Catching the Future

By , June 28, 2010 7:10 pm

by Philippe Cloutier

An oft-asked job interview question is: “where do you see yourself in five years?” Interviewees prepare accordingly and hopefully ace the question without a problem. However, it’s an inquiry that should ultimately be turned towards the library and is perhaps harder to answer, “where does the library see itself in five years?” Librarians are busy, dealing with the day to day and the week to week. Planning 6 months out, let alone 5 years, can be a difficult process. Often an 8-hour day doesn’t seem to be enough.

As such, many libraries have stacks of projects that have gone neglected over time: preservation/storage/digitization of old works, knowledge management systems, collection maintenance, library catalog updates, intranet and web presence overhauls, internal-learning tutorials for new associates/student/patrons, etc. Some tasks could take no more than a few hours to complete while others, like a knowledge management system, would demand support from all departments, financial commitment, regular attention and a lot of time. Additionally, libraries have been evolving from storage-centers, where users come for information, to dissemination-centers, where information is pushed out. All too familiar are the rows of desks and tens of thousands of volumes of books that have gone the way of the Dodo bird, so we must ask: “how will libraries and librarians look in five years?” Does the library have a plan to slowly cancel redundancies online and in print, train users on new and existing tools, and prepare for future choices/changes? Thinking ahead can only help us defuse surprises and turn them into opportunities. Take some time out of the day reserved especially for the library, because the library is worth it and it will be 2015 in no time.

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