Earlier today, I sat in on a webinar offered by METRO and the New York chapter of ACRL. It was called “The Future for Libraries – A Guide for New Professionals” and it featured a number of professionals in the field, notably Eli Neiburger, the Associate Director in IT and Production at the Ann Arbor District Library.
I have participated in my fair share of webinars, and this was hands-down one of the best, but I’m choosing to blog about it because of some interesting points that Eli made about the field of librarianship. He expressed frustration with librarians’ responses to the Digital Revolution in regard to books and our preoccupation with specific forms of media, namely e-books. Eli pointed out that e-books aren’t necessarily sustainable in a world where everything is made accessible through the Internet.
Rather than staging a panicked discussion on how to make our profession relevant, Eli suggested another path: maximizing what library professionals are good at. Interestingly enough, what he called our “superpower” was the ability to produce content – to review, select, and synthesize information and evaluate its usefulness to our communities – not necessarily to master the latest technological fad. This, he says, is how we create permanent value; by diversifying what the library has to offer.
Before the webinar ended, I posed the question of how a library actually goes about producing content. The idea is well and good, but goes further than finding aids and course pages. Eli remarked that librarianship is becoming a form of journalistic research, and that we must aim to generate local historical content through methods such as podcasts, interviews, and digitization. In this way, we will complement, not compete with, the Digital Revolution.
The next question I would ask for LIS programs and LIS students alike, is how can that be incorporated into our education? Practice does, after all, make perfect.