The VLA News – May 2011 issue is hot off the presses. Below is my editorial, wherein the New England Technical Services Librarians have an amazing, provocative, invigorating conference (totally not biased ;-P):

Nobody loves a conference like I do! They’re an infusion of theory and practice on the cutting edge. It’s important to occasionally break from the day to day to look out on the horizon of libraryland. Our profession is evolving so rapidly that it’s never been more necessary to embrace change. The New England Technical Services Librarians (NETSL) 2011 Conference was a provocative call to arms for all librarians, not just those of us in tech services.

A few salient points from the NETSL Conference:

1) Lean into your discomfort – An individual attitude adjustment is where it starts. Let’s choose to change our minds. Instead of anticipating failure, choose to expect success. To do otherwise simply creates fear and makes both libraries and librarians obsolete. A positive culture must also be fostered by institutional leadership. If leadership dares to greet change with faith instead of skepticism, staff will be less likely to shy away from the challenge.

2) Do less with less – Staff and budgets are too thin to do more with less. Outsource copy cataloging, get shelf-ready materials from consolidated vendors, try patron driven acquisitions, trim extraneous steps from policies and procedures. Free up staff to do what only they can do and focus on materials that only you can provide. Rethink local control. Pour energy into umbrella projects like the Green Mountain Library Consortium (GMLC). Focusing collective resources on one project, instead of creating parallel/competing projects, will save money and time while generating cohesion in the library community.

3) Be the geeks – Libraries are not the only credible source of information on the web. Our niche should be having the best and fastest tools to access the most credible sources. We need to reinvent the environment. Instead of continuing to cede search capability and computer expertise to Google, learn to code! Learn how our tools behave across technologies and make them better. Use social media to reach users where they are. The Department of Libraries Vermont’s 23 Things is a fantastic hands-on crash course in new media.

4) Learn Everything – Make use of webinars. Many are free, but even paid webinars are easier to budget for than conferences. If you can make it to conferences, focus on topics that will help your whole organization. Bring back fresh ideas and share them so everyone benefits. Join or start local interest groups and encourage them to make meetings available remotely. Fight for professional development. Being the best we can be for our organization includes identifying and acquiring skills needed to evolve with the profession.

I would add that librarians face the dual challenge of advancing the profession while bridging the digital divide. Absence of infrastructure forces many Vermont libraries to remain analog while the world becomes digital. Those of us both with and without high-speed access need to hold government and service providers accountable to the promise of statewide broadband. Find an existing effort through the Vermont Rural Broadband Project or gather your patrons and start your own!

Helen Linda
VLA News Editor/Editorial Committee Chair
NETSL Vice President / President Elect
Systems & Tech Services Librarian, Goddard College

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