Event review: Future Ready panel at #ILI2011

Sam Wiggins, law librarian and one of the 2011 SLA Europe ECCA winners, reviews SLA Europe’s panel session on Future Ready at ILI last week.

In connection with Internet Librarian International held last week in London, SLA Europe hosted a panel session on this year’s topic of ‘future ready’, kindly sponsored by Ebsco. The panel session featured two of SLA’s Rising Stars, one in the shape of the evening’s Chair, Sara Batts, the other MIMAS’ Bethan Ruddock. Ulla de Stricker joined us all the way from Canada, and self-confessed shambrarian, Dave Pattern of the University of Huddersfield completed what was a fantastic line up.

The evening was designed to get us talking and thinking about issues, as well as listening to the panel’s thoughts – a topic was introduced, mooted between the panel members and then passed to the floor for further discussion amongst our (busy) tables (it was a full house!) to allow us to pose questions back to the panel for further contemplation.

The topics were grouped around three key areas:

  1. What are you doing to become future ready?
  2. What do you see as barriers to becoming future ready?
  3. What skills do we need to become future ready?

Rather than go into too much detail of everything that was discussed I will try and pluck out a few of the few key messages that were put across; both by the panel and the audience.

With regard to becoming future ready, we need to ensure that we are ready to accept change – it was pointed out that the profession is nearing a tipping point where many senior librarians and information professionals are coming to retirement age. This means a shift up the job ladder as new vacancies filter down through the rungs. As we embark into new roles, we need to ensure that an eye is kept on where we wish to be in the distant future, not just the short term, to ensure that we do not pigeon hole ourselves into a position and restrict the development of skills that will enable us to move forward further down the line.

An idea that hopefully will be familiar to many was broached – we need to ensure that we align ourselves to those who hold the purse strings to ensure that budgets and services do not receive drastic cuts. Ulla expertly pointed out that one way in which this can be implemented is by trying to narrow the skills gap between librarians and managers.

Several barriers were mentioned within the information profession. Most certainly the best sound byte of the evening, and one I certainly hope to see repeated at length within libraries everywhere was made by Dave Pattern; users should not have to become mini-librarians to access the information they need. As resources become increasingly online, librarians need to ensure that a commitment to easily accessible information remains; we must not safeguard positions by acting as gatekeepers to information but by ensuring that we are seen to make knowledge navigable and simple to use.

It was great to meet such a wide, varied and international bunch of people at the panel session – it truly meant that ‘International’ section of the conference was justified! I look forward to the next evening, and hope to see some new members of SLA Europe there!