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Get in the goddamn wagon

September 1st, 2010 Posted in Innovation, Libraries, Openness | digg it blank

It’s time for younger librarians to claim the future.

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.

(N.B.: In libraries, the senior executive usually has the title “University Librarian”, and their immediate junior staff, “Associate University Librarian”; these are abbreviated as UL and AUL respectively.)

The current leadership of many of the leading research libraries belongs to a cohort that has held senior management positions for several decades; they have exceeded, or are near, retirement age. The generation beneath them, the late boomers and the Gen X’ers, have often been unable to fully advance in their careers because of the overhanging cliff edge above them. In libraries, archives, and museums – all organizations with astounding levels of commitment and loyalty – theirs will be a Lost Generation. They are not likely to steer these institutions for any long length of time. Instead, Gen X has led – is leading – a Long March.

Even in conversations with the existing leadership, there is wide acknowledgment that the greatest sea change of vision and perspective among librarians, museum and archive staff, rests primarily among those (more or less) in their 20s, into their early to mid 30s. This generation has completely different expectations for information management, privacy, direct access to data and people, interaction with services, and organizational behavior.

It is perhaps in the expectations for organizational conduct that the need for change is greatest, and most immediately wanting. Libraries are supremely hierarchical organizations, not given to matrix management or effective team based project management. Many young librarians do not have any effective means to make substantive comment on change in their institutions; even when their voices are heard, no engagement is offered.

I have heard ULs say that they are all for new initiatives, but their librarian unions are preventing them from making deep structural change. Well, you know what? Unions don’t want to be the last one to turn out the lights either. Don’t blame labor.

When I tweeted my attendee concerns about the program agenda of the ARL-CNI meeting, @ARLnews responded with:

We strive to ID timely topics & speakers based on the forum theme. We have begun talking about how to recruit new ideas & faces… including the “new library generation” so your input is timely & well taken. Thanks again for taking the time to give us feedback.

That’s not what I am talking about. Revolutionary councils don’t form around the existing leadership. Existing leadership has spent its credibility. The changes they led long ago were bold in their time, but this is a new time, with new dangers, and new people must address them.

Here’s what I would like to see:

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.

This is also not a Taiga-like recitation of calls for change or 5-year predictions for libraries, delivered by AUL level staff. It is not likely that a “community of AUL’s and AD’s challenging the traditional boundaries in libraries” is somehow going to make change happen. I applaud their manifest: “[w]e must develop cross-functional vision that makes internal organizational structures more flexible, agile, and effective. We must move beyond the borders and transcend the traditional library organization.” Yada yada yada.

That’s not enough. There is tremendous skepticism about Taiga in the rank and file. Let Taiga deal with their shifting boundaries, I want to plow under the farmland and gather with those who are madly tossing seeds for wild grasses on the prairies, provoking the native spirits into spring rains. Strategy is for young people.

As a friend observed to me, “v cool. in add’n to younger library staff, I’d also like to see non-librarian library professionals in lib strategy discussions.” Right on. Because the future is not contained within the neat walls of existing research libraries, but among all libraries, and archives and records keeping museums, attempting to redefine their role and purpose in a digital world. We live in a flattened world.

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. Realistically, I suspect that ARL is not the right institution to do this. William Faulkner said it best in Go Down, Moses: “Them that’s going,” he said, “get in the goddamn wagon. Them that aint, get out of the goddamn way.”

It’s too easy to proclaim the knock down – the traditional call out for the terrain-effacing transformation that is eroding the ground underneath us. Today, there is incredible optimism, energy, and enthusiasm in libraries –- at no other point in history has there been such opportunity to reach people with information using such a variety of tools, across such a range of means.

When mobile phones are held in the hands of farmers in the remotest villages across the planet –- the reach of every single library on this planet is now global. As our responsibility, let’s forge that vision.

26 Responses to “Get in the goddamn wagon”

  1. Dorothea Salo Says:

    Call that meeting. I’ll be there.

