On Wednesday, 6th May 2009, I attended a CILIP East of England Information Sevices Group seminar entitled ‘Digital Native or Digitally Naive: Library and Information Services for the Next Generation’ – the focus of which was ‘What is the role of libraries when people already have access to everything?’ The day was very similar to the cpd25 event I attended last week (and topic of my last post), in that questions of relevance to ‘users’ (learners/customers etc.) and the role of the library and the librarian were the key focus. A number of very similar issues emerged: in particular, that of confidence and advocacy – how do we not only shout loudly about the added value we bring, but work strategically within our organisations to contribute to the delivery of that organisation’s wider agenda? Alison Wheeler, a Strategic Commissioner for Suffolk County Council (and former Head of Development for their library and information services), introduced and chaired the day. She spoke of the ‘moral imperative’ we have to provide services that:
- connect people with their communties;
- assist choices about healthcare;
- help people find ways to work, learn and spend their leisure time;
- be part of their community.
Libraries’ – and library staff’s – role in this will be as trusted intermediaries who signpost good and valid information, help people find and understand that information, and support marginalised people. Alison and a colleague visited us here at the University the following day, and it was fascinating to hear examples of the way Suffolk is already doing this in practice. For example, Suffolk were quick off the mark in establishing a ‘Credit Crunch Suffolk‘ website, with advice ranging from benefits to energy to free or cheap activities. Their Felixstowe library is also the first to have set up a Baby Cafe.
I was expecting the day to be more focused around the specific issue of the ‘Net Gen’ question (i.e. the digital natives/naives of the title); though this came up in a numebr of presentations (with mentions of the ‘Google generation’ study of 2008, and the recently commissioned study into the research behaviour of ‘Generation Y’), discussions were more general, about the possible role of libraries and librarians in the future (and, in fact, in the now).
The highlights of the day for me were the contributions from the four ‘new’ professionals, particularly Colin Higgins’ amuisng but insightful ’10 Reasons why Facebook and libraries don’t mix’ – ranging from its unreliability, to ownership of copyright to the simple fact that already, Facebook just isn’t cool any more… The discussions during the sessions and at the end of the day were also lively and interesting, covering the importance of library as physical space (this theme of libraries as social learning spaces is being addressed in a half-day seminar organised by CILIP in Kent on 27th May – details on the Kent pages of the CILIP South East Branch site); censorship and surveillance and the issue of school libraries. Earlier, Caroline Moss-Gibbons, Leader of CILIP Council (and a keen Twitterer) had outlined the role of CILIP in contributing to these ongoing debates about professionalism, and suggested that we need to adapt or face extinction (again, echoing themes from the Future of Libraries event last week). She welcomed suggestions and contributions to be sent to her or other members of Council – it seems to me that CILIP could usefully focus on school libraries in the future, now that they have proven themselves willing to intervene in the issue of public library closures such as those proposed in the Wirral.