A Libraryland Festivus

In the words of Frank Constanza, “The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people. Now, you’re going to hear about it.

Since the world now operates on lists (see also Buzzfeed), I’ve condensed my grievances into bite sized pieces. Like all holiday meals, please chew on it a bit before you report back your opinions of the meal to this chef.

  • Every article that puts librarianship in a negative light

Can the thin skinned reactions over three or four line internet scat masquerading around as  “journalism” stop, please? People are going to say that librarians/libraries/books/tax funded public good are dead because it’s what makes people click on their links. This paragraph is now longer than the majority of the hit-and-run “articles” that pass for online discourse these days but the sheer volume of response energy spent hyperventilating over these things is, well, stupid and pointless. I concede that I have gotten caught up in it in the past, but I’ve moved on and so should you.

If only they were actually about professionalism and not merely screeds about dress codes (or worse) childish temper tantrums over the desire post anything online under the guise of “personal space” without professional consequences. Newsflash: how you look and act around the community you serve matters. How you dress is up to you, but if you step outside of the people’s expectations as to how [insert your kind of librarian] should look it’s going to take work to show them that you are a competent professional. It’s not up to them to expand their definitions, it’s up to you to do the work that will prove those definitions are wrong.

Also, if you post online, it reflects on you. Period. End of discussion. People get disciplined or fired for their words and actions online every day in just about every industry. There is nothing special about librarians that makes them exempt from that reality. And if anyone wants to wave the “freedom of expression” flag at this, then you clearly don’t understand the underlying concept and how it doesn’t protect you from social consequences.

FYI, the total number of working librarians in the United States is around 156,000. The employment forecast for the profession is a growth of 7% from 2010 to 2020 to a whopping 166,000. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the math is not good since the number of graduates will vastly exceed job growth and retirement. But it does take a sufficiently irritated SOB like myself to say that the finger pointing should begin in earnest to fix this issue. So start finding ways of fixing it.

Because as we all know, nothing is more exciting to library advocates than symbolic gestures that carry the emotional gravitas of hitting the Like button on Facebook. The phrase “right to libraries” is so clunky that the Clampetts probably drove it to Beverly Hills. I now know how Lloyd Dobbler felt when “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.” Thanks for the pen, ALA. Pew revealed recently that libraries have a 95% approval rating. We don’t need a declaration about how everyone should have a library, we need a call to action that explains and justifies funding and support. Get on it.

  • The ALA Think Tank

Honestly, if you can’t control your resident lunatics, please at least keep them within the confines of your posting area. When people in the position of hiring within the library start talking about membership in the group as being a liability on the resume, you might want to work on your image within the library world. (Fine tune your brand. MAKE IT HAPPEN.) Also, saying “sorry, but I’m not going to set boundaries for behavior” clashes with the previously offered idea that the next generation of library leaders will come from that group. If you can’t lead by example or application in there, how do you expect to lead within other organizations? How will brand new librarians know what functional debate and rational discourse look like when all they’ve seen is venomous barbs and bad faith? Show some pride and dignity; get your house in order.

I’ve said my piece for this year’s libraryland Festivus. I’m interested to see what other grievances people write about within libraryland. I am hopeful that the honesty here will provide the proper catalyst for future changes in the right direction.

If it worked, then I’d say it was a Festivus miracle.

Edit: Changed “peace” to “piece” in second-to-last paragraph. Apparently, they are not synonymous with each other in that idiom.

53 thoughts on “A Libraryland Festivus

  1. When people in the position of hiring within the library start talking about membership in the group as being a liability on the resume,

    This is happening? I had no idea. Links please? Or is this more of an under-the-radar phenomenon?

    • There aren’t links, just conversations I’ve had with people I know. I can’t cite them, but guilt by association is not unprecedented in libraryland. I remember reading a comment on a Will Manley blog post talking about how they would not hire a Mover & Shaker recipient (“I want a work horse, not a show horse.”) And that award is supposed to be a positive thing.

      Now, it might not seem like much but in a tight job market, every inch counts.

      • I just have to interject for a moment: I wouldn’t not hire someone if they listed they were part of the ALA TT on their resume….I would just really have to look into it and see what their contributions to the group were.

