Change, Adaptation, and Revolutions in Libraries – my MLA2014 talk

Last week, I gave the opening keynote presentation at the Missouri Library Association‘s annual conference. Fun stuff! My talk swirled around the topics of changes taking place in the library and the technology world; services and processes that we need to adapt in order to be a modern library; and how to start small and larger revolutions in your library and in your job.
Here are my slides – enjoy!

The Beginning of the New Normal

change agentTwo posts caught my eye over the past couple of days, and they’re still rumbling around inside my head … let’s see if I can pull a couple thoughts out of the cacophony.

Both posts discuss how lots of industries are at the beginnings of huge restructuring/remaking themselves or are disappearing entirely, and how much of our lives will seem like upheaval until the “new normal” is reached. No one’s exactly sure what “normal” will look like (after the recession and remaking is over) – but everyone’s sure it will be completely different from now.

Here’s the first article, and the main one setting off thoughts for me: The Great Restructuring, by Jeff Jarvis. Jeff talks about our recession – first quoting Umair Haque calling it a great “compression … as an economy built on perceived value reconciles with actual value.”

Jeff also mentions this article from the New York Times and ends up calling our current recession a “great restructuring.” Then, he lists thoughts about quite a few industries and their future. Here’s a partial list of them:

  • America may well not be in the auto industry soon.
  • Financial services will have to be completely remade
  • Newspapers will vanish
  • Magazines are in worse shape than I would have guessed and many will go
  • Books’ channels of manufacturing, distribution, and sales will go through upheaval
  • Broadcast media will become meaningless, replaced by digital delivery
  • Large-scale retail will shrink and consolidate and then be transformed by a search-and-buy economy
  • The blockbuster economy in entertainment will become harder to support as more attention and money shifts to the tail.
  • We should be so lucky that elementary and secondary education will also face such pressure.

And that’s just a few (go read the article for the whole list and some great thoughts).

Here’s the second article raising a ruckus in my head: Big Music Will Surrender, But Not Until At Least 2011 from TechCrunch. This article mainly gives a music executive’s perspective of coming changes for his industry, and how they currently plan to figure it out. So it’s one industry’s perspective on how change will ultimately play out for them. Interesting take.

My question to you – are you ready?

Look at that list from the first article: books, magazines, newspapers, media. All going through huge changes, all going to be remade. And all stuff that’s near and dear to our librarian hearts!

Some of these changes are already starting, you know:

  • Newspapers and Magazines have already started going digital. It’s just a matter of time before more/most decide to stop printing that paper thing and go completely digital.
  • Books… {David quickly ducks} DON’T freak out! Of course I think people will still read books. That’s a given. But have you looked around lately and seen the Amazon Kindle? Or the iPhone ebook reader that millions of people are now carrying around? I have a book on mine to read right now. Those 300-page paper things will eventually turn digital – because it’s simply a container for the content – not the content itself.
  • Music and movies – think LPs/8-Tracks, Cassettes, CDs or super 8, 16 ml, vcr, DVD … and compare that to iTunes or Netflix emerging subscription models. Also going digital!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for libraries – most of our huge buildings exist to primarily hold physical stuff. What will we do when there’s no physical stuff to hold? Will you still be able to justify that large building? That staff? (My answer to that is yes, you can … if you are planning for change now).

How are you starting to re-think your services and libraries? My library is in the middle of strategic planning, and we’re going to tackle that whole “re-think everything” approach. Looks like Darien Library has been doing that, too. How about you?

Closing thought – I live in lucky times – I get to see … basically … my whole life change before my eyes. And I get to help it change.

Bonus reading:

  • An interesting article on remaking education
  • This post is where I found the title of for my article … good post, too – focuses on economic stuff