  2. bowerbird Says:

    looks like i beat your post by about 90 minutes…

    > http://peterbrantley.com/eye-to-eye-228#comment-455

    whatever you librarians come up with, you’re gonna
    have to wrestle it out of the hands of google first…


  3. anonymous Says:

    That librarians beyond their 20’s and early 30’s face a rather grim demographic reality in terms of advancement opportunities is something with which I have to agree.

    Does that lead us inexorably to the conclusion that good ideas will only come from “those (more or less) in their 20s, into their early to mid 30s”? No (though I am sure there are plenty of good ideas there too), only that middle-of-the-pack (in terms of age) librarians will not have as long to bring good ideas to fruition, unless they decide to work until they’re 70 or older. I think the “long march” generation presents library leadership with an interesting set of challenges and opportunities that they would do well to address – how to make good use of the good ideas and leadership capability right under their noses? How to reward it, meaningfully?

  4. Eric Hellman Says:

    Thanks for this (I especially appreciate the recognition of “non-librarian library professionals”).

    What is to be done?

    As far as I can tell, the younger generation of library leadership is doing just fine at connecting and forming networks with a great deal of latent power. At the same time, the older generation is hungry to integrate “new blood”, although often the two networks don’t quite connect.

    Institutional calcification is not a problem confined to libraries. The best solution is usually to build new institutions. The library is dead; long live the library!

  5. WoodsieGirl Says:


    Totally agree. It was for the same reasoning that some very talented and passionate new librarians in the UK set up the LIS New Professionals Network (LISNPN): http://lisnpn.spruz.com/

    Some great conversations going on there already – fancy coming along and joining in? :)

  6. Jonathan Rochkind Says:

    How do you cross the chasm from young librarians talking about things, to young librarians having any power whatsoever to do anything about what they talk about?

    I’m not sure if there’s a shortage of talking or not. We librarians — young, old, short career, long career, change welcome or change resistant– are really good at talking about things. It’s the doing where we run into trouble.

  7. peebsley Says:

    WoodsieGirl, Thanks, I hadn’t heard about LISNPN, and I will definitely take a look.

    Jonathan, Man, I hear you. Which is one of the reasons that one of my colleagues noted in email Gramsci’s: “… the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appears.” Yet I refuse to despair. In the worst case, the world of /research/ libraries fall apart while ULs talk amongst themselves about how much change is different these days, and younger folks can effect no greater change without the levers of power. But I believe that talking – leading to ORGANIZING – leads to CHANGE. Without that belief, we’re all sunk. We’ve got to steam ahead. New leadership is emerging.

    Eric, You are right, if the library system has to be reinvented into a new kind of organization, then so must it be. As you and others observe, the mission of the library stays the same, empowerment through information and providing the tools to obtain it, understand it, and engage with it.

  8. me Says:

    How much are libraries hamstrung by professional standards and (gasp) professional associations? Certainly LIS education is constrained by accreditation requirements. As long as an MLS (or MLIS or MS-LIS or whatever it is this week) is the coin of the realm, even though there are good and bright people earning those degrees, libraries limit their possibilities by not looking a little further afield for talent and different ways of thinking.

    I’m not naming association names either but… I think a promotion process that highly prizes committee participation in just one association and its spinoffs does not serve the librarians working towards promotion or their institutions very well. So there is a lot to rethink and perhaps undo, a LOT of inertia. It may not be quite as simple as talking and listening to up and coming library workers of all kinds.

    About Taiga and new blood – I have just one thing to say: money. Higher ups have more discretionary travel funds than new blood. I am not an AUL or an AD or any other title, but I keep getting invited to Taiga. I don’t have the money. I simply can’t go. That’s just a fact, not a complaint – given the yawns and cynicism, I might be just fine with not going.

    Sorry to post anonymously but this is hot-button stuff. Perhaps that’s another symptom of another set of problems in the profession.