  2. “If you can’t lead by example or application in there, how do you expect to lead within other organizations?” I’ve got to disagree with you. ALATT lets people participate in a FB forum with other library(ish) people. It’s not incumbent upon them to police behavior. As you’ve noted, some future leaders may come from this group and that means we’ll all be working with and for all kinds of different people, including those we may find abrasive or who don’t hold back when challenging prevailing ideas about “how things should be” in libraries. ALATT is full of adults who can choose to join or leave. In addition, I can only assume young librarians will have to use their critical thinking skills on ALATT the same way they will use them at work or in line at the grocery store. People aren’t always going to behaved in your prescribed fashion and I think members of ALATT are better for the challenging threads and spirited discussions.

    • I disagree. This smacks of the tired argument “who am I to tell patrons how to behave in the library?” You’re the person in charge of the place. It’s up to you to set the tone. You don’t need to micromanage people (either in the library or FB forums), but having zero consequences for when things getting out of hand is poor management skills.

    • I should mention that by “you”, I mean the royal you, not you specifically. And I don’t leave this to JP or Patrick to police the community (although they share the responsibility). I’ve seen people write some very awful personal comments about other people and NO ONE has called them out on it. They run to JP or Patrick to complain but never commented with “That’s an ugly statement and you should reconsider posting it.” Discourteous behavior doesn’t policed within the community by the community members themselves and it really should be. That’s why there are people outside the community who have taken a dim view of it to the point where it becomes a resume liability.

      • “Discourteous behavior doesn’t policed within the community by the community members themselves and it really should be.” But then you go on to say you’re not even a part of the community. There are community norms and values that have developed, although they sound like ones *you* don’t agree with. The solution is to either be a part of the community and implement your ideas about ways to call people out or take a step back and let the community continue to develop and continue to judge from afar. I’ll also add that I *have* seen similar exchanges of “calling someone out” and some pretty intense conversations as a result. I’m not afraid of the intensity or disagreement, especially if it challenges troubling or even discriminatory practices by librarians and libraries.

        • I was a part of the community. I left when it wouldn’t police itself. Does ‘voting with my feet’ count for something? I still have friends in there and have been directed to trainwreck threads when they pop up. Not *once* have I been linked to a thread in there that someone introduces as, “Oh hey, this is a great conversation”. Doesn’t that speak volumes to you?

          • No. That only says that those directing you to the threads are only interested in showing you something you or they or both already have a beef with. They are only showing you what they want to, for whatever reason. Your logic is unsound. “My friends only show me the depressed parts of town, so therefore the depressed parts of town must represent the town as a whole.”

            You are basing your entire argument on hearsay, which makes me wonder about your other posts.

            • “Depressed parts of town” is really a euphemistic way to describe ALA Think Tank’s Lord of the Flies culture at its worst, Melissa. Having been a member, I got the tour of the whole darn town, and I left because a handful of people were being allowed to abuse, intimidate, and silence others. That’s not the kind of town I want to spend any time in, no matter what of value is being done in it. What I found to be more intolerable, personally, was the number of “normal” people who stayed silent during this–and apologists like yourself, who tell people to just TOUGHEN UP. Nope, I’m sorry. I’m not okay with these folks making my profession look like a bunch of immature brats and standing by for the crumbs of discussion about makerspaces. The flame wars and feuding may only comprise 5% of the posts, but they take up 80% of the emotional oxygen in the room, absolutely setting the tone because the threat lurks that if you step out of line in ANY discussion, you, too, will be subjected to public abuse for all your peers to witness. And, apparently, to do nothing about. That’s how intimidation works.

      • Wow. I’m with Megan on this one. I have gotten a lot out of ALATT, in a few cases great examples of how not to act, however I find it the perfect microcosm of of our profession, whether you like it or not. We all have different personalities, express ourselves in ways that others do not understand, and low self-esteem. This happens in every organization I have ever been involved with. Social media has brought a whole new element into the way we organize ourselves into groups and ALATT has been a boon for me in education, networking, spirited debate, and social skills. I am responsible for my own actions and feelings. ALATT does not portray itself as a ‘professional’ organization but a ‘gathering place’ of individuals involved with and interested in libraries. I have quoted many professional conversations I have had on ALATT in other professional contexts to much success.

        Personally, as someone who has worked in this profession for over 30 years, teaches management and leadership, and communication skills, I feel that the way ALATT is handled is appropriate. Everyone has a different definition of “out of hand’ and the fact that I can stop following a conversation or block individuals is an important lesson we can take to the real world. “How does this really affect ‘me’ and is it important enough to do something about?” For an organization “how does this affect the majority of the people, the running of the organization, and do we have the tools available to the members of our organization that allow them to deal with these situations?” The answer for ALATT is yes. The members can control the environment with their posts, their blocks, and their words.

