SLA, 7/18: Closing Conversation about the Future

Esteemed librarian Donna Scheeder from the Library of Congress is hosting a roundtable conversation about the future with a panel of information professionals from a variety of roles and companies.

(The audio is fairly bad because the microphones they gave the panel aren’t picking up their voices very well and there’s a lot of background noise and squealing from elsewhere in the convention hall.)

The panelists as listed in the program are: Stephen Abram from Gale Cengage Learning; Sara Batts, Kirkland Ellis; Lee Ann Benkert, National Security Space Institute; Scott Brown, Social Information Group; and Susan Hildreth, Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Susan: emphasizes leadership, responsibilities, and social media; the concept of embedded librarians is really cool; we need to be proactive

Donna: Where was the future? Where did you find it?

Stephen: I found it now. Ponder the challenges of serving the mobile user, especially when her device is no longer at home?

Donna asks the room: How many of you are in organizations creating apps for users? ~30 hands (I estimate there are 200-300 people in the room.)
How many of you are embedded? ~20 hands

In my last full-time position, I was both.

Sara: Identifying future trends is one of the challenges.

Scott asks the audience: How many of your organizations still have physical libraries? ~50 hands

Donna: Is it productive for us to keep talking about traditional versus non-traditional librarianship?

Susan: I think we need to stop talking about the traditional stereotype and instead focus on finding what we can do to add value to the organization and just do that. Let’s talk about how we enrich our communities and help people move forward.

Lee Ann: I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve figured out the future of the profession. She pulls a fellow named Richard out of the audience to talk about something he said in a session where he misspoke and said “yestersay” instead of “yesterday,” but “yestersay” stuck in her head. She thinks we keep using yesterday’s language to talk about problems of the future and maybe the language doesn’t fit.

Sara: I have no idea what a traditional librarian is because I’ve never been one. A lot of us are eager for change. We want to change the things we don’t like. We’re unhappy with this model of conference, so let’s change it.

Stephen: The disconnect between what people who have been in the profession for a while think is being taught in library school and what is actually being taught in library school is very different. Some of the more experienced librarians seem to approach new grads with thoughts rooted in fear, uncertainty, and doubt. We have a responsibility to bring the newer librarians along with us as well as help the more experienced professionals.

Susan: Library use is changing so much. We have huge physical attributes in our libraries. There’s going to be an even bigger shift from print to digital in the future. I’m scared we aren’t going to be ready, not just with exciting ways to present digital content, but also because we need to figure out what to do with the physical space.

Donna: It’s always been my thought to never give up the real estate. You can always find something to do with it, but once you lose it, you might not get it back.

Donna: Tweeted question: what kind of panel do you not want to have at SLA again?

Scott: One on adding value but that doesn’t actually show how value is added.

Stephen: If I never hear the word ebook again … People often talk about ebooks as if they’re all fiction. These days, there isn’t one permanent, stable solution because of how the technology is changing. We need to be aware that everything is still changing and not let that deter us.

Lee Ann: Make interactive dialogs be as if you’re talking to a friend or a future partner, not just a stranger you’re meeting a conference and may never see again.

Susan: How we can as a profession support content creation. How can we vet everything on a community scale? [There must have been a topic switch or another question I missed because what Susan said doesn’t seem to be a response to Donna’s question about what we need less of at this conference.]

Susan: Harvard hosted a debate about whether libraries are obsolete, that led to a great conversation about what valuable services libraries provide.

Donna clarifies that the debate was about libraries as a physical space.

Donna: Another tweet asks how many corporate librarians lost their jobs last year. We can’t really answer that because we don’t know, but I’ll ask how many audience members work in digital-only environments. ~20 hands went up.

Donna: What’s said in this space stays in this space.

A bunch of people groaned.

Donna: To wrap up, what would each of you like to tell the audience before we close?

Susan: I wanted to show a picture of how I turned a closed space into an open space to illustrate how important I believe responding to our community is.

Stephen: We need to be more cognizant of our colleagues and the challenges they face. Let’s do more to support each other.

Donna: My picture [which the AV folks showed] is of a woman doing a yoga pose on the Grand Canyon’s rim in such a way it looks like she’s going to take flight. That’s how I think of the profession.

In order to ask questions of the panel, you must tweet with #SLApanel as the tag.

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