CIL2017 – Upping Your Game

The second day of the Computers in Libraries conference started off with a great keynote from Cultural Analyst, Patricia Martin.  She has done a lot of research around our modern culture and some of the trends we are facing.  To start this project she talked about how she was hired by someone in NASA who did public outreach, and was trying to find out why the generation today didn’t seem to care about space exploration anymore.  She asked him why he thought that was, and his answer was “I wonder if we are still ambitious as a people”.  This is a pretty profound statement, and one that I have to say I have wondered as well.

Patricia took this and talked about her five year research and some of the things she has found.  She talked about identity, and how, in our digital age, people are facing an identity crisis.  Before we used to see identity like a yardstick, go to school, get a job, a career, build a family, but not things change so quickly that identity is more like a rope, with strands as opposed to a straight line like we used to think of it.  The things that used to form our identity do not have the relevance they once had.

She then discussed how this impacts institutions, and how the institutions that only confer status and not identity are in the decline.  But an institution that can confer identity is poised to do great things.  People are going through an identity crisis as they try to find themselves, and seek self validation from other sources, such as social media, Facebook, etc.

Libraries, as institutions, can do great things if they can make the patron experience more about self discovery, and less about books and materials.  A great quote that Patricia said that stuck with me was, “Nobody needs more information, they are overwhelmed.  What communities do need is to heal, to be able to look ahead”.  This shows that a library in touch with their community, creating a place of self discovery, can do great things and become extremely relevant.  For the next wave for institutions is to become part of someone’s life.

I think Patricia’s presentation was great as she summed up a lot of what I have seen in our culture as well, and how libraries are in a position to make great change, if they meet the people where they are.

Patricia ended her presentation with the following:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.  – Antoine de Saint-Exupery