  9. peebsley Says:

    You (me), Yes, these are big issues. Like many existing media industries, librarianship has looked too long only within for accreditation of professional activities. I hope that will change, because it is imperative that it do so. I had lunch with a friend today who has years in senior management in trade publishing and bookselling, and she would like to learn more about libraries and information management. Where is she in a library world, should she job shift?

    I also understand that travel funds are a big reason people do not gather, which is why someone like Mellon, Sloan, Microsoft (!), or (gasp) ALA would need to sponsor travel. I grok that. Fortunately, there are great online tools to at least get started. Eventually, as was the case for C4L, if a venue is generated, the cause will be vital enough in the short term for people to spend their own money, unfair as that is.

  10. StevenB Says:

    While I totally get your frustration with programs that are dominated by ARL ULs and AULs, it can be equally frustrating to come across a post that advocates that library transformation will come from one generation or another – when in fact we can create programs where the generations come together to create change. You mention ALA. While it’s not fantastically successful, I have seen some good work come out of the Emerging Leaders program. That’s a good example of more senior librarians working together with our up and coming leaders to give them opportunities to develop new programs – and to take responsibility for leadership roles in ALA and at their libraries. And you have some issues with the ARL-CNI program, but they’ll be talking about the 2CUL project – and while the presenters are the old generation, that’s a good example of library transformation that involves multiple generations. The presenters are just leading those libraries, but there are lots of younger librarians developing the project. The leaders at those two libraries aren’t just talking change, they are creating change.

    And doesn’t the new generation already organize events where they gather to share ideas for change – unconferences – where there are few senior leaders present. Or at more traditional conferences where there are now unconferences within the conference – or special gatherings for the new generation – such as the new members roundtable.

    I agree that we have much to learn from the younger generation of librarians, and we do need to create more opportunities for them to take the lead in creating change. I wrote pretty much that exact thing a number of years ago at http://bit.ly/anKVtB . But don’t count out senior leaders either. Many of those I know still have plenty of potential to create “kick-ass” change. There’s plenty of room in the wagon.

  11. mace Says:

    Good text and discorse i must say. I’m happy to hear of LISNPN from you WoodsieGirl and we have some unrest gathering here in Finland too.

    I’ll surely take a look at LISNPN and pass this on, on IFLA’s New Professionals Special Interest Groups’s (NPSIG) blog for instance to generate some international interest.

  12. Cambridge Librarian Says:

    The value that older professionals can bring must not be underestimated. It is in the nature of modern technology that younger people may on the whole be more comfortable with it, and therefore particularly likely to have good ideas concerning it, but it is unrealistic (and ageist) to suggest that

    ‘librarians beyond their 20′s and early 30′s face a rather grim demographic reality in terms of advancement opportunities’ (quoted from anonymous, above).

    Older professionals possess skills that can only be acquired through experience, e.g., management skills, and skills necessary to implement new ideas (strategic planning, project management, etc). I have seldom if ever encountered a good manager who was still in their 20s (I would include myself in that!), though there may be exceptions.

    I am certainly all for encouraging younger professionals, and the ideas that they bring, and to give them real opportunities to contribute to developments in the profession. This is very important. They still, however, need time to develop as professionals, so please don’t overlook the value of more experienced practitioners!

  13. Steven Says:

    I became a librarian at age 36. I went through library school with peers both younger and older, and we were exposed to new ways of thinking, great ideas and theories about how people look for information and how information needs are changing with the times.

    Some of my younger peers wanted to go right into traditional librarianship, caring for stacks of books and sitting at a reference desk. Some of my older peers wanted to blow up the current model of librarianship and reform it to fit our rapidly changing society and information landscape.

    One thing that has become clear as I enter my fifth year of being a librarian is that age does not dictate the nature of one’s ideas. To assume so is the same as assuming that all those first year college students are tech wizards, or that someone with gray hair is a geezer who should be pushed aside.

    This is lazy thinking. It’s ageism. And it’s destructive to young librarians and more seasoned ones.

    Even at 40, which isn’t all that old, I’ve already had to read about how I’m somehow too old, too entrenched, to innovate or bring much-needed change to librarianship. And frankly, I’m sick of it.

