I recently attended the SLA Leadership Summit as the president-elect of the Western Canada Chapter. Among the most interesting discussions taking place were those relating to the perception of SLA as an association, and special librarians as a profession, as enduring and relevant.
In particular, the focus for these types of discussions was and continues to be how we can position ourselves as integral to the future of our organizations and industries, and perhaps most important, to the emerging new generation of leaders. To this end, SLA has engaged the firm of Fleishman Hillard Inc. to undertake an "Alignment Project." The project involves research and recommendations addressing the question of how special librarians need to align themselves to address the changing values and expectations of our clientele.
When we receive the results of this research work, we may find some of the recommendations difficult to accept. One of the comments made in a session at the Leadership Summit was that what may be important to information professionals is not necessarily what is important to those who pay for the service. That is, valuing accuracy over speed, for example, does not necessarily align with what today's special library users value. It will be interesting to receive more information, in the context of the complete findings of this study, as to what ultimately are the recommendations for the future of our services.
As with all advice, however, we have to determine where we draw the line between providing the users and the organizational power brokers with what they want, while at the same time being more than simply a transitory service.
Librarians have developed skills and principles of information collection, management, synthesis, and dissemination that are the foundations of any information service. What is the line between offering what the user wants and investing time and money educating users to become better consumers? Where and when do we push back? Educating and broadly disseminating special library value principles to ensure that business leaders "get it" is more than what the individual can do alone--it requires the collaboration of educators and associations, as well as individual librarians. It is a multi-pronged approach that takes time to demonstrate results.
This winter I am co-teaching a course on supervision, and it is interesting to be working directly with the newest generation of individuals who are about to enter the...