Future Considerations

By , September 21, 2011 1:44 pm

Predicting the future is funny business. As humans we rely on experience, both our own and others, to make decisions. When we wake up tomorrow we don’t expect to find that gravity has flipped a switch and we are now floating in our beds or that the bus system now runs on Martian timetables (sometimes it may feel that way). However, odd things like mysticism and superstition creep in and attempt to help us predict the future. Whether it be Nostradamus or breaking a mirror for 7 years of bad luck, neither are based in reality.

Librarians often ponder the future. We use reason and experience to inform the possibilities. And we certainly hope the same when leaders of our universities, firms, or government attempt to guide us into the unknown. When anyone in the legal field throws out a phrase such as Future Proofing I remain skeptical but open-minded.  The blog post from Prism Legal gets into historical and impending law firm trends; and luckily, much of it applies to the library field.

Here are words-of-wisdom taken from the post that should help us tackle the future:

  • Information is dynamic, not merely static
  • Engagement – internally and externally – is networked, not hierarchical
  • All data and applications must be delivered so that they are device-agnostic
  • Working from anywhere is elegant, economic, and necessary, not merely tolerable
  • Infrastructure is simplified, consolidated and eventually moved to the cloud
  • Information access gracefully balances security and convenience
  • New technology is adopted when it’s good enough, not when it’s perfect
  • Agility is revered
  • Resilience is expected

The first managing partner with whom I worked had it right in 1989: Technology is not a destination, it’s a ride, and often a wild one. Today, the same is true for law firm strategy and operating models.

What does this mean for libraries? I’d like to think that what we have largely already been doing is right on the money.  Librarians understand that information is dynamic, we balance information resources no matter the format: book, legal database, knowledge management system, email, collected binders, websites, etc. We use an array of tools to access data and share information, staying constantly aware of how our patrons will be viewing it (computer screen, mobile device, on paper,  etc.) We learn the needs of our markets and give them the information they need and deserve. While many of us no longer have reference desks or a physical library: we are not scared. In fact we embrace the change. We are prepared and adapted for leading our organizations. Certain traits inherit in our profession make us perfect for keeping up and guiding the future.

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