        And personally? One of the reasons I like ALATT is that there is not one of those interminable ‘boards’ dictating the ‘tone’ of the page. Social media is crowdsourcing and you take the good with the bad. And unlike a workplace, you have a choice as to whether to be part of it or not.

        • I disagree. I will concede that I have gotten value out of it in the past, but when the draw of the forum becomes “come watch this trainwreck”, then it has to take a hard look at itself. If you are truly going to take the good with the bad here, then the fact that it is a liability in the minds of some people is a consequence. You might say that you’d never want to work for someone who thinks that (fair enough), but even as a casual group it is still entirely composed of professionals. There is no compartmentalizing it from the profession when so much professional discourse goes on there.

          • It is obvious that you have not been on ALATT for a while. The ‘train wrecks’ are fewer and farther between. The past few months have seen a plethora of valuable and popular discussions on various questions regarding seeking employment, programming suggestions, memberships in professional associations, and library advocacy. The comments have been, for the most part, very useful and enlightening (show me a forum where they aren’t a few duds) and the discussions broad and entertaining.

            Trending right now are posts about the ALATT Ignite Sessions at ALA, Pet Therapy programs in libraries, presenting at state conferences, and what librarians like to do when they aren’t librarians. This has, actually, become the norm. Yes, there are a couple of posts every week that either are DOA or turn into a train wreck, but considering the other’s that don’t it;s a pretty small percentage. The best analogy I can come up with for your judgment is saying that all of your patrons are ungrateful problem patrons. Those are the ones that you remember. 90% of the rest of them are fine.

            So, unless you have done a complete survey of the posts, their comments, and their popularity, please stop judging the group based on it’s hot-button ‘crazy’ ones (that are often folks blowing off steam) and look at it from a holistic point of view.

            • Are you really doing to hitch your rebuttal to “you must know everything about the topic before commenting”? Because there would be a lot fewer social media posts and comments in the world if that was a prevailing norm.

              I’d like to point out that I can see productive conversations going on there. I’m not saying shut down the group or the whole thing stinks. But when people feel muted because of others who are super aggressive in their opinions and tone, that’s not good either. There is a meanness that goes with that as demeaning inside jokes are invoked in other threads.

              What I am saying is that I think it should be cleaned up. If it’s not, then there are consequences that will be felt at the resume level as well as the ALA elected official level (through the ALA Caucus group).

              • I left ALATT during one of the exoduses earlier this year. Like you, I had gotten a lot from the group in the past, but the train wrecks were starting to become too much. I was spending much of my time anger reading. So I left.

                After hearing from a number of people that things were getting better, I rejoined not too long ago. So far I have not been disappointed. There has been a generally positive tone that had been missing for a long time. I think the group’s image will take a long time to recover, if it ever fully does, but that is not helped by your demands that the group needs to “be cleaned up” based primarily on what happened when you were still in while you proceed to discount the multiple commenters posting here who are claiming it is being cleaned up and has been doing so.

              • I did not say you needed to “know everything”. I just stated that your facts and experiences were dated and that to pass judgment on a group as a whole based on outdated data was incorrect and unfair. You have a responsibility as a semi-famous librarian/blogger to inform in a truthful and constructive manner. You have unfairly represented a group I belong to and I am calling you on it. Pick my rebuttal apart all you want, however that is the foundation of my response.

                I see that no matter what anyone says you are not going to give us even a little wiggle room, but are going to continue to judge the group and profess that it needs to be ‘cleaned up’ whatever that means.

                It is unfortunately named as it has nothing to do with ALA (and JP explained that in his blog post) and that cannot be changed. If it had another title I believe we wouldn’t be hearing these criticisms as loudly and often.

                • He has the right to write what he thinks, especially on his own blog. If you disagree with him, that’s fine, he has a comments section for this purpose and has kindly taken the time to respond in a collegial way to your comments. But to say he should have never brought it up, shame on you. You’re a librarian. You’re against censorship, remember?

  3. Thank you, Andy, for this list of places where we have wasted our energy this year and a plea to move on to something more productive – I don’t know if Frank Costanza had such positive intentions, but I think this could be a worthy annual tradition!

  4. I agree with you on many points. As for ALATT, I am not sure. As Melissa mentions–I like that this is not a sanitized environment and things get messy. To me, that is where real debate starts–in the messy areas. Some topics that are covered–especially sexism–are messy subjects that do get personal. I mean, my gender IS personal and the politics attached to that are nuts, but they are real too. That said, I will admit, there have been times I cringe and slink away instead of speaking up. I’ll add that to my 2014 to do list.

