Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Conference notes LAC 2012: Plenary I (Lombardi Keynote)

Plenary I: Keynote.
Date: October 29, 2012, 9:30am session.
Speaker: Professor John V. Lombardi.
Topic: "Living in the Cloud: Who Owns It, Who Pays for It, Who Keeps it Safe and Will My Kids Inherit the Wind?"

(Any personal impressions or additions I will put in parenthesis. Otherwise, these are my notes as I heard them).

  • The cloud is not quite there yet.
  • Scholars and administrators look to the library more in terms of online resources, and they call on librarians more for support (from things like how to log in to a database from off campus to how to use a database). 
  • Some guidance on this: 
    • The old game is over. 
    • Going alone is not really an option. There is need then for consortia and other forms of collaboration. 
    • Initiatives to digitize everything need to be funded. Anything no digitized in ten years or so won't be real. (I thought that last remark was provocative, but I got the impression to most everyone in the room this was a given. Maybe I am thinking research in some cases may not be as thorough if scholars can't access certain things because they do not "exist," and the scholars then do not know how to find them. In this context I am thinking of a colleague of mine who is a music librarian, a field of endeavor where a lot of material is still in archives and where you do have to know where and how to look past Google.And that is just one example). 
    • Librarians must engage in preservation. 
    • Librarians and libraries need to keep taking on copyright issues. Ownership is crucial. (Personally, I've always said that we need a few people with cojones to actually go to court and challenge those who keep restricting copyright more and more. First sale doctrine should mean exactly that. However, I just don't see our profession being that kind of people. More often than not our profession prefers to make nice and "be civil.").
    • Libraries must embrace and redefine special collections. 
    • Libraries must develop the rhetoric to tell their stories. Lead in digital collaboration and access, keeping curation and access to unique collections. 
    • Abandon the idea of the teaching function. This does not yield prestige. Move to spend digital money and get power. (This definitely irked me, and from the looks of some responses on the Twitter hashtag for the conference. I am just linking to the hashtag. Feel free to browse it. Anyhow, for me, it may well be that, in addition to the fact that I do believe in the mission of teaching libraries, that I am not looking for prestige. Then, there is the idea that even if you were to put it all online, someone still may have to teach people how to find it, use it, evaluate, so on. Our teaching function is not going away no matter what some guru says.). 
    • Librarians need to be supporting commons, coffee shops, etc. (I am not even adding or commenting to this). 
    • Participate in every single game. Be at decision points. (To an extent, it does sound like giving up on some principles in order to become IT gurus, but that is what he said. I do agree with the idea of being at decision points, but we can't be everywhere. Learning to choose battles, thinking in strategic terms may well serve us better than trying to cover everything.). 
Some notes from the Q&A:

  •  For non-research universities, the primary challenger is other education providers, such as the for-profit schools. (This reminded me of the book I recently read, Generation on a Tightrope and whether one makes a stand on bricks or clicks. This is making a stand on clicks).
  • Open Access (OA) and open publishing as solution? It is a great idea, and we'll see more. Professor Lombardi is not sure if it is a solution yet. There is a lack of a stable and effective model (I wonder what some OA advocates and experts would say to this). It is how quality is defined and knowing if you have quality or not, if you have a carefully calibrated competitive item. This is what it is about; it is not so much about access itself. OA has to "function within the guild." Also, "crowdsourcing is not going to work." We have to ensure a quality infrastructure.
    • (Here is another doozy): Tenure is a 35-year investment on a small chunk of information, whether it is good or not. Investment in faculty members is the key in making a university good, NOT the library. 
  • Skills to develop: 
    • We need someone who can speak clearly to articulate what we do. Tell the story. What is the library's leverage point? (I don't think we are lacking people who can speak/write clearly to articulate what we do. There are plenty of high profile, articulate librarians who blog that you can go look up to for an example. Yes, I do mean some other blogs. Maybe as a profession we need to, again, think more strategically and collaborate more on telling the story, but it is not due to a lack of articulate librarians. Maybe in terms of presenters, and bloggers, we need more voices than the usual, already well-known voices. Just a thought). 
    • Learn to mobilize your constituency. Note that faculty often complain individually. 
    • Be able to talk the technotalk. It does not mean you become a technocrat (funny he says this now. See above. However, I do agree we do have to be able to speak the language. I mean, how else can we tell the tech guys what it is our library users need?). 
    • Be able to write and present. When you write, people have to respond (this does assume you write publicly). 
    • You always have to fight about the money. Money differentiates who is good or not on campus. Be there when people talk budget. (In other words, money does make the world go round. I do think it is a sad comment that it all boils down to money and who has it when it comes to who is "good" or not. By the way, "good" here may not mean what Dr. Lombardi and others think it means).

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