Some musings post ILI2010

Bean Bags at LSE Library.

ILI2010 is now a week and hemisphere away, so here are a few thoughts it provoked from me:

  1. At some stage someone tweeted that our #ILI2010 hastag was picked up by a non-librarian who investigated and then reported that it was just some dull library conference and of no interest to anyone else. Some of us laughed that off, but doesn’t it tell us something more serious about our profession and how we are regarded by others? Are we happy with or accepting of that view?
  2. I think that too often we just talk about us and our value (i.e. as “librarians”) and this has virtually no, or very little focus on what we are doing to provide better services for our clients. Mostly we are preaching to the converted (us) and nobody else is much interested. Meanwhile, our online competition keeps developing or going around us. Stop being so library-centric, it won’t work and isn’t appropriate.
  3. Using more social media and completing online learning programs isn’t the answer, nor the end point. And I think that an anonymous presence on social media is next to useless for a librarian. We need to start using these channels to provide valuable content or services and to make real and ongoing human connections with our communities. Creating content and providing those services isn’t always easy and it takes much energy, patience, effort, and creativity. Start now. Seek permission and write your policy documents later. Forget a cost-benefit analysis and measuring ROI.
  4. Get out and find what your core community business or interest is (if you don’t already know, or if you are locked into providing services to meet what it used to be 30 years ago). Then get involved in it. Digitise stuff, help facilitate much-needed services, help local community businesses or industry, educate, entertain or help researchers.
  5. Don’t just sit around waiting for someone to ask you a question – get out and offer your help and assistance.
  6. Make yourself and your library more interesting and relevant to your community, whatever it is. Be active in collecting and developing a deeper interest in new media and games. Expose yourself as a real person. If you’re dull you are asking to be left out. Sorry, but that is life’s harsh reality.
  7. As a profession we were more active in multi-media pre-Guttenberg. Illuminated manuscripts facilitated or produced by “librarians” contained art, music, calligraphy, laws, science, worship, text, etc. We can learn from that and start again.
  8. I for one don’t ever need to be reminded of Ranganathan’s five laws of library science again. Let’s move on now.
  9. We need to listen more to what our clients, patrons or users are saying and respond accordingly: better search and discovery tools (vice unfriendly ontologies); more useful applications; customisable services; personalised service; less library jargon; etc.
  10. Learn how to quickly and regularly scan the contemporary web and how to curate, create and collect content more actively.
  11. Amassing blog statistics and metrics won’t save us either. Nor will publishing more theory about “library science” in academic journals.
  12. Learn how to take some risks: your own future is at stake here.
  13. I may well be wrong, but I think you can have a library without librarians. You can at least have one without irrelevant librarians. And as for librarians without libraries: oh please! Get real. That little discussion was all a bit precious for me.


  1. PinkFairaeDust

    Completely agree. I saw a presentation by Keith Wiley the other day about Learning Oriented Assessment. He made the comment that big classes were not a burden, but an opportunity. Then went on to describe some of the most engaging classes and types of assessment I've heard of – for subjects with 600-700 students!!Like Keith, we should see challenges as an opportunity to change and provide wonderful new or re-imagined services, rather than an awful burden to complain about.

  2. restructuregirl

    I'm currently on a steering committee with academics working on purchasing a discovery layer across our multiple catalogues. It's very inspiring as they are giving direct feedback and I am feeling more engaged with what I can do as a librarian than I do reading our own research. They're very keen for librarians to continue as a valid role, and have a list of work we could be doing to enable their research if we would just make it happen. Looking forward to trying to do that over the next 6 months : – )

  3. Mal Booth

    Good to read that. I came back from London determined to do just that (for researchers), inspired by the model the British Library has in their Business & IP Centre. I figure we can apply a similar model in academic libraries to assist our researchers.

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