World Future 2005, Part 1
My library sent me to a different type of conference this year: World Future 2005: Foresight, Innovation and Strategy, the Annual Conference of the World Future Society. It was held the last weekend in July in Chicago.
From looking at the Participants list, the only other library organizations that attended were ALA, the New Jersey State Library, and the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative. Yes, that's right: 3 of the 4 are from New Jersey.
Overall, it was an interesting mix of people, with men outnumbering the women and -- to put it bluntly -- more older than younger people. The Conference was a real mix of people and thoughts; it would be impossible to put one label on anything. Speakers ranged from philosophical to practical, from optimistic to pessimistic.
Programs that touched on libraries included education (what will future education look like?), aging (if people are getting older and are healthier, what does this mean for both our customers and our staff?), retirement (or rather that people won't be retiring), technology, security, --- well, just about anything. Often, libraries weren't specifically mentioned or were only touched on in a presentation; but there was a lot to think about, a lot to take back to the library for discussions about where libraries are headed and what libraries will look like in 50 years.
Some drawbacks: I found mixed reactions from people when I said I was from a public library and explained that my library was concerned about the future of libraries, what the library of the future would look like, etc. The reactions of those in the education programs were positive; but outside of that... Well, I had one pony-tail man say, "teens like the Internet. You should have internet." Thank you Mr Pony Tail Man for giving me that amazing insight. You haven't been in a library in 40 years. But what a reminder that if librarians and libraries don't make themselves heard and aren't vocal about who we are and what we do, we get condescending remarks about getting Internet computers. And then there was guy who couldn't understand why a librarian would be interested in a program about "The Challenge and Future of Cultural and Religious Diversity." What does that have to do with libraries, he asked? Again, after the initial "you don't know libraries" response, the message was obvious: libraries are failing to get the message out that we are diverse.
If I got nothing else out of this Conference, it was that we still need to do outreach and marketing. We still need to connect with those who don't know us and don't come to the door and think of the library as just a building with books and people who go "sh."