No Interest for 21st Century Library Topics in State Library Association Agendas?


Over the past several days I have conducted a search of all 50 state library association websites in pursuit of conference programs and state-wide initiatives that hopefully reflected 21st Century Library topics. Unfortunately, I found very few.

Among those conferences held recently, I found a couple of conferences included sessions on school libraries and information literacy in the 21st century, graphic novels and teen literacy, 21st century library trusteeship, and library instructor’s helping 21st century K-12 students develop information intelligence.

Among those conferences planned for the fall, one conference theme dealt with the future of libraries, one association president’s program will address emerging trends that are changing library services. One state will have Consultants Joan Frye Williams and George Needham present the conference keynote address, and we know they have strong views on the future of libraries.

While the vast majority appeared to be focused on “survival” issues (advocacy, legislation, budgets, etc.), only a handful make reference to “the future” of libraries, which could be virtually any topic, and some don’t even mention a theme for the fall conference. The most unfortunate ones were those few that used a “future” or “vision” theme, but no sessions on the program really delivered anything more than the traditional library conference topics. Only one had an impressively comprehensive description of their conference that was going to address the 21st Century future of libraries. That would be a state library conference worth attending!

Within the state library association websites, there is again very little reference to and virtually no resources on 21st Century Library related issues. In a sample of newsletters I accessed, and some can only be accessed by members who log in, there was little or no mention of 21st Century skills or information literacy, or any similar topics.

It appears that not only ALA has failed to catch a vision for the 21st Century Library. Maybe next decade there will be some interest for 21st Century Library topics in state library association agendas.

7 Comments

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7 responses to “No Interest for 21st Century Library Topics in State Library Association Agendas?

  1. Interesting observation, and a condition I have noted hereabouts. I know of one other library locally that is addressing the matter publicly as they revise their operating model. Perhaps we are too busy defending what we have to act proactively, short-sighted as that is. In less generous moments I wonder if we are waiting for the next “model” to be revealed. It is not as if there have not been enough discussion of the need for reform.

    • I agree whole heartedly! An old saying goes; “It’s hard to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp when you’re up to your neck in alligators.” Survival virtually always takes precedence over foresightedness.

      What is regrettable is the fact that we’re having this conversation in 2011 – TWENTY ELEVEN! Back in 2000 the circumstance and future of the library was excellent, but nobody was looking forward then to the trends of the 21st Century that were creating this “perfect storm”. What that tells me is the library profession is broken, and nobody is even considering how to fix it – certainly not ALA, not SLIS and not state library associations.

      SO, that all demonstrates to me that individual library leaders like you are the ones who will fix your situation locally. You are creating the next “model”.

  2. Just after posting my last comment I noted that Seth Godin, who is not a librarian but certainly is an admirer of libraries and librarians had recently addressed the topic of the future of libraries on his blog. Perhaps our friends and patrons are more attuned to change than some of us!

    • I read that Post from Seth, and had to reply. “I Agree. But…. I think Seth got confused between the public librarian and school librarian. It would be nice to think that public librarians have the opportunity and capability to help young people become information literate. Reality is – they don’t.

      Partly because they don’t have the opportunity in the public library. Like Anonymous wrote – “Who is requiring that the kid go to the library so they can be a data shark?” Second reason is because they are not trained in information literacy. That is a relatively new 21st Century skill that SLIS are not teaching (per se), and librarians have developed their own brand of “information literacy” – more or less.

      The huge impact on future librarians is that the population will be information literate – not just to the extent that they not only don’t need the library – to the extent that they don’t need a librarian to guide or sherpa them. We’re a dying profession!”

      The last comment was as much for dramatic effect than anything. I’m at an obvious loss as to how to get librarians’ attention to this problem. Any ideas?

  3. I surmised that the dying profession comment was for effect. It got my attention! We might end up being the school library of the future as well as the public library. The school libraries in our community are in a parlous state, and I made a quiet and very preliminary inquiry of the superintendent asking if we, as a public library might absorb some of those responsibilities. There is nothing imminent, but sometime, if budgets remain as straitened as they are now, this scenario could become reality. I have to chew over the information literacy matter. So many of our young patrons come “prepackaged” with skill sets that do not require intervention by a librarian. The technical elements of their knowledge is often breathtaking. What they lack often is the ability to separate credible information from the incredible. The young gent who can navigate around the blocks on adult sites but will accept certain “facts” about the Constitution with complete credulity. I expect that more of our energies will be spent helping to improve critical thinking skills.

    • And, this comment got my attention: “So many of our young patrons come “prepackaged” with skill sets that do not require intervention by a librarian. The technical elements of their knowledge is often breathtaking. What they lack often is the ability to separate credible information from the incredible.

      Sounds like the 21st Century library customer is here now! That customer that does not need the librarian to find what they want. Not necessarily what they need vis-a-vis the “credible information from the incredible”, but that is generally true of any information seeker – they find what they ‘want’.

      I’m now beginning to wonder if “critical thinking” skills are actually more of an issue relating to maturity, which can not be taught. Experience at evaluating information credibility takes time, and students would have to be exposed to years of embedded ‘information literacy’ exercise to gain the same experience as adults at assessing credible information from the incredible. How much ‘critical thinking’ can any adult expect from a middle or high school student? Librarians do not learn anything about ‘teaching skills’, Bloom’s taxonomy, etc. in SLIS. Only teacher-librarians are generally equipped to teach ‘critical thinking’ skills. Evaluation of resources – sure, but not critical thinking skills.

      I am very interested in how your situation will unfold. Thanks for the real life example of how a public library can make itself relevant and valued within its community.

  4. Liked your references to critical thinking. Looking back over some recent grants it seems to be one of those shibboleths I feel compelled to include. Evaluation of resources seems closer to what we want to emphasize.

    Apropos of drawing attention to 21st century library topics, I will suggest that for our next state association annual meeting. Granted, that is a year away, but now’s the time to start proselytizing.

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