21st Century Library Conversation?


I accept that MOST librarians are totally engaged and immersed in the daily operations of their library or organization – today. It’s their job. Many are overwhelmed and inundated with all the necessary services to address the present’s demands from today’s recession-impacted patrons. They are creating programs to meet the needs for employment services and basic computer skills. They are reacting to immediate patron demands. I accept that, and heartily applaud their efforts.

I make this observation because I tuned-in (or whatever the appropriate term is these days) today to another webinar advertised as a “21st Century Whatever” presentation. Unfortunately, their topic was not my understanding of 21st Century librarianship or libraries or skills or anything really associated with my concept of the 21st Century Library. OK, I will concede that it was a presentation about libraries/librarianship taking place in the 21st Century.

But seriously – when the conversation is all about “We’re doing this new (but only new to us) program now.” “We’re addressing these needs now.” “We have this great jobs program in collaboration with a workforce agency helping our recession-impacted community.” “We’re collaborating with our local school district.” does that qualify as a “21st Century Library” presentation? NO!

No offense intended toward anyone, but I’m not really interested in discussing a library referring to 21st Century Library concepts, trying to use 21st Century Library terminology, but with clearly 20th Century language and context. I’m not interested in discussing a library referring to their community engagement and partnership initiatives by describing programs that are nothing more than 20th Century programming on a grander scale open to more of the public. I’m not interested in discussing workforce initiatives under the guise of collaboration and partnership (at least most don’t refer to them as “strategic” partnerships).

These are all perfect examples of incremental thinking, which is fine for addressing today’s issues and challenges. Again, I applaud the efforts of those dealing with today’s needs. But, it does nothing to promote the 21st Century Library of tomorrow. Especially when tomorrow is actually tomorrow – not 10 years from now!

Can someone direct me to the conversation about the real 21st Century Library? The library that will be necessary when the recession is over, and customers no longer need our free services. The library that will offer remote, geosocial and digital services to Millennial Customers. The library that will have firmly established its relevance to its community in the future. The library that has embedded librarians in their community. The library that attracts impressive numbers of information literate customers. The library that offers inviting virtual and physical spaces. The library that has actually “new” services. The library that no longer equals the book.

That’s the library I’m interested in discussing. Anybody? Hellloooo? …… is that crickets?

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