Barbara Quint's lecture addresses the changing roles of information professionals in the 3rd millennium. Tasks and the skill sets to perform them once regarded as critical elements defining librarians changed dramatically over the last few decades of the 20th century. Basic skills – like LC/MARC cataloging—became niche market tasks for some librarians, while former specialty functions, such as online searching by intermediary professional searchers, became basic to all. But the changes that have gone before are as nothing to the ones under way and looming larger every day. What tasks and skills will define librarianship in the Internet Age? How will we continue to perform our “protect and serve” mission for clients everywhere? What can we and must we do today to ensure that our profession will, to paraphrase Faulkner, “nor merely survive...but prevail”?
Lecture Topic: The changing roles of information professionals
in the 3d millennium
Lecture Title: "No Guts, No Glory": Information Professionals March Into the 22nd Century
Speech given Wednesday, December 4, 2002, 7:30am - 9am (pt)
by Barbara Quint
Editor, SEARCHER Magazine
932 Eleventh Street, Suite 9
Santa Monica, CA 90403
(310) 451-0252 / (310) 393-6911 (fax)
Internet: [email protected]
I can't believe it. I haven't given a full throated speech in years, but when last I did, I followed my constant custom of insisting on no darkening of the hall, no projectors, no audio visuals. Keep the house lights up. Like Al Jolson, I want to see their faces.
Now look at me -- RADIO!
My cousin listens to old-time radio all the time and he told me how to do this. ENUNCIATE. Speak clearly in a soothing mellow tone. Vary the speech rhythms. Use dynamic voices for emphasis. So here goes,
Today's topic is Implementation. Whatever one decides needs doing, we have to have what it takes to get it done. The first things librarians will need to get the right things done in the Third Millennium is Courage and not just plain courage, but Flamboyant Courage.
The tasks remain the same: first, last, and always - access, getting the information to people that they need. From this grows the almost equal second task -- archive, making sure all information created is retained. Otherwise we will lose access.
The world at large sees the process in reverse. Historically archive created libraries and libraries created librarians, but even historically, those monks wouldn't have gotten all that ink on their aged fingers, if they didn't think someone, somewhere, sometime would want to read the material. People sometimes think of libraries as sacred, maybe this view ties back to those monks illuminating sacred texts. But those same monks copied most of what we have from pagan Rome and pagan Greece. Archive it all.
INSERT comments on Nicholson Baker (the toad). Archive/ http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/jun01/voice.htm/ nicholson baker/ toad/ editorial/ marydee/ utah
Speaking of misperceptions, there is a lot of confusion in the public mind about the role of librarians - and I don't just mean the bun as a hairstyle, though that image sure dies hard. For example, a pal of mine, Mimi Drake, was on NPR last Sunday defending the GPO against assault by the OMB. (And, by the way, what are you LC types doing about that? I would hate to be in your shoes if you have to start chasing down ALL federal documents, instead of just the half that are fugitive documents now.) Anyway, she finishes her beautifully modulated (wonderful voice control), brilliant opposition to current OMB plans and two segments later comes a salute to a 90 year old librarian. (Ain't that quaint! Grr.)
Or take a recent article by the Los Angeles Times, "Librarians Emerging From Book Stacks, Increasing Activism," [Edmund Sanders, Times Staff Writer, November 25 2002]. It's all about how Pat Schroeder, heading up a publishers' trade association, was surprised by how librarians attacked her for attacking them. Honestly! How courageous do librarians have to be to attack publishers? After all, consumers attack vendors all the time. Why not us? Especially in these tough economic times for publishers.
All this goes to bring up a THIRD task, which must permeate our handling of our other tasks - namely, changing our image.
INSERT, speaking of image, how about LC as a brand name for librarianship. See article by Cynthia Shamel in Searcher, July-August 2002, http://www.infotoday.com/searcher/jul02/shamel.htm
The Web has won. And we who have espoused online all these years must win with it. or have we? Is it a Pyrrhic victory? (I'm so far ahead, I think I missed the race?)
New demands of dealing with a Web-dominated information universe require us to re-structure our primary tasks of access and archive. For example, cataloging books with LC subject headings?? I don't think so.!
INSERT: I used to be a cataloger, decades ago, and right from the first, I and some of my cataloger friends thought some LC subject headings were a great big joke. Bill-comma-buffalo.
The Web and the Internet have generated or accelerated a number of trends: Globalization, Disintermediation, Centralization
Librarians are needed as quality filters, which we have always been. People need access, but access to what's good. They need archives, but archives of the true. In terms of image, we as a profession MUST be seen as owning WEB TURF - not all the Web, just what's marked "THE GOOD or THE TRUE".
Though librarians have always supported intellectual freedom - and must continue to do so - we are actually natural censors, though censorship may be a bad term for it. This is true of all librarians. The public recognizes it in their bun image of us and that probably explains why the public is so shocked when we link with pornographers in intellectual freedom arguments. In reality we are censors, we always have been, in that our rule of access (get people the information they need) takes precedence even over archive. We spend constituents' funds to buy consortially the most of the best information we can. And that means not wasting any money on buying bad or useless or untrue information as we can. However, we still don't want to see any information vanish completely, explaining our intellectual freedom position as part of our commitment to archiving.
Our role must be the same for the Web, which has become the new tap, the new plumbing system for delivering information to homes and offices everywhere.
INSERT: Colin Powell story where he has eliminated all reference works from his office, saying all anyone needs is a good search engine, though he would not - as a federal employee -- reveal Google's name.
Collapse of traditional info structures that must be rebuilt anew
Buy or build
Advanced information technologies
SKILL SETS NEEDED
We have BIG problems and we need to apply BIG solution thinking.
LIFE LESSONS LEARNED
After graduating library school in 1966, Barbara Quint went to work at the RAND Corporation, where she spent close to twenty years, almost all of it as head of Reference Services. In the course of that employment, she began her career as an online searcher. From her experience in founding the Southern California Online Users Group (SCOUG) began her role as a “consumer advocate” for online searchers everywhere, a role which led her to leave familiar library work and become a leading writer and editor in the online trade press. In 1985, she began editing Database Searcher for the Meckler Corporation, which led in 1993 to her current position as editor-in-chief of Searcher Magazine for Information Today Inc. She has also spoken often at national and international meetings, writes the “Quint’s Online” column for Information Today, and operates her own information broker service, Quint and Associates.
As a vocal consumer advocate, she relishes controversy. In fact, a “wit-and-wisdom” book entitled the Quintessential Searcher, published in 2001, collected some of her lip-smacking relishings. Quint’s mantra has always been, “If online is the answer, what is the question?”