    Perhaps it’s more about being a new librarian than a young librarian. But even that will have its exceptions and is still a generalization.

  14. Barbara Says:

    I’m not sure that it’s about age of librarians so much as the age of the organizational structure. Most library org charts would fit nicely over a 19th century factory. They are not conducive to shared governance and initiative from all quarters. In the traditional library career path, your worth is determined by how many people you supervise. These are adults, folks. Adults don’t need supervision. They need favorable conditions to do their jobs and a chance to redefine their jobs (and our jobs, collectively) and a common understanding that the job they did last year is probably not the job they need to do now, so what do we need to do differently? We need organizations that are hospitable to innovation and for everyone to be involved in it.

    I really like this article about the working conditions that new professionals want. (Short answer: an adhocracy.)

  15. bowerbird Says:

    peter said:
    > Yet I refuse to despair.

    well, um, yeah, that’s good, i guess… but…

    it’s not just that the upper echelon of librarianism is calcified.
    that is, probably, to be expected.

    what is worse is that they have wasted literally _millions_ and
    _millions_ of dollars on systems that — literally — do not work.
    (and i sincerely doubt the younger folk woulda done any better.)


    moreover, they signed contracts that gave away your lifeblood
    — the contents of the books that taxpayers bought and paid
    good money to store on shelves for decades and decades —
    to google, without even ensuring a right to _mount_ the scans.
    they were cheated like a bunch of country hicks at the circus…
    (and i sincerely doubt the younger folk woulda done any better.)


    meanwhile, funds are being cut left and right, to the very bone,
    to the extent that it is becoming increasingly difficult to predict
    any kind of future other than one where libraries can only afford
    to rent access to the google corpus, and nothing (nothing!) more.

    by the time the youngsters take over the libraries, there will be
    nothing left… oh well… i doubt they woulda done any better…



  16. peebsley Says:

    John Dupuis has a very appreciative post up on his site, Confessions. (Thanks, John).

    One of the remarks that I made in comments is:

    “One of the things that I heard from some younger folks at a two-years ago Smithsonian 2.0 event was the desire to have the “cool old” people around – that there might some of us with experience, enthusiasm, and insight around to guide, instruct, and share those gearing up to re construct their institutions.”

    As I said in that comment, it is very much about [all of] the young at heart.

    But to StevenB, while I am not at all counting out more senior people as a group, you’re not understanding what I am writing. It’s not about library A/ULs learning from younger people. They’ve had a chance to do that, and they’ve bungled it. By and large, upper management in libraries has been tone deaf to the world around them. My focus is on younger people (including the “cool old”) speaking *for themselves*, not speaking *to* others.

    You cite 2CUL as an example in innovation, and it is – but merely in resource rationalization. It’s innovation in the retreat of libraries from budgetary disaster. Look at this Cornell quote from the initial PR: “We are pleased to partner with Columbia to continue to provide excellent service with fewer resources while increasing productivity and minimizing redundant operations.” Borders Books is issuing press releases like that, too. 2CUL? Sure, do that, but realize all there is to do that’s positive and assertive.

    What we’re capable of doing now is building real innovation – like throwing out archaic library software systems (as bowerbird observes, these are pathetic) and re-doubling our efforts to replace them with community- sourced alternatives that re-conceptualize what data we need to hold and how it should be organized; reconstructing our back end systems to focus on exposing data for access, re-use, and user enhancement; building large scale platforms that are simple, easy to use, and user (not admin) facing; demanding a definition of digital content ownership and use that elevates libraries in the face of continued encroachment on the right to make available information to the broadest number of people; disseminating the production of scholarly information by building and supporting tools like Anthologize; putting the library aggressively into the community instead of insisting the community come to the library (QR codes to the streets!); and remembering that putting tools in the hands of people everywhere, all around the planet, that permit them to educate themselves and each other is the highest calling all of us must answer.

