“Future-Proofing” Your Library…08.14.08

14 08 2008

There is an interesting “Editorial” article in Library Journal titled “People in and out of libraries are the engines for future-proofing” [http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6585844.html] by Francine Fialkoff which is excerpted here:

“…Joel Garreau, author, Washington Postwriter, and scenario planner, has been working with ULC this year to help members innovate faster; he says we must ‘keep up with hundreds of uncertainties’ and look for emerging patterns. Just as the new social learning is bottom up, so must organizations ditch their hierarchies in favor of bottom-up development, he says.

He asks a question on the minds of many library funders: ‘In an age of Google, what are libraries for?’ Libraries can’t just be reactors but must ‘identify what’s being born and hitch themselves to that faster.’ While there are no guarantees this will work, ‘more of the same yields fewer users, less budget,’ Garreau insists. OCLC’s funding report is more positive, since it found that library “super supporters” are not the heaviest library users and that there is room for growth among probable supporters, particularly those who go to the library ‘just for fun.’

Omar Wasow, tech analyst and co-founder of both BlackPlanet.com and a charter school in Brooklyn, NY, told ULC attendees the library is a ‘playground for the mind…where the product is a better person.’ Libraries, he said, have always been conduits for self-directed learning, so computer-based online tutoring in libraries satisfies kids’ need ‘to make mistakes privately.’ And J.C. Herz, founder of Joystick Nation, a firm that bears the name of her book on the video gaming industry, called the library the ‘glue, conveyance, conductor of civic connection…allowing community to create a ‘we.’ She urged librarians to find ‘respectful ways…to connect customers to each other [and] enable self-organization.’ She also noted that Nintendo sold a lot more games when it created ones that could be solved by large groups of kids going online or buying books for tips and tricks.

Garreau drew these tidbits from the table talks at the Fast Forward conference, many of which echoed comments in ‘Future-Proof Your Library':

  • Get rid of silos among libraries. Partner with other libraries to be more of a force in the marketplace.
  • Hire for potential, not experience.
  • Form communities of interest among staff to innovate.
  • Encourage risk and accept the possibility of failure.

Echoing Wasow, the University of Washington’s Joe Janes summed up, saying, ‘A good library reflects a community and betters it.’ But he also asked, ‘How long have [libraries] got?’ and proposed the need for ‘some sort of NASA…they took enormous risks.’

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