SLA 2011: Stephen Abram on the future

Waking up to Stephen Abram’s thoughts on the future of information science is a great way to hit the ground running on a Monday morning.

“Librarians play a vital role in building the critical connections between information, knowledge, and learning.”

Younger people are different from us. Because of their exposure to video games and computer technology at early ages, their brains are wired differently from that of someone who hasn’t had those experiences. Their expectations are different. Their approaches to learning are different. How we should reach them is different.

People want meals, not the ingredients, when they’re asking about information. There’s more value in us giving someone a finished piece of work than there is just giving unconnected components. [IMHO, "finished" is different for different customers. Some would consider a meal to be a polished report while others might want a stack of articles they use to write a report.]

Stephen believes strongly that every librarian should be on Facebook and Twitter because of the popularity of those services. If we aren’t using them to reach people, we’re missing some important opportunities for interaction and proving our relevance. He did not distinguish between personal use and business use–i.e. whether he means libraries/librarians should use the services in an institutional way (your library should tweet and be on Facebook) or he means if librarians themselves aren’t personally on Facebook and Twitter they’re irrelevant. Statistics indicate 95% of Toronto’s population (aged 14-65) use these services, while only 30% of librarians do.

We shouldn’t focus so much on labeling people as information illiterate but instead work on educating them and be helpful without worrying about gaps in their knowledge.

He showed a birds-eye view of a grocery store packed full of products, admitted he hates grocery shopping and doesn’t do it unless his wife sends him, then discusses how overwhelming it can be to someone unfamiliar with grocery stores. Many people looking for information feel this way. They need someone like us who can give them a list and specific locations.

Info professionals should focus on quality more than revenue (to some extent). On the Web, too many companies are doing things, changing things, stacking pages and results because of money, who’s paying them. Let’s not be dirty like that. Let’s help people navigate around those quagmires, inform them of commercial connections.

Traditional means of learning doesn’t work for many very bright people, like Stephen’s daughter. He showed us a bunch of her designs, jewelry, and clothes and explained how she’s amazing, then told us she is not a text-based learner. She struggled through primary school, but exploded into creativity once she hit college when she could be who she really is instead of conforming to someone else’s educational path.

About 2/3 of students want some kind of technology in their learning.

Stephen wants to become mayor of the conference on FourSquare.

Strategy is a choice. We shouldn’t feel like we’re victims, but do what we can to embrace these changes and learn how to use them to our advantage.

Electronic books will be less about making books digital and more about presenting stories and information electronically.

Stephen said his slides are available on his site Stephen’s Lighthouse, but it’s not immediately obvious to me where they are. I did, however, find two other bits worth mentioning here: 62% of information workers already work remotely and how airlines are using social media, particularly to handle customer issues.

Be Sociable, Share!