My friend Ted

I’m excited for an event coming up tomorrow (Saturday, June 25th). In a spin on those delightful Ted Talks, TedxLibrariansTO will be going down tomorrow on the UofT campus. The theme of the event is “librarians as thought leaders” and while I have some small seedlings of ideas about this provocative statement, I’m looking forward to getting some intellectual sun+water tomorrow so my ideas can grow a bit.

My initial reactions to the topic are this:

  • Are librarians thought leaders? We’re at a unique crossroads of worlds: We have the technological prowess and curiosity defining the planet/industry/creativity+art/everything, etc. combined with our core values/mission, which have always been, and continue to be, noble: making information findable and accessible to users. Lots of us are also user-focused, in the barracks, at the grassroots, at one with People. We’re already doing, and will continue to do amazing things at this intersection.
  • But, we’ve got an image problem. And a confidence problem. I don’t know how other professions talk internally about their craft. Like, I often wonder if occupational therapists and accountants and nurses and doctors and others sit around and Freak. Out. About. Everything. The death knell of librarianship has sounded so many times, it’s like white noise. And yet — here we all are. Still living life in libraryland. Huh. So who’s gonna come out in front as the librarian rock star that’s going to save us from ourselves? But wait…
  • The world is more disparate and niche-driven now than before Al Gore invented the Internetz. And this is true of what we do — no two jobs are the same in libraryland. Teaching students, teaching kids, making(?) metadata, designing websites, doing community outreach, developing new cataloguing standards, digitizing rare books collections, curating, publishing advocating, managing, cleaning up puke, negotiating contracts, etc. etc. There is no one Brilliant Idea that will Save Us All. But there are lots of little thoughts leaders with their heads down working their tushes off to make a positive difference in their little sphere of librarianship. Their stories are small, but they’re important, and if we celebrate those small stories, I think we’re better-off as a profession. It’s not all about the guy at the front of the auditorium with a Britney Spears microphone.
  • There are lots of forces that are going to define us and our lot in the world that are not in our control: Demographic, economic, technological, social, political, etc. We can’t change them, but we can help shape them. Everyone has the potential to be an advocate, but it starts with looking outside library land. Because we already know we’re awesome.

Those are my rambling 8am thoughts. It’s probably best to come so that you can hear some actual coherent  thoughts from smart people. There may still be tickets… you can register here, if you’d like to spend a day with some thought-provoking people talking about some big-picture topics in library land. I’m excited!


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