Library and Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa
Te Rau Herenga O Aotearoa

Looking past your nose: Being future ready

Recently I went to Auckland to see my son off to Korea to take up a post-graduate scholarship. It did not work out as planned when our car was written off on the Southern Motorway. Luckily no one was hurt, although it was a close call. The problem was a mattress in the fast line of the motorway. Drivers were not looking far enough ahead to see the danger and when they did see it they were not reacting appropriately. So how does this belong in a column for librarians? I think we are sometimes so focussed on the road directly in front of us, that we cannot see what is further up the road. It is easy to worry about this year’s budget and staffing issues, but we also need to be thinking about future years. Libraries are vulnerable when times are tough so we need to start ensuring that we are valuable to those who hold the purse strings.

Who are our clients and who should be?

One of the problems is that although we have passionate users, they are not always the ones who pay our bills and salaries. Often when it comes to budget cuts, those making the final decision are not library users at all. So what can we do to ensure that our views will be heard? We need to be aware of the future direction of your organisation. We may not be invited to the strategic meetings, but there are usually strategy papers we can read. We need to look at ways to help our decision makers, not by providing books and journals but by providing information to aid decision making. Maybe business intelligence could be a way in. Management is often very keen to know what their competition is doing. Environmental scanning is important in many organisations. Everyone wants to see what is further down the road so they can be ready. At Statistics New Zealand, we introduced training in environmental scanning to our business units. It was taken up with great enthusiasm and we acquired new groups of users (and better use of our databases). Find what works in your organisation.

Future proofing our skills

We also need to ensure that we keep up-to-date with skills that will be useful in the future. We cannot hide from at least a basic level of technical expertise.There are now many sites and software which can make our clients’ lives easier. They are usually free; easy to learn and can then be shared with our users. Check out for examples. Our skills at filtering information will continue to be in demand as the amount of information continues to grow exponentially. Recently, I was told that the age of the internet Wild West was coming to an end and that users were seeking out authoritative sources of information. We are well placed to provide this.

The world is changing, but I believe we have the skills to continue making a significant contribution. We just need to make sure we are looking ahead and ready to take appropriate action.

Claire Stent

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