    Next year, my professional goals are better calendar management, speak less and do more, and follow through on the tiny little details like I used to do. I feel I’ve let my proactive, time-management, and productivity skills slip since becoming a librarian and I want to re-commit to excellence. I’m a pretty good librarian, but I can be better. Anyone who wouldn’t hire me because I’m a member of ALATT, I am perplexed by–it may get a bit wild at times, but just doesn’t seem that bad to me. Some threads, yes, but most no. Anyone who has a problem with what I say or do as part of that group, well that is ok. (and please–speak up and let me know! it is never my intention to offend, hurt, or be mean). Membership in this Facebook group should neither get me a job or keep me from one.

    Regardless of the debates, petty stuff, big-picture scary stuff (that damn chart), etc., my real contribution is me–and I am 100% responsible for what exactly ‘me’ is. I see loads of problems in LibLand, but I feel that the constant navel gazing is counter-productive, especially for me. I love to talk; I love the debate; and I love to wrestle with thorny problems. Sadly, that kind of reflection is just not possible given current staffing levels–so it has to stop. I have to focus on real world solutions to problems and get my head out of my philosophy. While doing that, I will continue to read and participate in ALATT–but I will step up when I think someone has gone over the line. I do think that I all too often expect ‘them’ to lead/fix it/stop it, etc. ‘They and Them’ are me and you….

  5. Predictably, focus has been on what you say on ALATT, Andy. The sideshow wins out when there are some genuinely crucial issues (the middle one, “This Figure”) for the profession to tackle. Nope, no solutions from me on that one, but I do look at the numbers and see how limited my own opportunities to hire are, and I share the concern. Thanks for giving it attention – I hope that the noise over ALATT doesn’t cause us to lose sight of things like this.

    • A Masters in LIS isn’t a certificate from a trade school, it’s a scholarly graduate degree. Making sure someone has a job in the field when they get out isn’t necessarily in the purview of a LIS department any more than it is in any other field; imagine what would happen to most humanities degrees if the department were concerned with job placement. Imagine what would happen to any school that WASN’T a trade school??

      The real problem is the constant pressure that school administration puts on ALL academic departments, including LIS; in many cases success is ONLY measured in growth. A growing department is a succeeding department in the eyes of an administrator; fix library school enrollment to match job market, and you will be looked at as a failing department by school administration.

      As far as “the noise over ALATT doesn’t cause us to lose sight of things like this”, are you not on the ALA Council listserv, Peter? Are you not on ANY listserv? Because god knows the types of “noisy” conversations happen on those “sideshows”. This is what happens when you put 5000 people in a room as let them talk.

  6. I mostly agree with all of this, but I wanted to offer a dissenting view to your point about appearance. I’m going to say it as gently as I can, so it’ll be heard. I don’t want anyone thinking I’m jumping down your throat.

    Anyone who is not a white, cisgender female in this profession defies expectations, regardless of how s/he chooses to dress when leaving the house in the morning.

    I dress conservatively, and I even cut off my (neat, clean) dreadlocks two years ago. Yet I have lost count of the number of times patrons have circled the desk looking for someone else because they didn’t think I was the librarian.

    I have lost count of the number of times well-meaning colleagues have come up to me and said “You speak so well!” after I’ve spoken at all staff meetings or at conferences.

    No amount of changing what I wear would ever change this.

    I was born black, but I chose this profession. Because I cannot change my race, nor can I change people’s expectations of what “black” means, I don’t think the burden should be on me to prove I’m a competent professional. The burden is on the profession and the society at large to challenge their privileged, racist expectations of what it means to be a librarian.

    Perhaps you were thinking of tattooed librarians or any other indie/alternative types when you wrote this, but they’re not the only ones fighting against the burden of the librarian image.

  7. I think there should be some attention given to being respectful on ALATT – I don’t think that means it has to turn into a stodgy overly policed forum – there is some middle ground. I can’t tell you how often I have seen people being bullied and belittled (myself included) by a very select few and nothing is done. I have begun to step up and stick up for people though and I encourage others to do the same. Perhaps enough group shaming will stop it. right now though it sees that there’s a desire to be ‘in’ with some of those bullies and that depresses me.

    • I agree Joanne, I find it even more disturbing that these are adults trying to be one of the “cool kids” in ALATT even if it means ganging up on individuals. That being said I still see the value in the forum, the positive outweighs the negative.

      • I also see a lot of value. I have had so many thoughtful responses to questions I’ve asked and hopefully I’ve given a few myself.

