Yes, the book. My Job in 10 Years: The Future of Academic Libraries.
To rewind a bit, the story begins this past January. I did a little off-the-cuff post on how libraries could model their web presences on commercial book-related sites like Tor.com or the Globe & Mail Books site. It ended up being surprisingly popular, even getting picked up by AL Direct.
Shortly after that, I was contacted by Christopher Rhodes of ALA Editions to see if I was interested in proposing a book for them about designing library web pages that way. (Thanks, Chris!)
Well, like any good blogger, I’ve always vaguely fantasized about a publisher approaching me to turn my blog into a book but had never really thought the probability was that high. I’ve never been proactive about it either and have never given any thought to approaching any publishers myself. At the same time, I’d always thought that if there were any interest out there it would be in the My Job in 10 Years series of posts I did from 2005 to 2007. It’s substantial, it’s interesting and I think it’s the best stuff I’ve done here on the blog. Not to downplay the value of the Tor.com/Globe & Mail post — designing the library web presence is something I’m keenly interested in and have been involved with much of my career. I just haven’t written about it that much.
In any case, Chris and I discussed these issues over email and phone and ultimately agreed that a potential My Job in 10 Years book was both interesting, viable and practically speaking, the one I would be best able to tackle first. The web site project may very well happen at some point, but first things first.
So, here we are. I’m scheduled to hand in the manuscript in March 2010. That’s about 10 months, which should be interesting.
So, some questions that you all no doubt have:
- What’s it going to be about? My current plan is to approach the project more or less like I approached the blog post series. I’m basically going to re-imagine my own job, which directly involves reference, collections, instruction, liaison/outreach and research support. I’ll be adding some material on the future of higher education & scholarly communication, library management and governance as well. Just like the blog series, I’ll also be talking about the things I advocate for such as the libraries web presence and building physical spaces.
A big part of the project will be discussing how to prepare for change, what librarians should think about and how they should organize their own professional development in the face of onrushing change. The book won’t be about every kind of librarian job in every possible academic library setting, both because that would venture too far from what I know anything about and would also make the project too large and unwieldy. In many ways, this is going to be a very personal book.
- Why me? The glib answer is, “Why not me?” There are as many possible books about the future of academic libraries are there are librarians that could write them. Mine will be but one possible imaginative response to the challenges of the future. I’m just the lucky one who’s tried it before and will get to try it again. I do think there’s a connection between trying something once, having it turn out pretty well, and getting to try it again. Will it be the best, the most visionary, the most daring, the most comprehensive, the most accurate, the most pessimistic, the most optimistic? That won’t be for me to say.
What I can say is that I do welcome the opportunity to read more librarians’ (and others’) takes on the future of academic libraries. I’m humble enough to see my side of this as the great learning opportunity that it truly is.
- Blogging the Book? There’s currently no plan to make the text of the book freely available online. That being said, I certainly plan to work my way through most of the issues I’ll be dealing with right here. I will definitely be thinking through and testing out a lot of my ideas here on the blog. I also expect that I’ll be posting chapter outlines and maybe even early drafts. Right now all my thinking is structural, so I’ll probably be posting a provisional table of contents pretty soon.
- Isn’t this a crazy time to be speculating about the future? Ya think? Seriously, we are at a very interesting time in the history of information, libraries, media, scholarship, higher education and the places all those things intersect. Some days it does truly feel like a media singularity is rushing towards us. Other days, the pace of change seems too slow, glacial almost. No one really knows what’s going to happen in two years, much less ten.
- How can you help? If there’s anything that contemplating this project has brought home to me, it’s this: I have a lot to learn. I have a lot to learn about what libraries and librarians are already doing and will be able to do in the future. To the extent that the project will be developed on this blog, I’m hoping that all my readers out there (librarians and non-librarians alike) can educate me about the possibilities of our profession, the future of higher education, the changing information landscape and the social and environmental challenges the future will bring. I’m a big believer in crowdsourcing and collective intelligence. To a certain extent, I’m just a ringmaster here. To quote Isaac Newton, “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” Be a giant!
- Does this explain all those reading lists? Yes.
By far my favourite quote from the blog series is this, the final paragraph:
As for the predictions themselves, I must admit to feeling a lot of ambivalence about them at this point. And that’s because I find myself not necessarily committed to realizing the future I’ve imagined, only to bringing about a future. If I’ve imagined wrong, if there are things I didn’t anticipate, well that’s fine. I’ll adjust my vision to changing circumstances and to changing knowledge and try and balance the needs to change with the needs to maintain our core values. A tough balancing act to be sure, but one that I think I’m up to. I want to facilitate a future, one that is good for our patrons but one that also has me in it. And I think that’s what we should all aspire to in our professional lives, to bringing about the best future we can imagine, for ourselves and our patrons.
(BTW, a few things that I always thought were low probability seem to be happening lately. I think it’s time to start investing in lottery tickets pretty heavily. Never two without three, as they say!)