Ever since I started running for president-elect of SLA, I’ve been:
- Listening more closely to member’s concerns
- Scanning SLA listservs, websites, blogs, newsletters, and wikis
- Talking to members, staff, and thought leaders, and
- Reading, reading, reading!
One common thread I’ve noticed, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out, is that there’s a lot of anxiety in our profession coming from the economic tremors, but also from the sea change of new technologies which are escalating user expectations. Dr. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, told us in June that the biggest challenge we have is to embrace the profound changes in our profession.
Could you have imagined the tools we are using now when you started your career? I recently watched the movie “I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life & Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal” a documentary of Wiesenthal’s life bringing Nazi war criminals to trial. In several scenes, in the background, there is row upon row of files, archives and notebooks. It was a very intense way to track and document people, places, and things. I imagine all that information is now in a database that takes just milliseconds to search.
Fast-forward 60 years and we have Goggle maps, librarians embedded in organizations without books, the World Digital Library, and Kindle with thousands of books available for a 12-second download.
How are we going to make sense out of the profound changes in our profession?
We need to create a shared vision of our future. Or to put it another way—and I’m borrowing wholesale from the Comcast ad—we need to become Future ready.
We have to look at the concepts and constructs that will propel us forward. We need to determine the positioning that will be the most effective. We need to assess the competencies that will carry us through the next decade. We need to paint a rosy picture of how our skills, core values, and resources will be used in 2019 and draw a road map to it.
There are a lot of blanks to fill in. One management method is to build three different scenarios for the future:
- stretch goals you would like to attain
- probable outcomes you can expect no matter what
- an entrenched version with minimal change
Nobody has the answer right now, but it’s worthwhile to ask questions: What will the workplace and economy likely be? What is the impact of various converging/diverging forces on the information professional of the future?
The Price Waterhouse Coopers’ report Managing tomorrow’s people: the future of work to 2020 describes a work force that will be more complicated and move faster, where people are expected to have up to five jobs in their career and to have mobility across borders. The authors predict that business models will change with less reliance on command and control.
“We identified a number of global forces that will have significant influence, and of those we felt that individualism versus collectivism and corporate integration versus fragmentation would be the most significant. From this axis we identified three worlds and business models for the future.” [page 4]
EBIC’s 2008 report Knowledge and Information Management to 2020 uses the PWC report to pose questions directly related to the information industry:
- What is the Knowledge Information Management proposition for this world?
- What Knowledge Information Management activity would ensure success in this world?
- What role should Knowledge Information Management professionals play in this world?
One conclusion which ran through the various scenarios was this:
“Creativity and innovation will continue to lie at the heart of business success. Developing and managing relationships to support successful collaborative working practices will be a key role for KIM.” [page 3]
Developing a vision for our future is the next big conversation. The discussion needs to be a dialog where we can all contribute from our various areas of expertise, and thus enrich the vision. The beauty of starting this conversation now is that we can contribute using social networking tools. I feel that positioning the Association to be FUTURE READY is vital to the organization.
What does FUTURE READY mean to you?