On March 5, 2015 I had the privilege to speak on that topic with the students of the Nova Scotia Community College Library Technician program. I've taught students in the Master of Library and Information Science program, but this is the first time speaking with this group. They are a wonderful group of students, and they are keen to understand where their profession is heading. The invitation came as a response to my request on the APLA listserv for innovative research support service examples. I was curious what cool things were going on and so were these students.
It was surprised by how few innovations were forthcoming. If libraries are transforming themselves why are the changes so modest and...well frankly uninspiring?
I shared three examples of significant innovations that got my attention, both high and low tech:
1. University of Melbourne Law Research Service and Legal Academic Skills Center.
The first service provides dedicated research staff to support faculty research. The second is a confluence of services designed to build student research skills including classes, workshops, and student wellness programs. (Yes, we do most of these things already but what we don't do is integrate them with dedicated staff at this level of commitment.)
3. Hold onto your seats: The Hunt Library, University of North Carolina. This is a showcase of technological and social experimentation for libraries. With immersive labs, and new private, semi-private, and collaborative work spaces, this library is breathing new life into the library as third space. (Watch the video.)
I wish I could see into the future. A lot of the speculative fiction out there doesn't paint a very encouraging image of the future reference librarian. I think of the holographic librarian interface from the 2002 remake of the Time Machine. Reference is reduced to merely an interactive AI interface to the database of knowledge. I think there are possibilities out there for really interesting services that are more than a better digital interface. To borrow a quote from the futurist Alvin Toffler, "Society needs all kinds of skills that are not just cognitive; they’re emotional, they’re affectional. You can’t run the society on data and computers alone."
Thanks for the invitation, NSCC! I hope you enjoyed our time as much as I did.