyst for me to start blogging. As for the invisbility factor – promoting my own library service to make it as visible as possible is easily my number one priority on a day-to-day basis.

Andy

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