Peter Brantley has a provocative post up on his blog Shimenawa: Get in the goddamn wagon. It’s basically a call to arms — specifically for younger librarians to seize a greater role in discussing and shaping the future of libraries.
The problem is that a lot of the public, official discussion about the future is restricted to senior administrators — a huge problem in the insanely hierarchical world of libraries:
I was intrigued when I saw an announcement for an ARL-CNI meeting, “Achieving Strategic Change in Research Libraries”, to be held in mid October, because Lord knows this is a good time for strategic change. Yet when I clicked through to the program, I was sorely disappointed. The program is oriented toward library directors talking amongst themselves. In the growing string of strategy meetings and whitepaper collections coming from research library organizations, I see many familiar names. While I find these individuals to be brilliant, thoughtful people, I don’t believe much will come out of their talking amongst each other for another day. Library leadership has been discussing emergent roles for libraries for over a decade.
It’s time for the youngest generation of librarians to gather amongst themselves to discuss change in libraries. This definitely needs to happen in RL, but it can also happen online. This would be a gathering of people that I would denote as “< A/UL" - in other words, lower than (less than) AUL. Not <= AUL. There should be no directors present, no associate directors present. This is not about them. It is about those who will truly redefine the future of libraries. And there will be libraries in the future. And they will kick ass.
A first step:
I am not suggesting that out of new conversations will emerge fully formed a blue print for a new class of library. But what I would suggest is: without energetic conversations, without more awareness of the things already being discussed in the hallways, libraries will have a future too long delayed. And that’s more than a problem for libraries. It’s a problem for everyone. By speaking together, we can break the deadlock and move the mountain. Talking about the world we want will help to build that world.
Right now, the best possible thing that ALA could do to reboot the future is to fund support for these meetings and gatherings, encouraging spontaneous leadership. If they cannot do that, then some other vehicle needs to step in and provide the platform where change can be not merely discussed, but architected.
I think Brantley’s post is terrific and well worth reading in it’s entirety.
I’ll admit that I wish the emphasis was not so much on chronologically young librarians but rather on librarians with youthful outlooks and ideas. On the other hand, I like that the he included not just librarians but all library staff.
In particular, I really appreciate the desire to seize discussions about our future away from the same-old-same-old directors and senior administrators. It’s time to include everyone. It’s time to throw the doors open, get a breath of fresh air and start talking. I’ve been doing, lots of people have been doing it.
I think the main benefit to including non-administrators is that we get to hear about what’s successful now and what’s happening at the edges of professional practice. The future is built on the present and the past. We need to see the coolest things that a lot of different people and institutions are doing and explore how we can build and collaborate to create our shared future out of that present. Combine that with the boundary-breaking fearlessness and disruptive influence of the young and young-at-heart, and we’ll really have something
Peter, call the meeting. I’ll be there.
(Pretending I’m 27 instead of 47, natch.)