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NYLA Conference – A Library Student’s Perspective

by on November 29, 2012

From November 8-10th, one of the largest groups of students from Syracuse University in recent history, approximately twenty in all, attended the annual conference for the New York Library Association. Why the high student turnout?  I would posit that as future professionals, we are highly concerned about the direction of our vocation. Librarianship is in a state of flux: budgets continue to be slashed even as usage statistics continue to rise. How can we stem the tide of the former, so that we can continue to provide the best possible solutions to our communities?  This is an issue that will not be easily solved, and as prospective librarians, we students wish to take a proactive part in determining the future of librarianship.

One of the sessions was Creating the Future: A 2020 Vision Plan for Library Services in New York State. In this working session, small groups discussed which of sixty initiatives, some general and some focused on specific types of libraries, were the most important. The consensus was that it was most important to improve the marketing of library services to all clientele and communities by rebranding libraries, while addressing the erroneous perceptions about the need for libraries in a digital world. In other words, can we make library services relevant to current non-users? Equally important: how can we make people who do not go to the library aware of the great contributions libraries are already making to their community?

One potential route was discussed in a different session, Grassroots Advocacy 101 presented by Christian Zabriskie and Rebekkah Smith Aldrich.  Zabriskie is a founder of Urban Librarians Unite (ULU), an advocacy group that has staged a number of  events in support of libraries. He discussed important considerations that often are not considered by library advocates, including gaining the appropriate permits, making events child-friendly,gaining the participation of youths, and making sure to include the media in your events. Finally, he gave examples of several of the events organized by ULU, including hugging New York Public Library and the Zombie walk over Brooklyn Bridge.

I would like to end this piece through a theme that I hope I will be able to connect to future blog posts. I will call them the three goals of librarianship (not because they are the sum total of our goals, but because I think they provide an interesting frame for me to view different issues): present, translate, and inspire. In order to maintain our vitality we must reach new target audiences and we cannot do this  using antiquated methods. How, where, and to whom we present value to will be one of the great challenges for current and future librarians. Second, we must be able to translate our skills to meet diverse needs of our communities.  Finally, it is not enough to merely meet needs, as David Lankes, has noted, the future of librarianship is in our ability to support the dreams and aspirations of our community. We must bring energy and vitality to our community to prove our commitment to bringing their own aspirations to fruition.