    That’s the future of libraries for the young at heart.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    Please can the “don’t count out the oldsters!” crew stop missing the damn point? Please?

    You oldsters are in positions of power. If you’re going to reform and re-form librarianship, shut up and do it already. You haven’t and you aren’t, therefore librarianship is quite justified in the assumption that you won’t.

    Younger librarians (including, as Peter says, the young at heart) cannot do what needs doing because they are being actively squelched by the sort of librarian one finds at Taiga. I comment anonymously because I am one of those squelched librarians, and I wish desperately it would stop. I see my profession withering, the profession I chose and love, and I want nothing more than to help rescue it, but I am actively silenced and prevented from doing what I think is necessary.

    By older librarians.

    Not a few of them, incidentally are the “pay your dues!” types, like Cambridge Librarian above.

    Make it stop, older librarians. When you stop squelching dissent and failure, when you stop starving innovation, when you make good things happen (instead of useless inward-focused penny-ante ALA nonsense like Emerging Leaders), then you can tell Peter how valuable you are. Until then, I concur with Peter: “get out of the goddamn way.”

  18. Hubert Thompson Says:

    As a “late boomer,” who has in fact “paid his dues,” with 25 years of library work, 20+ post MLS, may I suggest that your position might be just a teeny-tiny bit colored by ageism. Whether due to just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, lack of political influence (i.e. money-based corruption), homophobia, or the widespread but unacknowledged prejudice against the gifted, I find myself, despite a great deal of seniority, outstanding performance reviews, & the possession of three graduate degrees, completely without a channel or venue to influence or even comment upon my library’s policies or plans. Your
    cavalier dismissal of those who have fallen victim to the “overhanging cliff edge” composed of those who, for whatever reason, constitute the management cadre, in favor of the no doubt valid insights available from librarians “in their 20s, into their early to mid 30s” unfairly slights those of us who are older & more experienced than they and yet lack impact or influence upon our institutions or the profession more generally. The mid-level management positions I hoped to aspire to vanished when retirements morphed into permanent cuts; the standard career advice to e.g. “volunteer to design your library’s website,” & so forth, is an irrelevant bad joke when that task, & every other, is either someone else’s fulltime job or, more commonly, outsourced to a private firm. I have to say that I find your attitude to be both shortsightedly wasteful, in its quick & unthinking dismissal of a whole generation of experienced professionals, and out-and-out offensive in its smug assumption that only the relatively young are able to provide new & unheard perspectives and advice. The problem you identify, I submit, is NOT primarily generational, but one of management style and bureaucratic power. The solution therefore is not simply to listen to younger voices, but to transform managerial ways in the direction of greater openness, two-way communication, & a culture that rewards innovation, instead of the all-too common habit of punishing those who deviate from the party line that comes down from on high. You only weaken your case, and ill-serve both librarians & our institutions, by assuming that the mere passing of years will produce the changes you desire. If the same old management patterns persist, then replacing the present cohort of familiar faces with people with later birthdates will only perpetuate the problems you seek to solve.

  19. Lisa Hinchliffe Says:

    As the not-quite-40 President of ACRL, the complaints, commentary, and suggestions in this post and comments are not new to me – I’ve made some of them myself. I appreciate thoughtful analysis and the discussion is certainly worthwhile. I’m reflecting on the comments like “call the meeting and I’ll show up” … might I issue a challenge to anyone who wants such a meeting?

    ARL is a different kind of group – more like the Big10 or other sports conference based on institution … but ALA, ACRL, LITA, PLA, AASL, our state associations, etc. – these are OUR ASSOCIATIONS as individuals. Anyone can join and “play” in this league. As members we have a voice and a much more powerful one than some may realize. As an over-quoted but still valuable saying goes – one can “be the change you want to see.”