  8. Ok, as an ALATT lurker (and occasional poster), I’ll go on a limb here and comment about one of the more substantial issues you bring up: i.e. Library School enrollment.

    I completed my MLIS this December, and frankly I see your issue with the record levels of enrollment in Library School problems as a valid one. I’ve read endless stories of kids who graduated with a degree and then scrounging for paraprofessional work, because they have no actual experience working in a library. I had the opposite problem, after nearly a decade in Technical Services in an Academic Library, I had gone as far as I could go without a degree.

    Honestly, I think the ALA should look at a proposed grad school program at Johns Hopkins, and consider it for future accreditation. Students are petitioning Johns Hopkins to severely limit the number of new students accepted for grad school, and use the savings to provide the Grad Students/Adjuncts with a living stipend of about $30,000 a year, allowing them to study without starving. I think this could be applied (with adaptation) to Library School. ALA could make it a requirement for program accreditation, that all Library Schools require applicants to submit a resume with their application, and then only accept applicants with a minimum level of actual employment experience in libraries. This would both limit the number of students going through the program, and help eliminate the lack of practical experience problem that many LIS graduates face when they enter the job market.

    • The trouble with that requirement is that librarianship is a mid-life career change for many. Many people in their 30s, let alone older, cannot afford to switch to an entry level paraprofessional position as a precursor to library school. Yes, that makes it harder for them to find a job upon graduation. But that’s a risk they knowingly take.

      Yes, that was my own situation. Worked out fine. But if it hadn’t, who else would it have hurt?

    • JHU’s grad students are _against_ the proposal to limit grad student enrollment: http://www.jhunewsletter.com/2013/12/05/261-graduate-students-resist-universitys-plan-78677/ It’s an apples-oranges comparison as a Humanities department like History of Science may admit three new students to an incoming cohort. Cut that enrollment, and you’re down to one or two new students, decimating the department and harming those students’ abilities to carry on meaningful scholarly discussions and hold classes. The effect on individual Humanities and Social Sciences departments is far different than on a program like LIS. I feel like my reply is off-topic but I was a librarian at JHU for almost 10 years and have been following this story.

  9. tl;dr iSchools skew the numbers

    On the topic of over-enrollment in library schools: I think this data has to be taken with a grain of salt. I’m currently in an accredited iSchool. My class numbers around 200 people and though LIS is one of the larger concentrations, Human Computer Interaction and Information Access and Retrieval specializations are exploding. The push for Big Data experts has driven enrollment requests outside of more traditional LIS and ARM specializers.

    I’m active on our prospective student forums and an information mentor for new non-traditional students. I can confidently say that many of them are not looking at traditional library service. We have a lot of students that are pursuing Health Informatics, Big Data, Tech Startup Entrepreneurs, and have a heavy contingent of programmers in everything from data modeling and info visualization to database administration. This, consequently, also skews our graduate salary data because we have people working at Google, Facebook, Microsoft, etc. and making much better than those of us pursuing non-profit and public sector positions.

    This is not to say that there aren’t problems for some graduates getting jobs. I know that problem exists. That being said, there is some onus on the students as well. I’m a mid-life career switch and I’ve taken it upon myself to make sure I get a lot of valuable experience while I’m in school. I don’t graduate until April and I’ve already had 2 interviews for librarian positions at public libraries. And this is in Southeast Michigan which has what you might generously call a rocky economic situation at the moment.

  10. Andy, you mention a couple of times “consequences that will be felt at the resume level” Does anyone seriously put “ALATT member” on their resume?! I have never seen nor heard of anyone putting membership in a FB group in a resume or cover letter. Am I totally old school? Is this really a thing??

    • Sunnie has a point. I don’t list my social media groups on my resume. However, some employers may just google a candidate’s name and the good and bad will pop up including iffy ALATT comments/posts/trolling attached to the candidate’s name.

      • You can also search for people within the group. It’s not that hard to locate. In the early days, I had ALA TT on my resume as part of my profession associations. While it doesn’t have a membership fee, it was there to show that I am connected to other professionals.

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  13. I’m a traditional librarian. I’m pretty sure that traditional librarianship is not a sustainable model. So in a lot of ways, I think wasted effort is what we need here. In the sense of “Thinking like a dandelion, not like a mammal. http://www.locusmag.com/Features/2008/05/cory-doctorow-think-like-dandelion.html In order to find the kind of answers we need, we’re going to have to put up with these kind of grievances and more.

