Exploring tomorrow today

Last week I attended another challenging session at the EBSLG conference at Ashridge , presented by Christine Reid, a member of faculty at the University of Strathclyde as well as its Learning Resource Manager.


Christine presented an incredibly detailed overview of the issues and trends outside the library (and business school) world which will inevitably impact upon what we as librarians will do in the future. She was upfront about the fact that she didn’t pretend to have the answers and was keen to provoke discussion instead.


  • The fact that as humans we are conditioned to think that tomorrow will be the same, however, we actually need to expect the unexpected. Christine referred to Bertrand Russell’s turkey: “A turkey is fed evey day. Every single feeding firms up the bird’s belief thta it is the general rule of life to be fed every day by friendly members of the human race. On the afternoon before Christmas Day, however, the turkey is surprised by not being fed. Instead if itself now becomes the food for the Christmas activities.” We as librarians must not suddenly become the equivalent of Christmas dinner!
  • Keynes notion that: “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas, an in escpaing from old ones.
  • Facts about today’s youth: younger than the Internet; never known a mobile-less world; have friends around the world; and one electronic device for everything. 9 out of 10 teenagers have a PC, a mobile phone and a games console. These ‘digital natives’: just do it; like to feel in control; have a short attention span, and are comfortable with media multi-tasking. When they enter higher education they’ll want diferent services to those currently being offered and when they enter the world of work they’ll want the workplace to adapt to them not the other way round.
  • Computing power is still doubling every 18 months (Moore’s Law). Technology is key to the development of our library services, but will it ensnare us or free us?
  • Significance of the growth of social media. We can now all be publishers, movie makers, artists and storytellers. And we can all influence what happens e.g. return of the Wispa bar. Also directly helping companies to make money – Threadless. The media revolution focuses on the individual – ‘You’ (Time Magazines’ ‘Person of the Year’ in 2006)
  • Education is changing – now embracing different types of learning: blended; personalised; participative and activity-based; collaborative; problem-based; and not just in the classroom.
  • Business Education/Business School issues: budgets; globalization; partnerships; corporate universities; publish or perish; research assessment; rankings and accreditation; eLearning – the fact that emerging technologies are transforming teaching and learning.
  • Relevance of our services is absolutely key.

Closing Thoughts:

  • Are we prepared for technological change?
  • How much are our future visions based upon invalid assumptions?
  • How open are we to having our worldview challenged?
  • Are we ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities?

Christine’s session was backed up with some very detailed stats on current trends ensuring that the audience  felt the momentum of the changes she described more keenly. This also helped to make the session specific rather than generic as is so often the case.

After the session I found myself particualrly questioning how open I really am to having my worldview challenged and also how many libraries and librarians in the UK (especially in the business school sector) may become that Christmas Turkey over the next few years.

I like to think that the service I head up is relevant and embracing of change, but will that be enough for us?  Do faculty truly recognise the value of the many services we offer? If it came to the crunch would they rally round and support the cost of the service?



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