Recently, I spoke at the NJLA annual conference on 21st century library titles. It was a panel discussion and the premise was to introduce and discuss “cutting edge” librarian titles of the future!!
I was asked to presented my library’s two newest titles “Circulation Reengineering Project Leader” and “Innovation Catalyst Librarian”. The other panelist actually held the positions they were presenting. But as our people were just getting started in their new roles, I presented them.
I was very excited to discuss these new positions and get input! Our Circulation Reengineering Project Leader is a 12 month contract position created to infuse our Circulation Department with a more “Retail-like” customer service tone and revamp our training based on best-practices from a retail environment! The goal: to up-level our front line customer service and training program. Our Innovation Catalyst Librarian position is even MORE exciting!! Here is a blurb from the position ad:
“The Trenton Free Public Library is in search of a passionate, creative, type-A professional who will be instrumental in helping lead our organization into significant and meaningful Change!! Our Library is poised to leap into the future and we are looking for someone to assist. We are not interested in snail paced incremental change- but rather overhauling everything from policy to staff training, from technology to programming and more immediately.
This position is a rare opportunity to shape a dream job! We are NOT looking for someone to run our Facebook page and Tweet; but rather an individual who is focused on the future. We want to create an environment where you won’t just advise us on the next ‘big thing’— with only your own vision as the limit- we want you to CREATE the next big thing!
The successful candidate will, with a great deal of autonomy, work directly for the Library Director. They will engage in all aspect of professional Librarianship. They will work in all areas of the Library so as to be versed in where and what improvements and change are needed with an eye always on innovation. They will assist other Librarians in pulling together divergent areas of the Library’s services to create cohesion and thus improve our performance. They will take the lead on grant applications to assist in the funding of innovative services and opportunities.
The Librarian must have strong leadership skills, passion, and a clear vision of 21st Century Librarianship and Library Services in all aspects of Library Service. “
I arrived at conference! I was ready to be energized and inspired!!
Going first, I gave a brief intro of our titles and sat back to be awed as everyone else did the same.
Next up: “Digital Librarian”
Then: “Emerging Technologies Librarian”
And rounding out the line-up: “Acquisitions and Emerging Technology Librarian”
I thought to myself “Maybe there is more. Just wait”. So we trudged through the descriptions of their positions.
“Manage our digital services”
and “Training the staff in new technology”
finally “Recommending new technology “
So there I sat. I was so disappointed!! I was ready to be WOWed!! The panel had been billed as the latest and greatest new types of librarian jobs. Attendees were prepped to come and discover what skills were necessary to successfully apply to these “positions of the future!!”
Emerging technologies? Digital librarian?
Now maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m being too harsh. But these are not new titles.
And as I sat there heartily crushed and disappointed. Was this the best we had..? Was this our profession at its most cutting edge?? I realize that my true disappointment was not in the panel- the speakers were all wonderful and engaged and passionate! The source of my disappointment is that it appears that once again, as a profession we are lulling. Remember the paradigm shift? Libraries without walls!! No Ssssh-ing!!! New ways of serving our public!! That was amazing! And that went on for what….20 years? Why? Was it that our patrons were so to acclimate? Was it that Library Boards were slow to embrace the new trends? Or was it that the Librarians were slow to implement?
Or- what I fear the most- That we embraced the shift and then said “TA-DA!!!” and sat for years feeling satisfied with our progress and “cutting-edge-bad-self”!!!! Rather than driving forward into the next big- thing…the next paradigm shift…we rested…regrouped…basked in the glow of our successful shift.
And the world moved on. Bigger, faster, more, digital, content, apps, smart-things, iThings…
And we watched.
And, when once again the shift was logical and apparent and….safe…we shifted! Emerging technologies, digital content, bigger, faster, more… YIPEE!!! We are once again enjoying our “cutting-edge-bad-self” image.
And we are watching…
If libraries were businesses we would be out of business. We move so slow!! We wait and watch. When something is tried and true by the typical handful of Library risk takers (we all know them- like LAPL and their Career Online High School program. GO LAPL!!! The David Lee King’s, etc) THEN we all jump safely on.
Simple fact: If it’s safe it isn’t cutting edge!!! We must be risk takers. It is how we will stay vital and important to people’s everyday lives!
We can do it!!