I particularly appreciate the post below. It may have taken some courage to write, and if so well done and in any case many thanks. I have no idea what I shall say at Oxford but I hope to reproduce this post.
Peter, I’ve been reading your posts on libraries/librarians of the future and want to thank you for shaking me out of a comfort zone which it’s so easy to fall into. I understand your need to encourage debate among ULibrarians, but as an LIS student who is halfway through her program and interested in medical/science librarianship, I can’t help but see your provocative statements as a call to students like me who need to be better aware of the profession we’re walking into. I realize that may not have been your intended audience, but the “librarians of the future” who are being educated as we speak would do well to hear what you’ve been saying. I’ve tagged your blog for a class Twitter account and I’m hoping that others in my class are taking the time to read what you wrote and be shaken out of a comfort zone too. What I’m trying to get at is that I think having ULibrarians as your audience is limiting. Challenge the ones who are coming into the field and still starry-eyed enough to consider change that meets the needs of our clients/users/patrons.
First, you were exactly the audience I intended – thoughtful, constructive and prepared to speak your mind. I’m writing for anyone who happens across my blog or gets it relayed – not just ULibrarians. I’ll reply as if you and your fellow students are early in your career…
Young people are the future. Probably the most exciting part of my year is when we get ca 5 undergraduate students into our lab for the summer and they work on speculative projects for 2-3 months. Their enthusiasm and lack of perceived practice is a major strength. Nothing is impossible. They explore the future for us and much of what they have started has turned into more mature approaches.
Whatever a medical librarian is now it will be different in 5 years time. So you have to practice change on a daily basis. I know nothing of your course (and don’t want to intrude) but if it lets you and your colleagues explore new areas in a communal way go for it. In chemistry some of us have been building virtual worlds in Second Life – maybe there already is an equivalent for medicine – if not maybe it needs creating.
The new web is particularly important for medicine, which affects everyone’s lives. Many/most people will consult the web before they consult a physician. That is the patient’s medical library of the future. Find out how it works, see what you can do to build it, change it, etc. Medicine is particularly challenging because trust and quality are critical as lives depend on it.
Are you familiar with Medline and Pubmed? This is where the world’s primary reports of medical science appear. It’s overwhelming – thousands of new articles a day. We have to work out how to manage it to our advantage.
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My immediate response to Jennifer’s post is to wonder why on earth individual students of librarianship are being left to stumble across these issues for themselves. They are showing a highly commendable spirit of enquiry and independence of thought, but surely, surely, the future of libraries should be at the heart of every library school curriculum and a constant focus for discussion. Is it the library schools, rather than their students, that are operating within a comfort zone?
Peter Morgan (using full name to distinguish you from PMR),
Yes, library schools often do operate in a comfort zone. This is one danger of having a professional program taught and controlled by academics — I had a number of library-school professors who had never been librarians or archivists. Mileage varies, and several in the never-been-librarian crowd were marvelous teachers and thinkers — but they can only approach “the library of the future” secondhand, and that only if they keep in touch with practitioners. Which some, honestly, don’t.
I have taught an intro-to-library-tech course for two years, and as a practitioner, I do my level best to bring my students up to speed about current and emerging information issues. I teach copyright. I teach open access. I introduce data curation (not quite possible to “teach” that in an intro course!). I introduce social software and its discontents. I tell them about the infrastructure of the Web. I certainly tell them that they’re delusional if they think they’re going to waft gently into a nice cozy cradle of books for their entire careers.
It’s a start. I hope.
Bring on the librarian of the future – I would love the Jennifers, the future librarians to come along on the day – all LIS students are more than welcome to register and it’s a free event – http://www.jisc.ac.uk/librariesofthefuture