In January I made the long train journey over to the University of Warwick, to attend and speak at the first day of a two-day JISC/SCONUL workshop exploring the future of library systems, under the banner of the “Squeezed Middle” – that is the LMS & other library systems, the bits of library infrastructure often overshadowed/squeezed out of the limelight by the twin heavyweights of Discovery & ERM.
Carrying on from the work done as part of the JISC/SCONUL Shared Services ‘LMS horizon scan‘ in 2008, this workshop points the way toward a new JISC call for ‘path finder’ projects addressing the future of LMSes, under the Information and Library Infrastructure: Emerging Opportunities programme: “you can’t do nothing any more”.
Thank you to Ben Showers of JISC for the invitation to speak at this event!
First, we were treated to a bit of virtual Lorcan Dempsey. In a video talk, he spoke about the trends facing academic libraries (a background of budget constraints, networked decentralisation of content vs. our tradition of vertically integrating services into the one building), and how libraries are re-examining our priorities under pressure, building more flexible spaces, making our expertise more visible, engaging with the network, etc.. Lorcan’s video will be made available via OCLC’s YouTube channel shortly.
Then to the bit of the workshop in which I was involved: a series of ‘provocations‘: radical, challenging visions for the future of library systems (by, say, the year 2020), designed to get the attendees thinking. David Kay of SERO, Ken Chad, and Paul Walk provided the other three visions.
I found it a struggle knowing quite where to ‘pitch’ my vision: it can be difficult to be provocative/radical enough without sounding like you don’t know what talking about. For possibly only the second time in my career I was careful to prefix my statement with “…this isn’t my employer’s opinion!”. I took quite a broad, scattergun approach (figuring if I was broad enough, I’d be bound to hit something…); for that reason I was pleased that some of my themes were echoed in Paul Walk’s Marshall Smith-esque sf/dystopian view of libraries in 2020, which he delivered through the “medium of fiction and the genre of bonkers”.
You can read my own provocation statement, “A vision for library systems in 2020“, on Google Docs.