Thursday, May 19, 2005

When do we show up?

Yesterday was fun for me--I was a panelist for the Cleveland Area Metropolitan Library System (CAMLS) Annual Meeting.

The program was on Building Brainpower: The Role of Libraries in Regional Economic Development. Fellow panelists include Jack Ricchiuto our facilitator, Ed Morrison of the Center for Regional Economic Issues from Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management and Paul Williams from the Beachwood Chamber of Commerce.

It was cool because we had librarians AND economists, mayors, city councilpeople and library board members--a great group for dialogue about the region and the role of the library as an economic engine.

We talked about what it means to build brainpower in a local region, from an economist's point of view, in the global economy. The World is Flat is a good book on this--from Thomas Friedman, the same writer who brought you Longitudes and Attitudes, The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Here's Wired magazine's recent interview with Friedman.

It boils down to knowledge as a competitive asset in the global economy. The ability to handle and make sense of massive amounts of knowledge...well, librarians (and library staffers) have this skill in spades. And we can help our local businesspeople work more effectively with global supply chains.

We talked about the physical and virtual spaces of libraries and the generational aspects of how to serve the Boomers and Gamers on your staff, in your stacks and on your Web sites. Where they are.

For example, Cleveland is well-known for its medical facilities. Why not stock each hospital waiting room with information about the library? And why not develop prepackaged collections to meet those patient's needs, before they even ask for them?

The group did an Open Spaces workshop after the panel discussion, which was cool. People threw out questions on whiteboards and then you nomidically clumped with the questions you were most interested in thinking about. Check out the opportunities we uncovered together.

What came out of the workshop was the realization that the people in the room formed significant brainpower. And that we as librarians tend to wait until asked to volunteer valuable information. We no longer need to wait--we can start to assert our role right now, today. We can start to say, "When do we show up?" and designate staff to serve on City Council, Chambers of Commerce, economic development groups, small business meetings. We assume they need us--because they do!


Jack said...

Thanks so much for being there. It was great meeting you. Your energy for technology and innovation is a needed inspiration for the professional library community. Not that they don't get it, just that all of us in this community need to keep thinking outside the box so we can continue to "surprise the imaginations of our markets" (my definition of creating WOW!).

Alice said...

Thanks Jack. Great to meet you, too! I've been telling people back here about the Open Spaces exercise. Can you send me your "rules" for dialogue? Thought they were great brainstorming norms.