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Monday, April 06, 2009

Statements Provocative and Otherwise: The Taiga 4

My plan was to discuss both the Taiga 4 and Darien statements, and then to offer my own statements on libraries, but that turned into a monster of a post, so I’m breaking it up. Today, my take on Taiga, that harbor of AUL and ADs, the invite-only crowd that purports to decree the future of libraries five years hence, and puts its statements out in, you guessed it (or clicked on it), pdf format. How very futuristic.

The Taiga 4 Provocative Statements are just that. Provocative statements. Note that they didn’t say *what* they were looking to provoke. I mean, hell, Jerry Springer is provocative, but that doesn’t mean I think about it in the shower, or during my workday. A few items:

Item 2: “… collection development as we now know it will cease to exist as selection of patron materials will be entirely patron-initiated.” I find this fascinating, especially fiven that these are ginormous ole ARL folks. Really? You’d entrust building your academic collection to the handful of faculty who are on the ball about it? Funny, at my last university, we gave faculty a pot of money for their departments to deal with faculty requests as separate from the subject liaison collection money. Inevitably, we had to spend their money too, since faculty were too busy doing faculty things to actually request their own materials. What a great way to lead to an imbalanced collection. Not holding my breath.

Item 3, the one where they state that Google will meet all user info needs for students and researchers, has been inexplicably stricken out. So really, the final draft has 9 statements and an “oops.”

Item 5: “…libraries will have given up on the “outreach librarian” model after faculty persistently show no interest in it.” Hm, maybe you’re doin’ it wrong. I know quite a few outreach and liaison librarians who garner high praise from faculty. Then again, a lot of these are at the 1,500 – 15,000 FTE level, which apparently don’t count to Taiga. So much for all those faculty and students excited to learn how to use databases efficiently and improve their research models. Pshah.

Item 6: “…libraries will provide no in-person services.” *sigh* I’ve worked both in Access & Delivery and in Reference and Instruction. I wonder how often these taiga folks actually walk through their libraries instead of heading straight for the admin suite where there is nary a patron to be found. Yes, many services may be supported by technology, but completely unmediated? Doubt it. iPhones aren’t quite that ubiquitous, and they’re assuming no learning curve for any of their patrons. Not everyone shows up fully tech-ready for the post-2.0 world, and 5 years isn’t enough for me to agree this is likely.

Item 10: “…University administrators will see that librarians do not have the skills they need and will hire leaders from other parts of the academy…” Fascinating. No discussion of what those skills are, or how dynamos like Jenica Rogers-Urbanek (new Director of Libraries at SUNY-Potsdam as of July) are up and coming rock stars, or how library deans like Theresa Liedtka at UTC’s Lupton Library scrap for scarce funds and treat both their librarians and the university faculty and student bodies extraordinarily well on a shoestring budget. Again, as non-ARL spots, those directors don’t count. No, we are obviously ill-equipped, what all with the way we as librarians work under budget constraints with not enough staff, keep up with professional development and learning new technologies on our own time, teach, and try to make our libraries more efficient, user-friendly, and prepared for the future. Silly us. We should be doing more hand-wringing, or becoming bureaucrats in other areas of the academy if we want a leadership shot.

There’s nothing in these statements that speaks to the value or value-add of librarianship, not much that’s helpful with regards to the future of the academic library. No collection development, no in-person services, no outreach to faculty and students – which by extension means no instruction, licensing done by campus admin and not librarians, library buildings as giant commons, and no librarians being seen as useful enough to promote to directorships. Well, that's a hell of a way to sell the profession: "FYI: In 5 years, you're useless. Kthxbai!" There’s no mention at all about how we can best serve our users or adapt to changing economic, physical, and staffing landscapes– just that we’re not going to be able to since we’ll have been digested by bureaucracy.

In my estimation, if these “provocative” statements were intended to initiate a meaningful discussion about the future of academic libraries, they have failed miserably. All they’ve done is point out how little these AULs and ADs understand about the day to day workings of the library, how little they care to invest in their own people, and how little they think we shape our future. And what a grim opinion those AULs and ADs have of the professionals they work with - such talentless and skill-deprived folks that they don't see them in leadership positions. That's a damned shame - and damned untrue, from what I've seen of the many talented librarians I know and would be happy to work with and for.

Dear Taiga 4 folks: Your bitter is showing. Better watch that! *wink*

**Coming soon: a response/reflection on the Darien Statements, and then a statement of my own on libraries and librarianship.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

you're thinking too local in considering that collection development by patron request means giving $$ to faculty to make selection decisions. it can mean more effort put in exposing the world of possibilities, beyond local collections of any size, and putting systems in place to deliver immediately or pretty darn fast. this is the direction we're seeing at Michigan and with others putting together slick POD systems in collaboration with publishers.

Colleen said...

I wouldn't argue that it's notimportant to let the collection be shaped by our patrons. But if you consider that the Taiga 4 is addressing academic libraries specifically, if you let the collection be *entirely* driven by patrons (which is what the statement says), then an academic library's collection would end up lacking the depth it needs to support true research. And while it's true that POD is up and coming and will likely be a great service, waiting until folks ask - and only picking up what they ask for - will still leave important gaps in a collection.

Giving faculty money for selection isn't the only way to create a patron-driven collection, no. And I wouldn't argue overmuch with the benefits of POD. My argument is more against the statement that building a collection *SOLELY* based on requests is a lackluster idea for major academic institutions.