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The Future of the Librarians

by on December 30, 2016

In looking back over many years, I’ve been involved with continuing education programs for MBO (Management by Objectives), TQM (Total Quality Management), BPM (Business Process Management), QMP (Quality Management Process), Quality Circles, SoPK (Demming theory of management, The System of Profound Knowledge), and TRIZ, (a problem-solving, analysis and forecasting tool). Along the way these methods were all about “Strategic Planning” or finding and optimizing conflicts. After all these acronyms became passé, we were inundated with books about how to become a leader. Cynically, my favorite title is How to become a Leader for Dummies.

Throughout the years, I’ve found these ‘methods’ are always little more than a variety of helpful steps or formulas to help owners and managers formulate a direction for an organization, or person, for the future. A Boeing engineer once asked me what skills potential recruits will need to learn for the future aerospace industry. Researching the futurist literature, the only thing seemingly pertinent was something I read (irretrievable) in The Futurist Magazine over twenty years ago. The late Robert Theobald, economist and futurist author, commented on future education ‘…twenty years from now, one will learn what one needs to know when they need it,’ and now we are doing exactly that. Theobald was repeating the scenario he wrote about in 1967 about the future in 19941.

We have been inundated by articles about the future of the library, yet little has been said about the future of librarians; those bastions of information and troughs of information and experience people rely on. Like the oft quoted proverb from Africa “When a knowledgeable old person dies, a whole library disappears,” librarians are surely as much the library as the brick and mortar buildings they work in.

More recently I was at home with our thirteen guests at Thanksgiving, and we played a little game of getting to know each other. We passed around notes from which each person read and told us about their favorite book, their favorite activity, also, my note, “What would you like to be known for?” Well, when I was younger, I was in charge of a youth group and they started calling me “fearless leader.” I kind of liked that. Since then, I’ve come to know that a leader is not born, is not, by education nor effort, a leader. A leader is someone others ascribe that title to; usually because they have already done something significant to help or change the lives of others. This is what I find most librarians do, and thus are leaders, and that won’t go away because a building or printed books aren’t available.

As a recruiter and speaker for organizations, I try to talk about “Options and Opportunities.” What we chose as our role(s) in life, lays out our options and opportunities we may have. I believe librarians must decide to choose their role(s), and when they (we) do, we will survive all things of the future which come to pass.

Back in the 70s we heard a great deal about methods for “creating the future.” Here is another planning method; a book to help us with a range of future possibilities, probabilities, plausible options, and opportunities in creating our future:

It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One! by Dr. Verne Wheelwrite, 2012. This tome takes the strategic foresight and scenario planning tools utilized successfully by some corporations and scales them down for the individual.



1. Tegs Nineteen Ninety-Four: An Anticipation of the Near Future – June, 1972, by Robert Theobald, Jim Scott.

TEG’S 1994, written in 1967 and published in 1971, was 30 years ahead of its time. It is a portrait of the world in which we live today.


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