by Rebecca Jones
A few weeks ago Jane Dysart, Kim Silk and I were fortunate to hear Daniel Pink talk at the Rotman School of Management Life-Long Learning Conference for Leaders, ‘How to Get Your Business Back to Reality.” His latest book, Drive, bases “the surprising things that motivate us” on 40 years of human motivation research. It wasn’t his discussion about what does or doesn’t motivate us that caught my attention, although that is fascinating and worth a blog post(!); it was his discussion about the need for organizations to challenge and re-think base assumptions on which they are building their strategies.
I’m increasingly concerned that that the library sector and information profession must do just that: challenge, re-frame and quite possibly re-think our base assumptions and the practices and approaches built on those assumptions. Pink re labels assumptions “orthodoxies”. Labelling and viewing what we, as a sector and profession view to be truths as “orthodoxies” rather than assumptions forces us to see the deep-rooted concreteness of these “truths”. It is these deep roots that make it somewhat painful to question the validity of these orthodoxies today and, more importantly, tomorrow and into the future.
I laugh, both because laughter is healthy and because for a profession that has an orthodoxy (yes, a truth – an assumption!) of finding and delivering answers to any question, we aren’t really too comfortable asking and considering questions about our practices, approaches, strategies or organizations. I don’t think we’re really any different than any other sector; wrestling with those types of questions is akin to wrestling itself – invigorating for some, uncomfortable for others and the outcome is unknown. And, yet, to be future ready we must challenge those orthodoxies and ensure our practices, perceptions and approaches are ready for the future – whatever that future may hold. I may not like wrestling, but I absolutely hate the thought of seeing the library sector or the information profession perceived as irrelevant in the future, so I’m willing to be uncomfortable and to engage in the challenging discussions and re-framing required.
SLA is designing its future. Next week the Board will begin considering the assumptions and “orthodoxies” held true by an association that’s more than 100 years old. SLA’s future for the next 100 years will be designed by standing in that future as Jane Dysart challenged the association to do in Information Outlook in 1993 when she was SLA President. Jane has always questioned orthodoxies, often without even realizing she’s doing it, because she is naturally curious. She has taught me so much about the value – and fun! – of curiousity. Curiousity leads to discoveries. We need to be curious about what type of association will be indispensable to an indispensable sector and an indispensable profession. We need to ask questions about what that association will “look like”, how it will enable its members and how members will enable it. How will the association differ from other information and library sector associations? Will members come together at an annual conference in the future? Why? How? What services will so delight members that they’ll prize the association above all others? Curiousity rarely, if ever, “killed the cat” and it will help us discover the questions, re-frame our assumptions, and design the future we want, need and will delight in.
Get involved in SLA’s Strategic Vision Project. Stand in the future & see the SLA that will be indispensable for you – and contribute your voice here.( http://futureready365.sla.org/05/27/sla-strategic-vision-project/)
Rebecca is a partner with Dysart & Jones Associates. She is the former director continuing education at University of Toronto’s iSchool, and still an instructor & member of the Advisory Board. Early in her career she was incredibly lucky to work for 14 years in large corporations in managerial roles in libraries, records management, human resources and IT. She’s an SLA Fellow and, with her wonderful Competencies Committee colleagues, a recipient of SLA Leadership Award.