Thursday, June 16, 2016

We'll leave the figurin' to those we pass on our way out of town

A while ago, Rachel wrote about how the isn't a map for the future. It's one of my favorite posts on our blog, so you should read it. So here's what I'll add to what Rachel wrote: beware the person who is selling you a map for the future of libraries and/or librarianship.

The future is mostly a pretty contextual thing--especially when it comes to identifying the needs of your users and how you might respond with new or evolving systems or services. What works at my library might fail spectacularly at yours because the information needs of my users are different than yours, even as there might be some overlap in our particular contexts.

So if the future is contextual, what are we to make of people who are trying to sell us universal truths about the future of libraries and/or librarianship? Or, to expand on Rachel's metaphor--the people who are selling us maps?

Let's be clear: everyone who has a vision to share about the future of libraries and/or librarianship has something to gain by your buying into that vision. And those people feel very strongly that you need to drop everything and get to work on implementing their version of the future. Libraries need to do this!, they say. Librarians need to behave like that!, they say. It's all very important and it all needs to be done right away.

Because there isn't a map for the future, there are lots of people who have found success in developing the future within their own contexts. While it's good for us to share ideas about what has worked for people, it is our individual responsibilities to take the success stories of other people and think critically about how we might apply them to our own situations.

To use Rachel's metaphor: You could draw your own map, you could rely solely on a single map you purchased from someone, or you could buy a bunch of maps and take something from each of them in order to find your way--discarding what doesn't serve you or your users.

Sticking with this metaphor a little longer: if you do decide to buy maps from other people, I would suggest thinking about the mapmaker and what they stand to gain from your using the map that they drew. Is the person sharing their success story a person who's written a book they want you to buy? Does that person make a substantial living from giving keynote speeches? I would also suggest thinking about whether the mapmaker lives out the mapmaker's values and they way they live them out. What does a particular mapmaker believe about the world and is this person giving you a version of the future that is incompatible with how they seem to live in the world?

There is nothing wrong with needed a little help figuring out how to get from the present to the future. But there's also nothing wrong with making sure you know who you're buying your version of the future from either.

Stay positive,

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