Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Statement for TLA Secretary election

The last decade has witnessed dramatic upheaval in the creation, publication, and dissemination of information. These changes have occurred  during a particularly difficult fiscal climate for libraries of every size and type. The escalated need to keep up to date and the reductions in available resources have collided with the library’s natural resistance to change. As a result libraries today face increasing difficulty providing patrons with the content they want in the form that they desire. The path forward for libraries is via professional training, addressing fiscal problems, and opening ourselves to a culture of change.

Keeping up with changes to existing systems can be difficult enough, then add widely accepted advances in consumer technology and libraries find patrons asking questions about devices, operating systems, and applications that may be only hours old. On top of recent changes in patron attitudes and expectations, add vendor mergers that have resulted in changes to widely used products such as NetLibrary, and libraries are constantly reacting to forces outside the library. Continual training is a concern.

This decade has also seen near-universal cuts to library funding as new technologies and products have become widely available and accessible. These new technologies are altering business models for content creators, who are increasingly finding that their best option is to charge libraries exponentially higher fees to access content in new formats. Budget cuts and price increases have forced libraries to make tough choices about providing content. The answer for libraries is often providing content in fewer available formats for the first time. Fiscal issues caused by reduced income and new needs are a concern.

Several years ago I attended a small conference on change in a specialized field of librarianship. I was very surprised that the conference drew attendees from all over the country. When I said this to a small group, they mentioned that there were many more potential participants but those who did not want to accept the coming changes simply did not show up. I was shocked that professionals would not attend a conference directly related to important changes in their daily work simply because it meant accepting that change was coming. Addressing change is a concern.

Tennessee libraries know these issues all too well, but are positioned to made great advances on the path forward. I am honored to be nominated for TLA Recording Secretary and, if elected, I look forward to working with the Executive Committee and the membership for Tennessee libraries.

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