Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Interest Continues, Part 2

How timely of George to talk about the many scanny presentations he has upcoming and his thoughts on the scan phenomenon. I too have many dates with libraries of all types in the coming months and I too am gratified and amazed at the level of interest out there in Libraryland but share George's concerns that the Scan not be an end to itself.

To some extent, it is already an artifact because none of the trends we highlighted froze at the moment we looked at them. Much has happened in the 12 months since the research was done. And I keep hoping to hear specific changes that have been made in a library organization as a result of some hard thinking and hard work about the issues we raised. Mind you, because hard work is needed for hard issues, such changes do take time.

Yesterday I gave a presentation to librarians in the Montgomery County Public Libraries system in Maryland. And in the coming weeks, I'll be doing scanny presentations for the University of Victoria, the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies (my alma mater) at the University of British Columbia, the Columbus Metropolitan Library here in Ohio, the Connecticut State Library, the Library System of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the South Carolina Library Association, the West Virginia Library Association and the Southern Appalachian chapter of SLA, in Nashville, Tennessee. So, as you see, interest in the scan comes from all sorts of libraries.

Some of the presentations I do are informational--people want to hear about the Scan and how we did the work. But quite a few ask that the presentation be one piece of a larger strategic planning activity and this is heartening. On occasion, attendees at such meetings include people from the library's governance structure. A university provost attended one session I gave, and library trustees have attended two presentations for public library systems.

Also, George and I are both speaking to library school students as we've found some interest among library educators in developing better strategic planning skills in library graduates. Several schools will be using the Scan in fall courses.

Those of us involved in writing the Scan and now, in making presentations on it, have speculated as to why it has received the attention is has. It certainly seems to have tapped into the zeitgeist. It perhaps points to a need we have in librarianship for big ideas presented in an easily accessible way, written in a non-academic style that can be shared with people outside our discipline. And it suggests a gap in our collective abilities to do environmental scanning, scenario building and strategic planning that does not result in "managing the past."

George noted Martin's seminal 1940s report that was one of the factors in the establishment of public libraries in the U.S. as we now know them. I direct your attention to three reports--seminal? Perhaps not, but these reports, one from the U.S. and two from the U.K., take very different positions on what public libraries should be.

The U.S. one, "Barbarians at the Gates of the Public Library: How Postmodern Consumer Capitalism Threatens Democracy, Civil Education and the Public Good "is by Ed D'Angelo, a librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library. And the U.K. ones are "Who's in Charge: Responsibility for the Public Library Service" , by Tim Coates, who's worked in publishing and book retailing (That one of his main conclusions is U.K. libraries need to buy more books wouldn't have anything to do with his 30 years of working in the book trade, would it?) and Overdue, by Charles Leadbeater, who is as critical of public libraries in the U.K. as Coates. The last sentence of Overdue is "Libraries are sleepwalking to disaster: it’s time they woke up."

"Crikey!" as my English granpa would have said, tough language indeed.



3 comments:

Lorcan Dempsey said...

Both of the UK reports you mention were deliberately polemical and generated quite a bit of discussion.

Of interest also in this context might be the more positive/aspirational UK report of some years ago, New Library: the People's Network"A highlight of the report was Ted Hughes' poem, one stanza of which reads:

Even the most misfitting child
Who's chanced upon the library's worth,
Sits with the genius of the Earth
And turns the key to the whole world.
Lorcan

ruhan said...

I wish your successes ' continuation

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