on generation flux and what it means for librarians …

Fast Company published a really interesting article called, This Is Generation Flux: Meet the Pioneers of the New (And Chaotic) Frontier of Business. Absolutely, a must read for anyone who is an educator. (As an aside, it features Danah Boyd, one of my online idols). Fascinating stuff!  The main crux of the article is that the world is changing and those who will thrive in the new economy will be those who best deal with conditions that are chaotic. Some interesting snippets:

“…Just five years ago, three companies controlled 64% of the smartphone market: Nokia, Research in Motion, and Motorola.  Today, two different companies are at the top of the industry: Samsung and Apple.  This sudden complete swap in the pecking order of a global multibillion-dollar industry is unprecedented.”

“Any business that ignores these transformations does so at its own peril.  Despite recession, currency crises, and tremors of financial instability, the pace of disruption is roaring ahead.  The frictionless spread of information and the expansion of personal, corporate, and global networks have plenty of room to run.”

“When business people search for the right forecast–the road map and model that will define the next era–no credible long-term picture emerges.  There is one certainty, however.  The next decade or two will be defined more by fluidity than by any settled paradigm; if there is a pattern to all this, it is that there is not patter.  The most valuable insight is that we are, in a sense, in a time of chaos.”

“Within GE, she says, “our traditional teams are too slow.  We’re not innovating fast enough. We need to systematize change.”

“Future-focus is a signature trait of Generation Flux.  It is also an imperative for business: Trying to replicate what worked yesterday only leaves you vulnerable.”

Boy, you would think that with quotes like that, we’d all be feeling apoplectic.  Well … I don’t.

I think because I am a librarian, flux is a state of being to which I have become accustomed. It hasn’t always felt good to be in flux, but the upside is that it has given those of us who have survived a bit of a head start on the rest of the field.  A few months ago, Doug Johnson over at the Blue Skunk Blog re-posted what he calls a blast from the past called, “BFTP: Librarian-Proofing Library Programs.” The gist is that we, as a profession, need to aspire to a reach a point where if a librarian isn’t adding value to an institution, he/she can be replaced without the community entertaining thoughts of eliminating the program.  Think about it, if a biology teacher is ineffective, administrators think about replacing the individual but they never consider dropping science from the curriculum.  When a librarian is ineffective, however, frequently thoughts along the lines “everything is on Google, maybe we don’t need a librarian …” come into play.

I have the wonderful luxury of working for a head librarian who gets flux and change and being “future-focused.”  By no means are we a “cutting-edge library” but look for trends, read the tea leaves and get our ducks in a row so that when we need to move we can do it quickly and (hopefully) well.  Eleven years ago when I got my first job as a librarian we very much were all about providing access to print information and content.  I realized a few days ago, that while we still work to provide access to content in many forms the reality is that more of what we do in our library is about evaluation and “finding the stuff that’s good” rather than just getting eyeballs onto content–any content.  We have gotten here, though, through evolution rather than revolution.  Because librarians can’t ever assume that our value add to an institution is a foregone conclusion, we always have to actively seek ways to add value to our institutions.  This means change. This is good!  And in many ways, for librarians, this is good fortune!!!

I once had a discussion with a teacher of a subject area that is a core subject in virtually every high school in the country.  This teacher, from a very well regarded institution, was unable to identify ANY aspect of technology that might be relevant to teaching in their discipline.  This, in a field where I could think of at least five was to integrate technology off the top of my head.

Really … In the world as it is today, she who chooses to not seek opportunity from the chaos invites vulnerability and I don’t plan on being the one that is vulnerable!


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