The Great Age of Librarians
February 10, 2012
There were only ever two things that I really wanted to do as a member of the Medical Library Association -- to edit the association's research journal The Bulletin of the Medical Library Association (now The Journal of ...) and to deliver the Janet Doe Lecture. As it happens, over the nearly thirty years that I've been a member I've been able to be involved in a very wide range of things that have been tremendously engaging and rewarding, but those were still always the top two. I was able to do the first from 2000 to 2006, and I did the latter this past May in Minneapolis.
The lecture, "Breaking the Barriers of Time and Space: the Dawning of the Great Age of Librarians" is now up on PubMed Central. (It's also streaming on the MLA11 conference site but only conference registrants can get at that -- the main drawback in not being able to see the video version is that you don't see the slides of Josie helping me write it.)
Pat asked me the other day if there was anything I'd change about it now, and I was honestly able to say that there isn't. The lectureship is awarded a good fifteen months before you actually have to deliver the damn thing (and, to be honest, I'd been thinking about it for quite awhile before that, knowing I'd been nominated). That's a wonderful luxury. I had time to think about the issues and to draft and re-draft and I was very happy with the end result.
Delivering it was a ton of fun. I've never been that well prepared for a presentation before (and likely never will be again). The Bearded Pigs played until late the night before, so by the time I got to the ballroom early that morning I was running on a nicely buzzy mix of adrenalin, four hours of sleep and a bit of whisky hangover. The AV techs were champs and I knew right away that I was in good hands. (Good AV techs are always worth more than they get paid).
The message is simple -- in the digital age, libraries just aren't as important anymore, but librarians are more important than ever. Our libraries definitely remain important tools, but we are oh so much more, and have so much more to offer as long as we refuse to be bound by the constraints of our buildings and traditional organizations.
I've gotten involved in a project here called The Edge of Chaos which is intended to generate innovative solutions to wicked problems. The physical locus will be on the top floor of my building, but it's the virtual/social community that will be critically important. I met with the steering committee (which is called The Naked Catfish) this morning and told them it made sense for the librarians to be intimately involved with this because we've been living on the edge of chaos for a decade or more.
And I like it here.
It's a great and thoughtful article. I wish I could have heard it delivered in person.
In a modest way, I suppose I exemplify your thesis: I'm a Primary Care Librarian these days, delivering services to people who have never been able to use hospital-based library buildings.
Posted by: Tom Roper | February 11, 2012 at 11:25 AM
Tom -- thanks. And yes, your situation is precisely the kind of things I'm talking about -- that we now have opportunities to provide services much more where people need them rather than waiting for them to come to us.
Posted by: T Scott | February 13, 2012 at 11:12 AM