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In a church nursery where I used to take my twin sons, there was a banner posted on the wall:

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed1

Yesterday, a rather different quote appeared in my Twitter stream:

“What will kill our profession is not ebooks or amazon or google, but a lack of imagination”2

The victim of this homicide is librarianship.

I, for one, do not believe our profession will die. I do believe it will change. I believe it has been changing since the first day someone was declared a “librarian” and — whether we continue to be called by that title or something else — what we do will always be changing. If a constantly changing world is not for you, then neither maybe a career in librarianship (with thanks to @mstephens7).

But what really bothers me about this statement is the inference that librarians have no imagination. Librarians are some of the most creative people I know — and special props to those who work in library programming for the public; I could not do your jobs.

Here’s what I observe…

Librarians are often first-adopters of new technology, new platforms, new tools. Take Google+ as just one example (among many). Phil Bradley, is a free-lance librarian and Internet consultant who was an early adopter of Google+. Seemingly moments after I joined Google+ I received a request to join Phil’s circle of librarians. By July 7, 2011, there were 750 self-identified librarians on Google+, which launched on June 28, 2011, just 9 days prior and still in invitation-only beta. As of now, Phil tells me,

I’m at 1100 librarians world wide, with 100+ from the UK. The vast majority are American, UK next, and then European, with a brief mention of Australian. Those are the nationalities that come up most often.

According to FindPeopleOnPlus, there are 5581 people on Google+ who identify their occupation as librarian. In eight months.

Why are librarians early adopters?

We are racing to find ways to use technology not only to do our jobs better, faster, and more efficiently, but to more effectively serve and reach our community of users.

And we better! Because to whom is that community going to turn when they need help with these new methods of communicating and accessing information for both survival — and that’s not hyperbole: have you tried to find a paper copy of IRS tax publications or other government forms lately? — and for pleasure/recreation.

Many things we do by rote, we do because they still work. Other things we haven’t changed are things our patrons aren’t quite ready yet for us to change. And sadly, sometimes — too often for my comfort — those who pull the purse strings or sign the approval forms aren’t ready for us to change yet either. Even when it costs nothing but our own time and energy.

If something/one murders librarianship, it won’t be librarians.

It will be those who do not value what we do. Those who believe everything is on the Internet and free. Those who do not understand that the Digital Divide is very real, or that the so-called digital natives aren’t. Those who say, “No!” without ever stopping to imagine what we can accomplish.

Until I can discover the context of the quote2, I can only surmise that is not what the speaker meant. And I can only disagree.

Librarians are not the ones without imagination.

To take a look at what imaginative librarians are jumping into now, pop on over to Pinterest and search the boards and people.

1A quote from the New Testament of the Bible, 1st Corinthians 15:51
2Looking at Twitter feed for 23 March 2012 of both @lindsey_cubs and @mpedson, I believe the quote is from Michael Peter Edson’s “Creating Inspiring Services: Going Boldly Into the Present” keynote address at Computers in Libraries.
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Just before Christmas break last year, a student was working in our library and asked if he could read to me a poem he wrote. Of course, I said yes.

Now I’ve never been too good with poetry. I envy the skillful wordsmith, loving verbal imagery almost as much as a fine painting or a breathtaking photograph. I don’t always ‘get’ the poet’s meaning, though.

That one gave me no difficulty. It was sweet and touching, and made me cry. The student printed a copy of the poem (on nice card stock) for me, and signed it.

He graduated in the spring, so I was quite surprised to see him in the library yesterday, as I didn’t think lived in the area. He sought me in our offices and, again, asked if he could read to me some of his poetry.

I spent the next half hour or so listening to this beautiful young man’s carefully crafted words. For one poem, he had to explain the meaning behind the rich imagery the words portrayed. One made me teary; another made me laugh.

He shared Gandhi quotes with me; I introduced him to the Dalai Lama.

We talked a bit about spirituality, and a bit more about truth.

In my mind, this young man represents all that is good about our world, though he won’t likely be one to make the evening news. I want to believe — I refuse not to believe — that he is not the exception but the rule. Although I can take little to no credit for his successes, that half hour with this gentle soul refreshed and uplifted my attitude as we anticipate our students’ return in 14 days.

They each have something to share us.

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