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ABOUT THE LECTURE:
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)
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
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
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!
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
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
Collapse of traditional info structures that must be rebuilt
- scholarly publishing Yay! Glad to see challenge to their
extortionate pricing, but Uh-oh! Where are the archiving, peer
review, abstracting/indexing substitutes?
- GPO/OMB no Yay! All UH-OH!
- print publishing, except books, but even there leisure reading
may last longer than technical material
Dominant but unstable info structures that must be stabilized
- Google's un-business model, should we buy Google as a profession?
- Dot-gone era. How many of us had learned to rely on Northern
Light as a search engine? Bye-bye.
- Blogs as news streams, but where archiving, where control
Buy or build
- Acquire Google in toto
- Acquire/apply Google technology to quality Web sites, e.g.
those used in digital reference such as QuestionPoint
- consortia, all libraries are by nature buying consortia
- merged reference (and I do mean beyond QuestionPoint, broadest
imaginable and then broader) critical for number of reasons:
- efficiency in getting right questions to right answerers
and quicker/better answers to questioners
- management knowledge to know what needs answering, looking
for patterns of perceived need as well as perceptions of
holes in the perception of our ability to answer needs
- better answers = layers of understanding matched against
layers of ignorance, educational tools built into reference
- resource planning, from instructing vendors what needs
doing to building our own reference tools
- new funding options open up if librarians treat constituents
as "subscribers" or "pre-paid customers"
and non-constituents as pay-per-view or retail subscribers
Advanced information technologies
- we may not necessarily be able to use the technologies ourselves,
but we must know enough to know what is possible and where to
find enough information to use the technologies.
- Technology assessment should become a specialized skill in
our profession like cataloging, a persistent category like an
ALA roundtable or division.
- all levels, from office politics to the United Nations with
a quick stop in Washington to settle federal information policies.
- consortia building, seeking structures beyond existing geographic
boundaries, e.g. subscription libraries or alliance $$$; e.g.
world's largest library applying the Amazon.com model to ILL
- vendor instruction - good timing now to get vendors to build
what we need the way we need it.
SKILL SETS NEEDED
- Basic technological skills - database building, word processing,
spreadsheet, Web site duties. In case we don't make it, we'll
need these skills to get other jobs.
- Core specific technological skills - We as a profession MUST
comprehend any technology that can weigh truth over falsehood
(e.g. Google's algorithms for popularity and beyond). We as
a profession MUST comprehend any technology that serves as platform
for content exchange (e.g. e-mail/lists/blogs/ webcasting/anything
- Legal background - intellectual property, management regulations,
etc.; solid enough so that no one can deceive us into thinking
we may not do what we know we should.
- Networking skills - I'm not speaking of Intranets, but of
people networks, e.g. experts, contacts, allies. And not just
cooperative networks, we must learn assertiveness, not just
accommodation. As Emily Mobley of Purdue once told me, "I
learned more on the streets of Detroit about how to handle scholarly
publishers than I ever did in library school."
- Networking skills - Now I do mean Intranets et al.. One must
make techie connections if one is not a techie oneself.
- Pro-active approach to library work, e.g. seek multiple pay-offs,
double/triple value. Look at tasks from multiple angles.
- Apply Return-On-Investment (ROI) thinking, NOT survival thinking.
Sunshine budget your time, resources, and commitments.
- Out of the box thinking - full chain analysis. Where does
the information come from? Where does it go? Where does it end
up? Where doesn't it end up when maybe it should? First the
vision. We'll worry about the money and the business model later.
- Universal knowledge base - What is it that all librarians
know how to do? What can any non-librarian expect to get from
us? For example, in the past, that meant tracking books and
journals, cataloging, indexing; in the nearer past, it included
online searching of commercial databases, database structures;
in the future (aka the present) it means how to use the Web
effectively and safely, including e-commerce and where to get
the best data for the best price.
We have BIG problems and we need to apply BIG solution thinking.
LIFE LESSONS LEARNED
- You're only a small fish if you think you're a small fish.
- Your life is a work in progress and the earlier you think
of it as a whole, the sooner you'll get to work on it;.
- The only thing you cannot afford to lose is time. As John
Lennon said, "Life is what happens while you're making
- The loveliest accomplishment in life is to do good AND to
- But even if you don't pull that off, as G. K. Chesterton said,
"A thing worth doing is worth doing badly."
- And finally, as they say here in Southern California, "What
the hell!? They can kill you, but they can't eat you!"
- So, GO FOR IT!!
ABOUT THE SPEAKER:
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 Quints 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. Quints mantra has always been, If online
is the answer, what is the question?