ALIA Dreaming 08 – Fri AM Plenary – Stephen Abram

Big Stuff – Library Challenges – Stephen Abram – Sirsi-Dynix Institute

We need to tell good stories – tell each other about the good things that happen, not the bad, which is what we usually do.

Stephen said that our stuff is awesome, we are in good standing amongst the libraries of the world. We need to let go of the nostalgia. Change has been really slow relatively speaking, especially compared to the baby busters. Big changes coming, which will be fun if you like riding a roller coaster.

What are we going to do to get good results for our users – how can we negate the skewed results of search engine optimisation – where anyone can make sure their content, true or not, lists high in results.

Some people have 40 year careers. Ensure it is 40 years of incrementally better years, not just the same thing year after year. Choose to make the difference. You need to put your meat in the game = professionals commit.

Libraries matter – the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grants is just one example. Stephen gave a long list of examples where librarians are making a real difference, doing things that get people connected to the net and to the information they need, saving money, saving lives, saving our culture and our history and so much more. We need to tell our government about the competitive edge that libraries give Australia. Who do you think built Yahoo – librarians were pulled in to make it work.

What is the competitive advantage we have in our environment? The difference between us the internet is us – sensitive, intelligent, helpful – we are not a list. Put ourselves out there, with photo and social networking profile. Show who we are as well as what we can do.

DREAM BIG – start small, but dream big.

We dont know every little moment of truth that happens in the library. We can be the human touch for people. We may never know the difference we make to each individual.

Democracies persist because of libraries. Its not coincidence that libraries are often the first casualty of war. Librarians protect freedom of information, giving access to all, regardless of what our opinion of it is – we are truly bipartisan.

We have to learn the things that are making a difference, improving service to our users. If you dont want to learn, then get out of the profession.

We are a global profession, a bottomless network. Every librarian has hundreds of moments of truth, where we fight for our freedom, save lives, cure disease, challenge poverty and ignorance. Not dreaming 08, but dreaming big. Say yes every chance you get, encourage others and dont get discouraged. Those who say it cant be done, get out of the way of those who are already doing the impossible.

We are about books, we dont have to advertise that, what we do need to advertise is that we have people who can help you with just about anything. Show who we are and what we can do.

Web 2.0 is about things you can do and people you know. When you go online do you see people you know. You need to be where your users are, otherwise you are on a march to irrelevance.

Stuff will change faster now – by 2020, all content ever created will fit on an iPod. Video games outsell most content combined, ringtones are huge! Pocket size devices will dominate, the devices coming out are about having ubiquitous access on your person.

New? Semantic web, the cloud, no choice search engines, GIS oriented search, virtually unlimited fulltext books, streaming media and spoken word search, personalisation 3.0, microblogging, registries and so much more.

Normal now is RSS, blogs, YouTube, social networks tagging, wikis, SEO and GIS. If libraries arent involved in that, then they are behind. Resist the library culture of poverty, victimisation, risk aversion and passive resistance. We have to pass the chasm of early adopters and into the space of early majority. We have a technology lifecycle, we have to get on the curve early and stay there.

If we dont get into social networking, then we are going to miss it when they progress to the next stage – this is just the tip of the iceberg.

So what should libraries be paying attention to? The user-centred universe, be more open to users paths. A few things to do right away – the time is now! Need to play, pilot, trial, experiment. Mobile is important, confirm your presence, be where your users are, how your presence appear – personal,, professional; get good at the cloud (where users are going), play at e-books, get serious at literacy (dont use that term for users) and check out XML, get serious about e-learning, care about our cultures, just expand, know that most physical objects are dead, get real about influence, the next generation content.

Humans are our competitive edge. Be open to lifelong learning, our careers have seasons, need to have reciprocal mentoring – peers, be important, we can invent the future and make a difference. Just have some fun! Dream big!


  1. Sounds inspirational and like you enjoyed this. How did the rest of the crowd take it?

  2. Kathryn,

    Im hearing comments from lots of people who were impressed and have been inspired by his talk, including me!

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