    I’m most familiar with ACRL so let me focus there for a second. Any member of ACRL can bring an action item to the Board. From such member-initiated action items came the Information Literacy Immersion Program, the Scholarly Communications initiative, and many other transformative efforts. But, these didn’t come to be because someone had an idea and hoped others would carry it out. They came to be because the people with the idea were passionate, dedicated, and found the resources (through ACRL and sometimes through grants securing with ACRL) to make the difference they saw was needed. After garnering the resources, they made it happen through hard work, long-term commitment, and building a community around the project. Personally I’d argue that Immersion and the SC initiative are indeed transforming academic libraries but that’s a lengthy essay for another time; however, I think the evidence is there and compelling.

    I suspect we can find parallel stories in ALA, AASL, PLA, etc. If you are an ACRL member and think ACRL is the home for your passion, I’ll be happy to talk with you about process, procedure, accountability, oversight, etc. And, yes there is some of all of this – it is how we steward our collective resources responsibly and are accountable to the membership. If there is an ACRL group already working in this area, I’ll introduce you to the people who are making things happen. If not in ACRL by your own thought or because there isn’t a right home for it, I’ll do my best to connect you with the right people in the other organizations.

    Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe
    ljanicke at illinois dot edu

    P.S. And, though I am ACRL President, I also need to be clear and up-front that the President doesn’t make the decisions about what ACRL supports, etc. alone. The ACRL Board works as a group and my vote is equal to everyone else’s on the Board. So, this post is an offer of my personal assistance, informed by my experiences and knowledge. Nothing in my post should be seen as committing ACRL as an organization – to do so would violate the collegiality of our professional association and that I am of course not willing to do!

  20. StevenB Says:

    Ok Anonymous, please tell us of a single innovative idea you’ve had for transforming or reforming librarianship. And then explain how a senior administrator at your place of work squelched it or intentionally derailed it. Who or what exactly is getting in your way? I suppose your anonymous status will prevent you from sharing your great idea with us.

    Rather than generating an “Us vs. Them” battle within our profession based on who’s old and unwilling to change the status quo and the young “get out of our way” generation, perhaps we’d be better off figuring out how we can all increase our presence and influence within higher education at large, because up to now academic librarianship and what we have to contribute has too often been ignored when the decisions about the future of higher education are being made. And if we’re not at that table, then our petty squabbles about who’s creating change and who isn’t aren’t going to matter much.

  21. bowerbird Says:

    peter said:
    > 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.

    that’s ironic, peter, because i felt exactly the same way when i read
    the schedule for the “books in browsers” meeting you are sponsoring.

    > http://reading20.posterous.com/ia-books-in-browsers-2010-agenda

    most of the people in that circle chat up each other every day on twitter, and
    have probably already had a handful of face-to-face meetings so far this year.
    times must be flush if you can write off all the expenses for so many meetings!


  22. bowerbird Says:

    stevenb said:
    > Ok Anonymous, please tell us of a single innovative idea
    > you’ve had for transforming or reforming librarianship.

    i’m not “anonymous”. (indeed, if you ever want to talk to me,
    live and in person, call me any time you like at 310.980.9202.)

    and i don’t work as a librarian. (i don’t work at all, i’m “retired”.)

    but i can tell you how i think libraries should be run…

    first and foremost, the world needs a global cyberlibrary.
    it’s exactly what it sounds like — a website that contains
    every edition of every book that has ever been published.

    every edition. of every book. that has ever been published.

    with a webpage for every page of every edition of every book.

    here’s an example of one page of one such edition of a book:
    > http://z-m-l.com/go/myant/myantp123.html

    as you can see, that includes a page-scan and the digital text.
    and, of course, each page is linked with its neighboring pages…

    and the digital text of the full book is contained in another file.
    > http://z-m-l.com/go/myant/myant.zml

    that .zml file can create high-quality output in the form of .pdf
    or .html files (which can be used to create other output formats).

    what’s important: the cyberlibrary has every book in the world.

    it also contains every journal — scientific, academic, literary, etc.
    again, every page of every journal, linked with neighboring pages,
    and of course with every issue linked with its neighboring issues,
    just as these issues sit right next to each other on library shelves.

