by Blane Dessy
Federal agencies are constantly looking to new models of how the business of government is conducted and making strides to improve techniques and practices at every level of service. To be future ready, Federal librarians will need to discover forthcoming agency efforts and package their services to serve the project mission. To stay in the forefront of emerging trends, they will need to merge information from various groups and identify information available from external sources.
To define this future, FEDLINK completed an environmental scan of the external factors that may influence the information field. The scan included a review of materials from a variety of organizations including the Special Libraries Association, OCLC, the Pew Internet and American Life Project, and Outsell, a noted research firm that focuses on issues relating to the information industry. FEDLINK also reviewed materials from the federal government on reforming information technology in the federal government, information on transparency in government and samples of resources making use of new technologies.
After a thorough analysis, the environmental scan identified seven major trends that define how Federal libraries can be future ready.
Trend number 1: Demonstrate returns on investment.
Libraries will need data on use and cost savings not just in financial terms, but also in terms of savings in staff efficiency. Librarians will need to use a variety of analytics to document costs and benefits.
Trend number 2: Establish mission critical programs.
Managers will more broadly define processes, standards and policies and explore a variety of options to insure viability.
Trend number 3: Integrate mobile devices, “apps” and dashboards into workflows.
Libraries will need to create tailored apps to access library resources and programs through mobile devices.
Trend number 4: Expand roles as analyst, educator and consultant.
Librarians will need to integrate evaluation tools with the newest software and devices and expand instruction in digital literacy and online searching techniques.
Trend number 5: Cultivate use of the Semantic Web, cloud computing and Web 3.0.
Library use of social collaboration and interactive responsibility will combine with Web 3.0 technologies to create a semantic Web that includes human intelligence combined with data management where content and technology are now one. With increasingly cloud-based sources and tools, librarians will serve as a bridge to share information and support projects that cross agency lines.
Trend number 6: Customize and personalize information to meet the needs of users.
With the proliferation of mobile technologies, the semantic web and other web searching technologies patrons will want information compiled so that it is immediately usable and tailored to meet a specific need.
Trend number 7: Collaborate via knowledge transfer and information sharing.
In tandem with the previous trends, libraries will need to discover forthcoming agency efforts and package their services to serve the project mission.
Librarians also will need to integrate evaluation tools with the newest software and devices and expand instruction in digital literacy and online searching techniques. We must help to make the connections required for knowledge transfer from one generation to the next.
To respond to these future directions, FEDLINK released new competencies for federal librarians and uses them as a centerpiece for developing FEDLINK’s education programming. Our outreach efforts now combine the use of online learning systems, continued efforts on mentoring and the recent creation of NewFeds, a new working group that supports the development and advancement of early career professionals with less than five years of federal service. NewFeds is also concerned with building a sense of community among new FEDLINK members, advocating for new professionals, promoting careers in federal libraries and developing partnerships with other FEDLINK working groups and library professional associations.
With an eye toward trends and professional development, libraries and librarians can make their rich and valuable content compatible with current learning and researching patterns. In doing so, we set the trends and guide our users into the information future. Federal librarians want to be future ready, but just as importantly, they want to shape the future environment for their work.
Blane K. Dessy is the Executive Director of the Federal Library and Information Center Committee and the Federal Library Network at the Library of Congress. Prior to this, he had been Director of Libraries at the United States Department of Justice and the first Executive Director of the National Library of Education. He came to the Federal Government after working as a State Librarian (Alabama), Deputy State Librarian (Ohio), library consultant (Oklahoma), and public library director (Pennsylvania). He is currently also an adjunct instructor in Management and Federal Libraries at the Catholic University of America School of Library and Information Science.
Mr. Dessy received his MLS degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1976 and subsequently attended advanced library management training at the School of Business Administration at Miami University (Ohio).
He is the recipient of two John Cotton Dana Awards for library public relations. While at the Department of Justice, he received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award, the second highest honor in the Department of Justice.