Letters from ALCTS

charles wilt, alcts executive director

From the Office

Charles Wilt, ALCTS Executive Director

Surviving the Impending “End of the World”

December 21, 2012 is almost everybody’s end of the world date. At least the Mayans seem to think so, but it’s all open for interpretation, of course. Then there is the alignment of all the planets. But that’s only two years from now. We have lots of work to do between now and then. The year 2012 also corresponds with when many early baby boomers are slated to turn 66 and maybe, possibly retire. Really, a much scarier event. We face another election year. It’s leap year. Chicago will have a new mayor not named Daley. It just might be the end of the world. Such a confluence of events has not been seen since the turn of the millennium.

So, how can ALCTS celebrate this notion of the end of the world, maybe as we know it? Actually for some of us, the end of the world as we know it happened years ago with the advent of all the techie stuff that has proliferated in the marketplace over the decade or so, not to mention world events and personal traumas. Maybe we can celebrate this by looking into the future past the doomsday predictions and see what our world will be like in say 2020 or 2030. In 2007, we celebrated our past fifty 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 (see Star Trek: First Contact, actually is on my son’s 80th birthday, April 5, 2063). Futurists are an interesting bunch of people and really have some intriguing ideas (www.wfs.org).

Back to my question. What might we do? Certainly setting aside some programming slots dedicated to futuring would be a start. In our revamped Paper Series, we could carve out an occasional paper on futuring. There is the webinar futuring initiative. Maybe even take some time to devote part of the website to futuring. No one else at ALA does that. We could have a Futuring Interest Group.

The more I thought about this topic for my article, the more I found it to be attractive. No where 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. The Transforming Libraries goal could take on this role of looking far out, but chances are it won’t, which is a shame. 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.

Well maybe it’s time for us, ALCTS and you, the members, to begin to engage in this conversation about  our future. Again, not of ALCTS, but of cataloging, acquisitions, collection management, preservation, and continuing resources and ….

Contact Charles Wilt (cwilt@ala.org).