Monday, March 16, 2009

Opening General Session

LLA President Melissa Hymel began with introducing Dean Beth Paskoff from SLIS at LSU who gave a brief state of the school address. Course offerings have changed since I was in library school including: courses on graphic novels, getting a paper through the refereeing process. One course offered each semester is on designing web sites, if you want your library to be on the list for a real web site design contact the school. She said that we should continue to encourage folks to come to library school. She noted that, like us, she is waiting to find out about the fiscal future. Governor Jindal will release the budget today on Friday, March 13. It is a long process. The school’s proposal for PhD program has been put on hold. The University’s Regents have put all ne program proposal on hold for three years. In the rumor control, she noted that the newspaper reported that the MLS program had been included on a list of “low-completion rate programs.” This was an error. The program actually has a high completion rate; registration is up 9% over last year. She also encouraged contributions to the LLA scholarship fund.

Melissa then introduced Keith Michael Fiels, the ALA Executive Director. Keith began in his usual, inimitable, sometimes casual style. He noted that he is having dinner tonight in Seattle with 10,000 academic librarians – it is where ACRL is having its conference. He also apologized for bringing “cold weather” with him. He has made many trips to New Orleans but has also been told that it is not Louisiana. One of the most memorable trips was 4 weeks after Katrina. What he saw was shocking. It was part of making one of the toughest decisions in his life. It was the right decision and that conference showed how libraries can really change lives.

He started as a school librarian, worked in a public library, went back to school. He then was hired by E.J. Josey as a consultant for the New York State Library. Then he ran a multi-type library system in NJ, and the NJ state Library. When he went to Massachusetts, he arrived at a time when libraries being closed. In the next decade all were reopened and they re-built 350 of the 356 main public libraries in the state.

He talked about the future of libraries. But without PowerPoint; with no discussion of paradigm shifts; no demonstration of new cool technologies; he also agreed to not talk about the economic crisis and how things have now changed forever.

There is a danger in talking about the future. Can make you look silly. In our attempts to anticipate the future, we can accidently create it. If we talk about the fact that there will not be enough money for libraries, the result may well be a loss of funding..

“The future does not create us, rather we create the future.”

Series of challenges and choices we face today. How we can respond to the challenges and how our responses will face the future.

How will the Internet and new technologies affect the library. Let’s face it “Library 2.0” is here, let’s embrace it. Welcome to your new collection, not just books, but also e-books and other user generated content. New services: work in person, but also via IM, Facebook, wikis, and blogs. What will be there local history, homework help, e-government. Gaming is now “hot” or Second Life. Twitter…is anyone twittering this? People will be using your library remotely as much as in person. In Florida 20 of use is remote, but they use more frequently up to 3 time faster. E-government is here. Most dramatic was lines at libraries to file for FEMA aid. All government services will be online. Where will people go? Not Post Office or DMV. Why? There is one in every town, and people are trained. In the US there are more libraries than McDonalds. “The library is the only place you can go and consult with someone with an advanced degree – for free!”

There will always be a gap, and we will need to be there and will need to be there in the future. To do that, we will need more funding. Gates study shows that libraries are at capacity. Bandwidth is a huge issue. There is a significant amount of money available in stimulus package to increase bandwidth for libraries.

Technology is more that popping a piece of software on the computer. Librarians are trained to help and find what you need.

What about the traditional book? By the time as electronic books are as portable, durable, and inexpensive as a book, they will look incredibly like a book. Until they invent one which is “sand-proof” you cannot take it to the beach.

We continue to serve all. Need to overcome barriers of race, disability, language. We need to lead the way in diversity. Profession must change as the nation changes. Spectrum scholarships 70 last year, but it is just a drop in the bucket. We need to work to preserve the first amendment rights of our users. Things like CIPA, USA PATRIOT Act infringe on user rights, and our leadership on these issues increased the role of librarians. Need to fight to keep information free. Copyright is a huge issue. Access to government information is key. There is a constant struggle to get government information. About 18 months ago, EPA started to close their libraries, and ALA fought to get Congress to change that. We need to continue to recruit the best and the brightest. Need to shatter the image of librarian. “Libraries are about people.” We need people-people in the profession. The retirement myth: Baby Boom-Y2K. [Thanks to the stock market, I will work until 90.] Need to be careful about the myths we create. Globalization has an effect and librarians we need to lead the world. We need to be involved in development. Important role in

Library funding…what can we do to increase funding? We will need more money because we are doing more not less. The economy is in tough shape. It goes up and down. The problem is that the library is often the first to be cut in a bad time. The reality is that we will be seeing cuts in the next year. More disturbing are proposals like, why don’t we run it with volunteers. Privatization. Can we do anything? Yes…advocacy is critical. Everyone talks about it, but what does it mean? Advocacy is the process by which we secure additional support by working with community members to reach those who make funding decisions. We need plans. If we had more money, this is what we can do. It is vision which drives funding growth. We need to assert our role in education. Public libraries are where most children develop their reading habits, often before they even get to school. Need to go head to head with the education establishment. “How can you say you care about education and cut libraries?” We need to use research on the value of libraries, and there are many studies out there. We need to do a better job of involving the public in promoting the role of libraries. FOLUSA becoming part of ALA. has opportunities to be involved in local groups. Need to increase public awareness of the importance of libraries using radio, TV, print media, and the Internet. Many are not aware of the range of services offered at the library.

Easier than we think to get increased funding, mostly because we get so little. Locally we get 1%, statewide 0.1%, and nationally $0.001. We need to shamelessly plug libraries. We do good things. OCLC study: resonate – equal access to all.

Need to ask for money!

Last challenge and toughest challenge, can libraries survive? Those who say that libraries are not needed with the Internet – don’t believe them. Our libraries are busier than ever. Library visits are up 10-15% nationally: economy, e-government, etc. People come to libraries for more than what a library provides (including social interaction).

The library is a mechanism by which a community gathers resources for use by all.

This is hard work. Nothing has ever been achieved without persistence and hard work. The libraries we have today were built, brick by brick through the hard work of our predecessors.

No comments:

Post a Comment