By Sara Tompson, SLA Board 2011-13 and Head of Library Instruction & Orientation Services, University of Southern California (USC)
How to stay future ready? Read science fiction! Science fiction (SF) is a “sandbox” in which writers can play with possible outcomes of current technologies, cultures and trends.
SF writers often deal with information or library trends in their novels. I read Gary Shteyngart’s near-future Super Sad True Love Story this spring, and was struck by how he projected texting, Tweeting and consumerism just a few steps further. The novel’s transcriptions of online chats “sounded” so much like my two nieces in their young 20s, and how my USC students talk online!
I’ve been an avid science fiction and fantasy reader much of my life, with some detours over the past few decades. My husband and I met at one SF convention and honeymooned at another, so naturally I retain a fondness for the genre! Recently I’ve gotten back into it, with Super Sad, as well as another near future novel, Riding the Trail of Tears by Blake Hausman, in which a Cherokee Long March virtual reality “ride” takes on its own separate reality and what information is “real” and what is not becomes debatable. I’ve also revisited old favorites, like Alexei Panshin’s award-winning Rite of Passage, where the young protagonist Mia’s ark-like interstellar ship includes a comprehensive digital and realia (e.g. old musical instruments) library.
Information professionals like to know things and organize things. The downside of these traits can be aversion to change. Exploring science fiction can free us to think outside of our everyday boxes!
Sara Tompson is serving as a Director on the SLA Board from 2011-2013. She is a member of the SLA Finance Committee, and the Board liaison to all the California chapters, the Rio Grande, NM chapter, the SciTech Division, the Research & Development Committee and the Professional Development Council. Tompson is the Head of Library Instruction & Orientation at the University of Southern California (USC). In her spare time she is an instrument rated private pilot, and enjoys flying her husband and friends around beautiful California.