The Scare Factor
Most librarians have an admirable dedication to their profession and are not focused on issues of power and control, particularly outside the realm of their job descriptions. In addition, we may have a blind spot about forward-thinking strategy and analysis for developing new programming and seeking new audiences. These factors combine to create the biggest library problem: political power and control in their institutions. Symptoms of this problem include the much-delayed website redesign, lagging program redesign, testing, and promotion, and adoption of open-source technology.
This problem is an artificial one, since librarians already have a key product and service. The real issue is losing control of library operations, beginning with institutional support. Avoiding this means going beyond the traditional realm of librarianship and into the role of activist. Libraries need to innovate, be creative, promote their services, and make the case for controlling their space within the larger institutional framework.
What's Really Going On Here?
Librarianship is sometimes being usurped by an institutional view of mass information services. Information is being seen as a public commodity, based outside the realm of libraries. As a result, new information products are being developed and promoted which are not library-centric. Poor management and turf battles often result in transference of power for library decision-making away from librarians. Dubious episodes of political infighting may end up being the decisive factor.
The Driver's Seat
The Internet. Google search. What is on the web? Students have preconceptions: "Why not just use google instead of all these library databases?" "Can I find my email through google?" A recent washingtonpost.com article stated that google was better than formal research. The author must have used google to verify this claim, because he seemed to miss most of the key examples.
Pursuing this meme to the next level: information is now a mass-market public commodity. From a top-down perspective, a CEO or President is influenced by popular culture and the news in his efforts to attract support. This puts downward pressure on operating units to respond in kind. Going forward, programs will be funded based on popular appeal, and a kind of leverage libraries have not traditionally been geared to handle. Moreover, the pace of change is "Look Out! The Biggest Library Problem," Scott Rummler. Library...