What would it take for “the library” to regain its former stature? To be recognized as the primary institution for free and equitable access to information? To be the place where people turn first to get answers to everyday questions, as well as find life altering experiences? Is that even possible, or desirable?
A couple of recent blog posts seem to suggest that it is – both – possible and desirable. Anthony Molaro’s post of February 10, “Libraries Gave Up Control” asks a lot of pointed questions about why the profession is in the shape it’s in today, and whether librarians can overcome the self-made situation to regain control of the profession. Agnostic, Maybe followed that post with his own views on February 16, Fight the Future where he sees the issue as two fold – “how much control over content, tools, and services do we have and is there a will to reclaim it?” Their perspective is focused more on the issues, but I suggest the solution is LEADERSHIP.
My thoughts lean toward a perception that there is not an abundance of talented leaders in the profession today to turn the situation around, because where are the librarians know how to do any of the great and wonderful things both Andy and Anthony suggest may be solutions? What library school program is training new librarians to recognize 21st Century factors that are impacting librarianship, let alone apply solutions? Where does a librarian learn to create a new, more functional ILS? Where does one learn the fundamentals of “expanding rights over library content”? Where is the entrepreneurial spirit? Even if we “hope” there is a will to reclaim control, who is going to lead that movement? Where are the leaders?
I believe librarianship is faced with a new paradigm that places the emphasis on librarian leaders dealing with the local situation to position their library to survive, and yet that requires exceptional visionary leadership – not a common trait among the profession. As I stated in “The Revolutionary Library“, “Evidence has convinced me that the 21st Century Library Paradigm is that libraries will be defined by those librarians running them and their local community more than by the profession, or SLIS, or any librarian associations’ standards.”
The problem becomes one of vision. The characteristics I stated above; vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and leadership are all essential to making the local library “The Library” again – in whatever form it needs to be in 21st Century society.