From the Office

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

A Matter of Survival

Exactly two years ago in my article I wrote, tongue in cheek, about the impending end of the world, December 21, 2012. Well, it’s coming up pretty fast and may have passed by the time you read this. (I hope you’ll be reading this). With everything that’s been going on, maybe the Mayans had something after all, not just on December 21.

In that article two years ago, I wrote about the future and futuring as a process. From that article:

In 2007, we celebrated our past 50 years and we coined the phrase, “Creating Our Future.” That was aimed at ALCTS future. So why not look at our areas of interest and do some futuring.

So in the next two years, can we do some interesting things to mark this future? The futurists are always looking far ahead and taking aim at any number of things they think will happen or change or influence society or prepare for the inevitable visitation from aliens (for example, Star Trek: First Contact, occurs on my son’s eightieth birthday, April 4, 2063). Futurists are an interesting bunch of people and really have some intriguing ideas (www.wfs.org).

We have all experienced the constantly changing ground that we inhabit in our daily lives and in our work. This is also true for ALCTS. The environment in which we operate is far from stable and continues to be unpredictable. It seems that in the next 24 months things will remain in a constant state of motion, some of it anticipated, some not. So what are we to do?

Actually, I asked the same question in 2010.

I am still a big fan of futuring, even if it’s just a discussion of what might be, where we might head, what might we expect. There is certainly enough to consider: financial position, sustainability, growth, continuing to be seen as a value to our members, fulfilling our niche, and more if I took the time to think about it. As I said in 2010, I firmly believe that there is a place for a futuring discussion not only for ALCTS but for the areas we represent in libraries. Many of the interest groups have had such discussions. The changing landscape of technical services demands it. In fact, the term “technical services” and what that now means, means engaging in a futuring discussion. So what I think we should be doing on a broader scale, we are already doing on a narrowly defined scale.

Again from my 2010 article:

Nowhere else in ALA is futuring considered separately from the past. Even the new ALA strategic plan 2015 is based not in what might be but in what is now or has been. I believe we need to stretch our vision. Libraries are constantly being asked to reinvent themselves, but what might our role be in that transformation. My thinking is, to paraphrase, if you don’t know what future you’re attempting to define, any path will get you there.

So, to look at the broader future requires someone or some group to begin the conversation. That future could be technical services and all that encompasses, or it could be ALCTS. To do one influences the other.

Contact Charles Wilt at cwilt@ala.org.