Lucy Holman, MLA President and Director of Langsdale Library at the University of Baltimore introduced Maureen Sullivan, incoming ALA president and Steve Anderson, incoming AALL president. Rather than a traditional keynote address Lucy Holman asked Steve and Maureen a series of questions. Highlights are below.
1. The trend now is now toward discovery services and a simple search box. Some people consider this “googlize” searching a major mistake, others wonder why it has taken us so long? What is your opinion?
Maureen sees the current trend towards a simple search box as a positive development since it makes access to our collections easier for patrons. We need to be willing to change the way we like to work and think about how we should work. Steve noted that we need to evaluate what we need the catalog to do. In some cases a simple shelf list is all that is needed. In other cases a full-blown discovery system might be required.
2. What role should librarians play in helping users understand automated filtering and assisting them in their own efforts to manage information overload?
Steve noted there are benefits to personalized results, but one of our jobs is to educate patrons that there may be more material available than they are currently viewing. He also noted that patron education about how to use our materials, regardless of format, is a perpetual role for librarians.
3. What advice would you give “up and coming” librarians who wish to become leaders?
Maureen started the discussion by remarking that librarians must recognize that by getting their MLS they are entering a profession and should have a thorough understanding of what it means to be a professional. She noted that one of the best ways to become a leader is to become actively involved in professional associations. She also noted that leadership is a process and librarians should not wait to be “anointed.” To be an effective leader a person must be attuned to the strengths and weaknesses of others, and be willing to adapt to changes in the environment. In her opinion, the most critical leadership skill is the ability to learn. Steve noted that professional associations are a great way to learn and develop leadership skills. There is also a practical aspect—it is harder for an employer to say “no, you can’t do that” when your work benefits the profession.
4. What developments in publishing do you see coming in the next decade and how will that affect libraries?
Steve started the discussion by commenting that the publisher’s job is to package and ensure that the product we buy is of high quality. The role of the librarian becomes even more important when evaluating self-published materials. Maureen discussed a meeting between New York publishers and ALA. The meeting illuminated the fact that publishers do not have a clear understanding of what libraries or librarians do. What was clear was that we are both committed to serving readers. Maureen also recently attended a meeting at Harvard with academic publishers, faculty, and librarians who are interested in how people are using newly digitized materials. ALA plans to continue the dialogue with both groups.
5. How do you see the physical space, we call a library, evolving from material repositories into learning spaces for campuses or community centers for neighborhoods?
Maureen believes that the physical space of a library, if there is one, should be determined by the library’s constituency. For example, the recent closing of the stacks at Welsh Library at Hopkins Medical was well planned and designed to meet the needs of their students and faculty. We may someday not only have embedded librarians, but embedded libraries. She recognizes that “closing the doors” does have an impact. In public and school libraries, open and fluid spaces that can be configured and reconfigured are a good trend. Steve emphasized that libraries are part of institutions so what each institution needs will vary. What we need to be ready to do is respond to the needs of the institution. Embedding doesn’t mean the loss of the library; it is just a different kind of library.
6. What advice would you give librarians on advocating for change on their own campuses or joining larger efforts? How can we encourage faculty to advocate for more open access?
Steve advises caution in this area. While the move to open access journals has value in terms of cost savings and improved access, we are at great risk if these materials are not preserved. Deciding what to keep in print and what to leave online are issues that need to be balanced against institutional needs.
7. Many librarians, particularly those who work in a business environment, are no longer calling themselves librarians but are using titles like information analyst, knowledge broker, cybrarian, or informationist. Is it time for a name change? What are your thoughts?
Maureen noted that the changes we are seeing with job titles is about conveying to our clients and funders what we do. We will probably see our titles change and evolve with the professions climate.
8. How do you envision the transition to from online to print changing the job of librarians? (Audience question)
Steve said that regardless of the format library materials are made available and our patrons need accurate services; therefore, he sees little change in our current roles. Librarians need to remember it is not about the space, either shelf space or server space, our goal is to provide accurate information. Maureen thought our jobs may evolve to allow for more flexibility for managers and their employees. For example, some libraries are moving toward generic positions descriptions and eliminating annual performance evaluation.
9. Please provide details on adaptive leadership (audience question for Maureen)
Maureen cited Warren Bennis author of Geeks and Geezers who saw leaders becoming deep generalists with broad competencies. She also cite’s Kouzes and Posner’s book The Leadership Challenge that discusses that individuals can develop leadership skills but noted that socialization does determine how quickly those skills develop. She also mentioned Ron Heifetz book, Practice of Adaptive Challenge as another good source of information about adaptive leadership. A detailed bibliography of selected readings on Leadership recommended by Maureen Sullivan is available at https://llamonline.org/agenda/
10. With eBooks, self-publishing, open access etc., what is the librarians role in protecting the first amendment. (Audience question).
Steve pointed out that protecting access to information, speech, reading etc., is what our profession is all about. And we need to pay particular attention to fostering diversity of speech.