Monday, June 12, 2006


Today I'm off to Baltimore, to SLA, for an unfortunately brief visit. I am speaking on a panel tomorrow (at 1:30) and I'd intended to spend an additional couple of days "conferencing" and meeting up with friends. But I neglected to book a hotel early enough and at the time I was booking a flight, there were few rooms to be had. Of course, as soon as I booked the flight, a room opened up. Too late!

The irony in this is that I am speaking about planning.

My 20 minutes on the panel is a version of a talk I've done before--although this will be the shortest amount of time I've crammed too much information into. I am like many people...I find it easier to do a long talk than a short one. Being able to deliver an excellent short talk is the mark of an excellent speaker...the rest of us need time to tell the tale.

One of my slides is on the pitfalls of planning as it is usually done (in my experience and from observation and reading):

  • extrapolates from the past and present
  • focus is on the "industry" situation
  • solving current problems
  • no holistic view of external factors

The last bullet point is the rationale behind OCLC's environmental scan, and, indeed, behind any environmental scan but I must say I've not seen many (any?) other scans done in Libraryland. You might think, well, why should we do one, OCLC did it. True, but ours was done at a very high level and could not pick up on trends that might be particular to a region or a city. Clearly, demographic trends in Texas are going to different from those in New Hampshire from those in Ontario and they will surely impact expectations and needs people have of library services.

So, what's the opposite of myopic planning?

  • focusing on creating a new future
  • taking into consideration larger social issues and global trends and patterns
  • focusing on emerging trends and patterns and on how the organization needs to grow and change
  • seeking converging trends and seemingly innocuous interrelated factors

For example, is a good idea to spend a lot of money on an "Information Commons" in a university library? I'd say no, if the computers are "tethered" and the furniture fixed and wireless nonexistent. All sorts of trends point to the need for a very different sort of environment, based on device agnosticism and an expectation of barrier-free discovery to delivery information, all within an "architecture of participation."

I'll write about those trends over the next few weeks as I think out loud about the ramifications of an internet of things, in an architecture of participation.

1 comment:

Alice said...

Ha ha ha, I just got back from Baltimore last night. Enjoy!