    Safe, status quo, conservative behavior is, of course, going to be needed for a lot of libraries. It won’t save the profession. Someone, wasting time, doing things the “wrong way” is going to be the one who helps find a way forward. But the thing is, there is going to be a lot of failure between here and there. My big fear is that if we cut off all the failure and just do things the safe way–the way we’ve always done them–then we’re going down with the ship. (I realize your piece isn’t JUST an elegy to the way we’ve always done things, but it reads like one.)

    The answers that we need to save our profession will likely come from an unprofessional, complaining librarian. One unsatisfied with “this is the way we do things” kind of reasoning. This person will be annoying and grieving. I just think she’s exactly what we need. So much so that I’m willing to put up with all of the annoying, grieving, unprofessional complainers that aren’t brilliant-geniuses-who-will-save-our-profession in order to meet her.

    • Nicholas, I would agree that dissension/grievance is the first step in the process toward change. But while dandelions may be prolific in their ability to reproduce, they only produce more dandelions. We are expending energy in many of our conversations and creating nothing new. While the complainer is part of the change process, I think she is more akin to the grain of sand in an oyster – adding more sand will not make a better pearl. I think Andy’s point here is that we have been complaining about the same things for too long (ironically, posted as a list of complaints), and it’s time to let go of complaining about the things we can’t change (like pretend journalism) and to find solutions for the things we can.

      If we look at Andy’s example of the skyrocketing number of graduates from library school, we are looking at a problem created by competing goals. The library school serves the educational needs of students and the financial needs of the university. The library serves a particular community and operates within a budget that requires compromise. The ALA works to ensure continuing library service for communities by protecting and growing the profession. And individuals, who want to serve the public, also serve themselves – they need jobs and a decent wage.

      Ultimately, in a field of competing goals, the problem’s resolution will be market-driven. Fewer people will pursue degrees for which there are few jobs. Eventually this will impact the ways library schools and libraries do business, and maybe even the way ALA promotes the profession. In the meantime, those who feel called toward librarianship but have no jobs or are underpaid will have to find innovative ways to use their substantial skills. In a world where information is too abundant and persistent for people to navigate efficiently, a world where technology is advancing at a rate that most people don’t have time to learn it and take full advantage of it, a world in which collaboration is becoming the basis of economic competitiveness, there is a wealth of opportunity for people with librarian skills to offer those skills and to create new enterprises that work with businesses, schools, communities, and governments in ways that libraries can’t stretch to.

      Complaining without a focus on solution just eddies energy. Complaining and expecting organizations to fix the problem (especially when those fixes go against one of their stated goals) is wasting energy. Shifting energy toward solutions takes collaboration, leadership, and a commitment to solution-focused conversation (which is what I thought Andy was asking for in this post, but maybe not).

      • Mary Jo: I like your response a lot. We can certainly complain better. What I’m worried about is our ability to predict which kinds of complaints will be useful and which will not. If we don’t bother to learn from our mistakes (as I think you are clearly pointing out) then we’re doomed to keep complaining about the same things again and again. That’s not productive.

        So I agree that we need to complain BETTER and learn from our mistakes so we don’t just keep whining about the same things without fixing them. What I’m skeptical about is that we know enough about how to be successful in the future to say which focus is the most productive and which foci are tangential.

        • Ah yes! It starts with noise, and from noise emerges signal. But you have to start with noise – it is the data from which you can assess your status, and then begin to look for how to move your current state closer to your desired state.

        • Knowing enough about how to be successful in the future… There is definitely some guesswork involved! But we are a clever lot with good research skills, so at least we are making educated guesses. Our communities all have to succeed in the economy, so I find it helpful to watch economic trends. In an information economy, organizations that could control flow of information made the most money. But information is getting harder to control, so we are moving to an economy in which success will be based on using information faster than anyone else – and that takes collaboration. We have a renovation coming up this year, and one of the things we are focusing on is creating places and opportunities for people to collaborate. We are looking for ways to teach and promote collaboration. Obviously efficient use of technology will be a mainstay of the economy, so we also want to promote technology education. This is, of course, in addition to our traditional roles which remain viable.

          More than anything, though, a successful future will be the result of knowing your particular community (which is easier if your community isn’t too large). Our library aligns with a school district, so we watch their research and plans very closely in order to anticipate what people will need. We have a lot of entrepreneurs in our area, so we are looking for ways to support them, which helps create a vibrant community (increased employment and increased tax revenues). I think there is a real danger sometimes in taking things that were successful in another library and assuming they will be successful in your own. Communities are so unique!

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