Librarians Exert Quiet Influence Behind the Scenes


In preparation for my talk at the American Library Association conference in Las Vegas, NV on June 30th, I have been following the lead of my hosts and doing my research. It has been quite a learning journey so far.

The division that has invited me is called ALCTS  (pronounced “Alects”),  The Association for Library Collections and Technical Services. Their President, Genevieve Owens, is a true introverted leader who uses her quiet strengths to direct the Williamsburg, VA Regional Library. She told me ALCTS members are involved with Cataloging and Metadata, Acquisition and Ordering, Collecting and Managing Materials and Preservation.

Some of you may remember the blog post I wrote last year called Libraries (Quietly) Rock  about an encounter with a wonderful Archivist named Maxine Ducey (now retired) at The University of Wisconsin Center for Theater and Film Research. She was the careful guardian of  my Dad, Alvin Boretz’s script collection for  50 years.  Dad depended on librarians in a pre-internet age. They were his true research partners. These fine professionals will always have a special place in my heart for this and many other reasons. And as I learn more about the complex challenges today’s librarians face, my admiration only increases.

In my phone conversations with them, several have described their “behind the scenes roles.” David Miller, Head of Technical Services for the Levin Library at Curry College in Milton, MA  told me, “Our outcome is not visible. Like in theater, no one sees the designers and technicians but without them, the event doesn’t happen.” It seems to me that these professionals are the best example of Quiet Influence, making a real difference without a lot of fanfare.

Librarians are fighting for relevancy and want more tools to do so, Genevieve told me. Resources are not free and staff are needed to help us navigate the many data bases out there. Have you noticed coffee bars in libraries and community events taking place in your local library? These are all designed to meet the public where they are. The ALCTS members also told me that the biggest change is the shift to Linked Data and Metadata. New skill sets are needed for this movement away from the traditional catalog. In a day of tight budgets librarians are asking, “What practices do we want to keep?”  “What can be abandoned to build the collections we want? The library is a “growing organism,” David Miller said.

In a future post, I will share what librarians really like about being research librarians. Stay tuned and tell me what your experience has been with librarians. I would love to hear about it.


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