Words, words, words (and pictures!)


At the recent ACRL Oregon/Washington Joint Annual Conference at Menucha one of the ways we asked participants to contribute to the discussion about futures thinking was to write on some big sheets of paper posted at the back of the room.  It was fun to watch these sheets fill up as the conference went on.  I was worried people would be hesitant or would need some instruction about what we wanted them to do and was delighted to see people jotting down their thoughts before the program had even begun.

We asked participants “what one word” comes to mind when you think about the future.  It is delightful to read this list of words because it really reflects the thoughtful, excited, optimistic nature of our profession!

The words people jotted down when thinking of the future include:

  • Networking
  • Connected
  • Mobile
  • Synthesizers
  • Collaboration
  • Different
  • Diversity
  • Inspired
  • Collaboration
  • Student-centered
  • Social-Production
  • Driven
  • Nimble
  • Open
  • Anxiety
  • Affectiveness
  • Uncertainty
  • Plummet
  • Dream
  • Wonder
  • Excellence
  • Create
  • Possibilities
  • Stimulation
  • Ambiguity
  • Flexible
  • Distraction
  • Adaptability
  • Local
  • Global
  • Change
  • Anywhere
  • Context
  • Collaborate
  • Graciousness
  • Opportunity
  • Holisitic
What one word? A word cloud
"What one word"

We also asked people what questions came to mind when they thought about their job in ten years.  The results were questions that ran the gamut from despairing to hilarious to excited. I feel like the real anxieties we feel about the future came out more strongly in the questions we asked than in the “one word” that came to mind, which is interesting!  Questions included:

  • What will LIS education need to teach students?
  • How will I get my walker behind the Reference Desk?
  • Will I drive my flying car to work?
  • If we will have figured out the faculty collaboration question yet. And if state schools will still exist.
  • Will the “orphan works” problem get solved?
  • Will Google Books have an academic subscription (assuming legal issues resolved)?
  • Will I just keep adding duties or specialties? When will I get to let go of doing everything all the time?
  • If I will still be ahead of the curve for adopting tech, or ideas, or if I will fall behind.
  • Will I/my faculty have lost our fair use rights because we didn’t use them enough? ie.- will “use it or lose it die?”
  • Will all books be reused to build houses because trees are needed for the WWIII effort?
  • Will my job still exist if I can afford to retire in 2020 (cataloging)?
  • How GPS/ other technology will have helped make us ubiquitous in people’s lives/or even on their ?persons? – RFID chips/other?
  • How I will continue to stay relevant with ever present change?
  • If wearable computers will be fashionable
  • How will be think of “analog”? Will it still be analog v. digital?
  • If they’ll have stopped saying that lots of retirements will happen within 10 years
  • Will we have re-branded (repackaged?) the word “Library”?
  • Will I have tenure?
  • What new ways will we be helping people connect with information?
  • Will I be a contractor working independently for multiple institutions?
  • How much of my teaching will be face to face?
  • How will Google Books change how we view collections?
  • Will I still be in a cubicle?
  • If we will have finally figured out a way to market ourselves efficiently?
  • What, exactly will I be doing? Or will I even be working in a library?
  • Or will we be in the midst of another great depression and I’ll be living off the land?
  • If I’ll have had a raise.
  • If I will still be cataloging our backlogs, hidden collections, microforms, maps, serials, etc., etc., etc.
  • How will libraries be defined/perceived by the public as universities and academia change?

What words do you think of when you consider the future?   What are your big questions about your job in 10 years?

1 comment

  1. The word “archive” is missing here.

    The foremost question on my mind has to do with funding: How—and how adequately—will libraries be funded in the future?

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