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Re: Charleston Presentation: Rick Anderson & Future Librarians

As Ann said:

> A news report doesn't always get the content or tone completely 
> right, and Rick will correct me or supplement the report.

LJ's reporter not only failed to get the tone completely right, 
he also misquoted me in several cases and left out enough context 
to make me sound even crazier and more crotchety than I really 

So in the spirit of correcting and clarifying the record:

> 1.  Every book ever published?  That's a really big job -- the
>    long tail of obscure, rare, odd, and local-interest material
>    is just immense.  Could we settle for 99%?

What the report left out was my (fairly lengthy) explanation that 
by saying we should strive to get our patrons "every book (and 
article, and data set) ever published," I was talking explicitly 
about an unattainable goal.  Of course we can't make every 
document ever published available to our patrons -- but a goal 
doesn't have to be attainable in order to be useful.  In the 
talk, I think I put it this way: "We navigate by the North Star 
not because we think we're going to get to the North Star, but 
because doing so keeps us pointing in the right direction."  My 
point was that instead of setting "building a great collection" 
as our goal, I think we should set "give our patrons everything 
they need as quickly and as easily as possible" as our goal.

> 2.  Even if we do that, it's a small part of our job.  When one
>    works in a library, one knows well the challenges of serving
>    one's constituency:  every library has a specific group of
>    people and interests we are charged to serve.  Our readers
>    need us now more than ever and will go on needing us in many
>    ways.  We are likely to create in our libraries more
>    positions with a job description (now at Yale and other
>    institutions) of "personal librarian" and will have fewer or
>    none of some other categories, but that's good news.
>    Standing at the boundary where the user works and the world
>    of information she or he needs to use is a challenging,
>    interesting, and worthy place.

No arguments here (or in my presentation), though I would add one 
note: we need to be careful not to assume that just because our 
users need us, they will necessary register that need and act on 
it.  If they don't believe they need us, the fact that they 
arguably really do won't make much difference to our future.

> 3.  We have a duty here.  A larger or smaller number of our
>    constituents, students, citizens, whomever, aren't able to
>    afford the kind of access to information that they need, and
>    it has long been libraries' mission to be the watchdogs and
>    activitsts for "equal opportunity readership".  That job's
>    not going away, especially in a world increasingly aimed at
>    the reader as "consumer."

I don't think there was anything in my presentation that could be 
construed as being in opposition to this point.  In fact, I think 
it's wholly congruent with the thrust of my presentation -- not 
that you would necessarily glean that from LJ's piece.

> 4.  There are other tasks that don't vanish or get easier or
>    less important.  Just take preservation -- whether for
>    analog materials or e-materials.  Both are challenging jobs,
>    and libraries have a role in making sure they are done.
>    With e-materials, the preservation task begins even before
>    the material exists and reaches us, as we set up the
>    protocols of publishing and display.

My presentation really didn't address issues related to 
preservation -- an important topic, but a separate one.  In the 
limited time I had, I was focusing more on 
circulating-collection-type issues, though I did touch briefly on 
what I think will be an increasingly bold division in the future 
between the library's roles as preservation agent and information 
broker, which I see as fundamentally different (though not 
completely unrelated) roles.

> 5.  Last of all, we've a lot of work in building special
>    collections -- those unique gatherings of materials that are
>    meaningful and understood when they're together in one place
>    - and that need special care and attention.

Yup.  See above.

As luck would have it, the slides from my presentation include 
fairly extensive notes that do a pretty good job of summarizing 
what I actually said.  If anyone would like a copy, send me a 
note off-list and I'll be happy to provide them.  In any case, I 
do hope that LIBLICENSE readers who weren't there won't judge my 
Charleston presentation based solely on LJ's report.

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson
Assoc. Dir. for Scholarly Resources & Collections
Marriott Library
Univ. of Utah
Office: (801)587-9989
Cell: (801) 721-1687