We can all be Liberos: Evolving, adapting and changing in libraries

My last post here was pretty bleak, but then again the situation for many libraries is rather bleak right now. All is not lost though. After having some meetings and discussions, I have a much rosier view. Well, not rosier, but optimistic. We need to seize these opportunities to change and grow. Silver lining and all that.

This week there was a big discussion about 8 librarian layoffs at the University of San Diego. It brought up issues about professional development, changing job descriptions, and leadership in libraries. All of these issues are at the centre of the discussion when it comes to revitalizing libraries. Barbara Fister does a good job in summing up the situation in Library Journal.

Last week, when I was getting out of my dark funk about the profession, I really started to focus on rebuilding. Not just myself and my career, but the libraries I’m involved with. Clearly what we’ve been doing is no longer working. Not to say that our services aren’t wanted or needed, but we need to reframe them to keep them relevant. Something that the San Diego situation has brought into light is the ability for so many to coast. Maybe it’s because I’m still (barely) on the low side of 30, but the thought of coasting to retirement baffles me. I understand though how people get stuck in that professional rut (especially in academia), and how expectations all around settle. Then as the mission shifts and time passes, we’re either asking to justify our relevancy or scramble to move (or both).

See, that moving, that excites me. Let’s imagine a library without a physical collection. Not really hard to imagine any more. What would you do? Would you bother cataloguing things? How would ILL work? What about circulation? Those are some of the central services libraries provide, but do we have to? Not all of us. What about the people who are responsible for them? Well, hopefully they are already thinking of the next step.

What does this have to do with Liberos? (They still exist even though catenaccio has disappeared.) On this week’s Football Ramble, they read a listener’s email about Torsten Frings (pictured above) playing as Libero for Toronto FC. Frings, who played as a midfielder for Dortmund, Werder, and Germany has changed his game to meet his team’s need. He changed and it’s working pretty well.

To succeed in the long run, many of these odd, small libraries will need to evolve into agile hybrids but I’m not sure what that will be. I don’t think anybody knows, but we have to be open to the possibility. I really think we could sort of be the bellwether for larger research libraries. More emphasis on services, collaboration, and not recreating the wheel. I don’t think all libraries will go completely virtual, but I also think innovation will come from abandoning the “protector of the physical” mentality many libraries have.

Thrilling, isn’t it?

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