Conversations That Count: Amidst not Betwixt

The State of Transformation that Increases Engagement

This blog post comes from Nannette Naught, Senior Consultant at Innovative

Arriving home from ALA Annual this year, I am struck by two things:

  • The bridge has been crossed — NextGen is now. The much anticipated, long awaited transition to the next generation of systems, software, and the people who use, buy, and maintain them is here. We’ve gone as far as we’re prepared to go down the road of reskinned relational databases with their repurposed MARC records, labor intensive maintenance processes, and lockstep collaboration rules. The next generation of library leadership has taken the reins and is actively asserting adherence to modern computing, content, and service concepts of economy, mobility, and diversity.
  • Evangelism is out — Efficacy is in. The time for preaching is past. Discipleship doesn’t lead to sustainable funding or demonstrable value adds. The power to produce the desired effect (aka impact) without creating untoward and/or unanticipated adverse effects is what it’s all about. The current generation of library leaders, advocates, and users value relationship and know-how. Service quality, not quantity of resources, separates “nice to haves” from “must haves.”

In short, library is actively amidst transformation of its services and software, as well as its people and processes. And we will be “transforming” not just for a long while (as past prognosticators warned), but forever (as modern librarians, technologists, business people, and data and computer scientists know). Because transformation is the ever present reality of evolving in concert with our institutions and communities, as their needs change and our relationships with them grow.

So why do I feel so pensive, yet elated, about the experience of ALA Annual 2017? I think it’s because many of us, myself included, will look back on Chicago as the liminal period, or rite of passage, between following the leaders before us — our esteemed mentors — and forging new roads, ourselves. You see, Annual this year, made it clear we’re past:

  • The point where retirements surprise us — luminaries we counted on to always be there, no longer are.
  • The cross roads of subjecting transformation theory to real-world tests, returning live data, and using said data to transform theory into practice:
    • LC’s BIBFRAME and IFLA’s LRM are not just real, but operational.
    • NISO’s Metadata Primer was not only updated by one of us, next-gen librarian Jenn Riley, but presented as part of Delivering (not predicting) the Integrated Information Experience.
    • Libraries across the US are asking consultants, like Martha Rice Sanders and me, to not just optimize workflows, but assess and demonstrate their ability to achieve strategic goals such as increased engagement.
    • Leaders, regardless of library size, are not content to train replacements, but intend to add services and upgrade skill sets.
  • The initial shift of status quo from historic to community-based authority, as seen in everything from standards activities at RDA to recent LD4P work to ALA MAC’s (the ALA committee formerly known as MARBI that governs MARC 21) Annual 2017 decision to embed real world object URIs in bibliographic records, despite national library and OCLC objections.

And a bit of sadness in the face of such events and the corresponding loss of interaction and valued council with those who have trained, grown, and led us for so long is natural. The feeling in and of itself is a sign of respect and an acknowledgement that the bar of service our predecessors have set is high.

So too being now entrusted with the primary care and feeding of the people and missions our mentors dedicated their careers to, should engender feelings of excitement mixed with just a bit of nervousness. We have an awesome, important, and, at least to my way of thinking, exciting journey ahead of us. The decisions and associations we make today, will actively shape not just our tomorrows, but those of our libraries, institutions, and communities. Because, as our beloved mentors proved more than once, money and friends, really do change everything. And, as I can almost hear Barbara Tillet saying to a group of my colleagues and I on an ALA bus not too long ago, it is indeed, time to quit listening and start leading.

What are we waiting for? Please join my friends, Christine Oliver and Pat Riva, and me, as we continue these conversations that count:

  • Later this summer when Chris and I explore the myths of modern library systems and how debunking them can help us transform library services faster.
  • Early this fall when Pat Riva and I explore the methodology behind the Library Reference Model (LRM) and how successful implementation can move us forward faster.
  • At your convenience, as a participant in one of Innovative’s upcoming seminars: