I enjoyed Clifford Lynch’s reflection and pondering the future keynote this morning. He detailed the past 20 years for the Computers in Libraries Conference (back in the 80s known as Small Computers in Libraries) and hit on some of the big changes or events of those times.
In the early 80s it was the advent of the electronic card catalog and libraries jumping in and doing conversions. Then, Lynch reported, librarians embraced the Internet and assumed the role of “teacher” from roughly 1992 – 1998. When he said that I remembered the glory days of our first public Internet classes at SJCPL: We offered a 90-minute lecture and demo and repeatedly for many months packed the house. In fact, one night we had 128 people attend in our largest meeting room. Back then, folks were starving for information about what was happening on the Internet and how they might get access at the library.
Then, however, Lynch said, “The teaching role has went away.”
Here’s where I beg to differ. I found Lynch totally engaging and right on but I think there are a few things to be said about the teaching librarian. In fact, I think there are 5 things to say about the future of teaching librarians as I relax here in my room at the Hilton Washington:
* As long as there are public libraries and folks that use them, there will be a need for librarians to show folks how to get to information — good information. Mind you, this may be virtually, via a sound recording on an iPod, via IM or in person. There will always be some sort of “classes” at the library. For example, some folks will need help getting e-mail because they don’t have a computer at home. I don’t see that going away anytime soon. Stephen Abram said in his Library Journal piece about Google “Vastly more information is used outside the library than in libraries?and most of it is now virtual. Recognize that librarians’ and library workers’ key contributions aren’t merely collecting, organizing, and delivering the information?it’s improving the quality of the question.” That says to me it’s all about education!
* Librarians of the blended variety will also be needed in the academic setting. BI will be around as long as there are new interfaces and new database products. Again, the delivery methods may change but we will still be offering instruction out of academic libraries. Take a look at blendedlibrarian.org for more.
* One goal of many libraries is to offer access to new technologies. Aaron believes this and so do I. As long as there is new tech – iPods, digital video, wifi, RFID and future implications of digital media — there will be a need for the librarian.
* In the corporate library, the needs for resources may change and electronic resources management may reign supreme (in all types of libraries too!) so someone will have to corral all of this stuff and tell people how to get to it.
* Lynch also said that the world has moved from a ?scarcity of information? to an abundance in 2005. And that means someone skilled in instructional design, styles of learning and delivering training will have to be around to make sure people know how to look for it and use it.