The Internet Librarian International conference ended with a panel discussion tackling the question of whether the new normal requires a new you. Personally I feel that I don’t completely need to reinvent myself to work with the new normal, but I can use my existing knowledge and resources as a basis to adapt myself to meet new needs.
The panel was made up of three speakers from the conference, Michael Stephens, Ulla de Stricker and Joanna Ptolemy and was chaired by Marydee Ojala.
First off the panel were asked to share their conference takeaways:
US – we need to expand the definition of what we do. In a self-service culture we are in a dilemma – we need to engage our users. The challenge therefore is finding what is relevant to our users and this is the key skill we need.
JP – TEDx and other similar events are opportunities for librarians to show another side of ourselves and build communities outside of libraries. The challenge is how we can highlight how good librarians are at adding value to organisations.
MS – libraries have the potential to be anywhere and everywhere.
Sharing is key – freeing data and encouraging participation.
Caring is key – being kind and empathetic.
Next the panel were asked what skills are required for the new normal:
MS – understanding emerging communications technology and how people work with information. Knowledge of how to build communities.
JP – looking for how we can empower staff. We need to look beyond traditional roles that have librarian in the job title and should be looking for jobs with core information skills.
US – importance of identifying who we are as persons and then what our professions should be. Understand your skills and strengths and then look for something that leverages that.
This last comment resonated with me and it is something I’ve kept coming back to since the conference ended. I’m about to embark on a 6 month management programme and the early process of this has involved a lot of reflection about my skills and working style. A result of this is that I’m beginning to feel that life in an academic library may not be for me so Ulla’s words have started me thinking more broadly about where my strengths and interests lie and then what opportunities might be out there for someone like me.
The final question for the panel was about how technology fits in to the services we offer in the new normal:
MS – technology is simply a tool that helps us to do what we do.
JP – tech comes and goes (e.g. Google Wave). How much time should we spend learning about new tools? What we should be doing is setting goals and direction and then identifying the appropriate tools.
US – listen and understand priorities and needs of users, then we can use tech to find one solution to meet one need. We need to say no – pick what’s important today and do it well. Skill – stop, learn when to let go if a service is no longer required.
Michael, aware that many of us were communicating via the back-channel used Twitter to ask us to share our thoughts. Owen Stephens commented:
being able to programme is not yet #newnormal but believe we all should have some understanding of how computers & code work.
To which Michael asked the question of the audience: should coding skills be mandatory on LIS programmes? The responses were varied:
- In Portugal XML, 1 programming language and project management are taught on LIS courses.
- The languages being taught are old fashioned or are going out of date quickly
- There is a middle ground – tools like Yahoo! Pipes and ifft allow us to manipulate data but without the hard coding
- It’s about having the language and mindset to talk to coders
US – curation is key – using our judgement and understanding to select what is useful and relevant
MS – instructional design skills, creation of effective and useful learning objects and teaching
The conversation ended with some more word’s of wisdom from Ulla de Stricker – no library school in the world can teach “the right way”. LIS education is evolving too quickly and so much is learnt as we go along. So much is achieved because people come together informally with a need to solve a problem, not just because it’s part of their job description.