Weather Report: Blustery Air Coming Down from the Taiga

The Taiga Forum, a group of associate deans/directors/AULs from large academic libraries that “challenges the traditional boundaries of libraries,” has released their 2011 list of “Provocative Statements.” These statements are meant to, in their words, “provoke conversation rather than attempt to predict the future.” However, Barbara Fister notes in an excellent commentary in Library Journal that:

“there’s a subtle difference between being ‘provocative’ and merely ‘provoking.’ These statements do provoke, but not always constructively.”

The Taiga group, a title sounding more in common with the NRDC or other environmental groups, is named for the coniferous forest region between the tundra and deciduous forests–I looked this up in my “ample” free time as I’m not supposed to have a job anymore–at least according to one of their 2006 predictions: Reference…librarians will no longer exist. The track record for the 2006 predictions, which should have come into being now 5 years later, is not exactly “spot on.” Jenica Rogers provides an good overview of this.

So, looking at the 20011 list of statements, what do we have coming our way in academic libraryland?

1. Organizational Structures Flatten
Why not start by eliminating the Associate Dean/Director/AUL positions? I kid! I kid!

2. Radical Cooperation
Highly possible, especially in larger cities with multiple universities. I could also see outsourcing of processing (cataloging, acquisitions)–not that I’m in favor of it. I wonder what sort of restrictions vendors will place on libraries wanting to collaborate for purchases. And will any $$$ be saved in the long run?

3. Collaborative Space Partners
This is not new. Libraries have already been doing this! Smart libraries have already incorporated writing centers, tutoring centers, instructional technology help, multimedia labs, etc. into their spaces. “One stop shopping” is beneficial for all constituents: students, faculty, and the library.

4. Books as Decor
Really? This is what was discussed? Time to turn off the HGTV.

5. No More Collection Building
Our collections represent our constituents. Collection building will continue–maybe not at the pace it has, but it will continue. Our faculty would not approve of not building the collection.

6. New Model of Liaison Librarianship
I can see the usefulness of a position like this–and many libraries now devote time to institutional repositories. I’m a little concerned about being in “research data management” – is this something we’d be doing for our faculty? Sounds like something a Grad Asst. or TA should be doing.

7. Staff Reallocation, Elimination, and Re-training
I agree with one of the comments–does sound awfully Orwellian. Good libraries have always been re-assessing what they do and adapting their services to meet the needs of their users. Please do not make it sound like you’re sending me off Guantanamo.

8. Library in the Cloud
With the exception of printed books in the library, most services are already “in the cloud” – databases, online requests, research help, etc… What’s the big deal?

9. Boutique Services
What exactly counts as a “boutique service”? Doesn’t the idea of #6 count a “boutique service”?

10. Oversupply of MLSs
Too many MLSs and not enough jobs. I’ve been hearing this since library school in the early 2000s. Tell me something new.