Yesterday, in my management class, one of the campus librarians came in to talk about managing and keeping up to date with technologies in libraries. And she mentioned repeatedly that librarians “are always a few years behind the newest trends.” She mentioned this as through there is nothing to be done about, as though it’s simply a fact of librarianship that we have to accept, and that just made me sad.
I’ve only worked in one library, really, and it’s a small library in a school with a library science program, a library that considers itself something of a teaching library for future librarians. Because of that, we are pretty quick to adopt new technologies and try out new things, if not collectively, at least by a few people on the staff, experimentally. I guess I’m lucky in this respect, but I’ve also spent the last two years reading about libraries and technology and how important it is that we be innovative and flexible and creative with technology.
But if we accept that we’re going to be a few years behind every new tool and innovation that comes out, we’re only going to become more and more irrelevant. I like to think that the new generation of librarians, the people I’m graduating with in just four short weeks and those to follow, will change that slow-to-adopt habit. Sadly, I look around and see a lot of students who don’t seem all that interested in change.
It is far from the case that everyone in my program is like that. There are tons of forward thinking, innovative and creative people here. But there are also too many people who grimace at the thought of the eBook, who shake there heads at bringing mobile technologies into the library, who think creating an Information Commons is a Really Great and New Idea! These people don’t give me a lot of hope that our profession will keep up to date.
We can’t always be lagging behind our patrons, lagging behind the rest of the information economy. The sooner librarians realize we have to be at the forefront of new technologies, not a few years behind, the better chance we have of surviving. Period. Library schools need to know and encourage this, professional development and continuing education programs need to make this a key part of their training workshops and their philosophies, and librarians who are already in the field should do their best to shake of their wariness and their fears of change. Everyone seems to know this, and yet…nothing seems to be done about it.
I don’t have the answers, but I think if we collectively start to talk about how to really promote innovation, optimistically and without getting bogged down in the barriers, we might come up with some interesting ideas. And as always, I’d love to hear what other people think. If you work in a library, how have you promoted innovation? What keeps you from trying new things? What kinds of barriers do you encounter and how do you knock them down?