    with all of this material available 24/7 to anyone in the world who
    has an internet-connected machine. available at absolutely no cost.
    (creators will be paid by society via various compensation schemes.)

    libraries contain more than books, of course. extend the thinking to
    music, movies, art, photographs, and tomorrow’s multimedia messes.

    oh, and one more thing. don’t tell me why it cannot be done. just do it.


    does this mean the end of _libraries_ — those _buildings_ that now stand
    as beacons of hope in our neighborhoods and on our university campuses?

    heck no.

    we need those buildings — those _community_sharing-centers_ — as much
    as we ever did, and probably a whole lot more, once we come to realize it…

    first, just because every book will be available online does _not_ mean that
    people won’t want to have paper-books. a paper-book can be very “handy”.
    (that’s not a pun; it’s recognition of the haptic qualities of the paper-book.)

    so the most important piece of machinery in the library building will be the
    print-on-demand machine. (i don’t call it the “espresso machine” because
    that brand is _much_ too expensive, no offense meant towards mr. epstein.)

    likewise, the library will be the place which owns other “communal machinery”
    that’s too expensive for people to own individually, but still needed by them.
    (note that, at present, even computers and printers find widespread usage.)

    individual libraries will also be active contributors to the global cyberlibrary,
    digitizing assets unique to their location (e.g., local maps, blueprints, etc.).

    when you create something, your conduit for placing it into the cyberlibrary
    will be your local library, who will ensure it is input and catalogued correctly.
    (for text, this will be easy, of course; but a piece of sculpture, for instance,
    would need to be scanned in 3 dimensions, and get other special handling.)

    libraries will also provide space for doing research, holding meetings, etc.


    none of this is “revolutionary”. none of this is even remotely surprising.
    it’s just common sense. nothing more, nothing less. and yes, of course,
    when you start talking about “every book ever published in the world”,
    the scale seems _huge_… but really, it’s the only way to go about this…
    if you’re thinking on any kind of scale _smaller_ than this, you’re wrong.

    if you don’t have enough vision for this — no matter what your age is —
    you don’t have enough vision _period_, and you must get out of the way.


    so i’m looking for librarians who’ll start preparing society for this reality…
    who’ll agitate to bring it about, and stop all of the foot-dragging going on.


  23. MNLibn Says:

    I’m another “late boomer” and I totally agree with Hubert. It’s amazing how the calcified early boomers talk about how others can’t “change”, and then they proceed to rehash the same old same old. It started really going downhill when the “change agents” started sprouting. And the gap between those who are running things – and who have been away from public service etc. for so long – and everyone else keeps growing by the year. No wonder there is such a huge perception gap. I’m no longer interested in “leadership” but I’m still very hands-on in keeping current and knowing what’s going on.

  24. Adam Murray Says:

    I happen to be a Dean of University Libraries at a mid-sized regional comprehensive university – and I also just turned 30. Deep transformational change is possible, and can happen rapidly in the right conditions, especially with an energetic crew (of librarians and non-librarian professionals). I love the idea of such a discussion, and would join in any efforts to get ALA to help fund such an opportunity (and would maintain hope that I could attend, despite my position).

  25. SEFL_Librarian Says:

    Generation X encompasses a range of birth years from 1965 to as recent as 1982, putting many of us in our early to mid-thirties. I am in my mid-thirties, and as a Gen Xer, I feel we have a lot of positive influence on the fabulous changes going on in libraries. We have seen, first-hand, how technology has changed our world and have embraced it! We have been huge purveyors of positive change and in the right time-frame. We also understand that too much too fast can have negative ramifications. And here I am using the we, we, we, when in fact I cannot speak for an entire generation, because we are all different. I don’t believe we can fit everyone into the generational nutshell you have laid out for us.

  26. Leslie Says:

    Thank you for saying this is a “new” librarian issue, not a “young” librarian. I’ve been managing for many years and am horrified when I travel and find really dated, ugly libraries. Those are not valued and bring the rest of us – who have vibrant libraries – down. We need a revolution – but it is difficult to assemble when funding is down too…