Not surprisingly this topic came up many times and in many different ways during the recent annual SLA conference in Seattle.
The new generation of information professionals
As I mentioned previously
I see the new information professionals as absolutely key to our
future, especially given the demographic of the profession which will
result in 58 percent of the members of SLA reaching 65 by 2019.
If the three young people (Christina de Castell, Stacey Greenwell, Daniel Lee)
on the panel session titled Perspectives of New Information
Professionals are representative of their generation then our future is
in very capable hands.
SLA Alignment Project
SLA is funding a project with Fleishman-Hillard, the international consulting firm which is leading a team made up of Outsell and Social Technologies.
The Alignment Project will be consulting widely both inside and outside
the information profession to help SLA anticipate the future and create
a strong and relevant brand.
Breaking down stereotypes of librarians
Librarians often suffer from stereotypes in the media, but in my
experience many information professionals do somewhat lack in
confidence. So it was fascinating to hear Stephen Abram the current President of SLA
refer to his early years, when he could never imagine becoming a leader
both in his career and of a global association. Having known Stephen
for quite a few years now, it came as a big surprise to find out how
far he has had to come to reach this point.
Another commonly occurring trait in librarians (which is almost
never covered by the media) is their inner strength. I think of it as
the opposite of the description of Israelis as Sabras. (Sabra (Hebrew:
×¦××Øā) is a term used to describe a native-born Israeli Jew. The word is
derived from the Hebrew name for the prickly pear cactus, i.e.
ātzabarā. The allusion is to a tenacious, thorny desert plant with a
thick hide that conceals a sweet, softer interior, i.e., rough and
masculine on the outside, but delicate and sensitive on the inside. Wikipedia)
Instead, the librarian has a soft outer shell, but inside is a core
of steel. An excellent example of this is Ann Sparanese, a librarian at
Englewood Library in New Jersey. She is credited (and gets a foreword
mention to prove it) with saving Michael Mooreās first book Stupid White Men.
To quote Moore, āLibrarians see themselves as the guardians of the
First Amendment. You got a thousand Mother Joneses at the barricades! I
love the librarians, and I am grateful for them!ā Salon website.
Adding value to our services
According to research done by Barbara Quint, Google
answers as many questions in 30 minutes as all librarians in the world
answer at reference desks in 15 years. So the only way to keep ahead of
this type of competition is to constantly add value to our service. We
need to understand our customers needs better and work more closely
with them. That way we can become more of a consultancy service than
just providing quick and simple reference answers. This is a topic I
have written about in Moving from readers to customers to clients in
the Business & IP Centre at the British Library, Business
Information Review, Vol. 25, No. 2, 125-126 2008