The Finnish network of new library professionals “Nuorkirjastolaiset” just published a pamphlet Epäpäivä!–Voimasanoja kirjastosta (“Due date–Powerwords from the library“; BTJ-Avain, ISBN 9789516928688).
A product of a collaborative writing process and edited by Veera Ristokartano and Antti Virrankoski, the polemic pamphlet raises several key problems in the libraryworld: library’s reaction to digital content, immaterial rights, generations of digital natives (who are amongs us and not “a challenge to tackle somewhere in the future”), human resource management and lifelong learning within the library profession, information politics and commitment to open access and egalitarianism are some of the issues discussed. The preface builds upon a scenario, what would happen if libraries vanished today. What would the nearby future look like? Would anybody really care?
Hello everybody. I would like to share experiences on what kind of responses “new professionals” and especially expressive, organized “new professional movements” are getting within the wider library profession.
Here in Finland a loose network of relatively fresh librarians are known as “Nuorkirjastolaiset” (engl. Young librarians), a self-chosen name. A small handful of people are more outspoken, and criticise libraries for their human resource management, leadership, innovation strategies, oppressive work-culture, hidden power-structures and so forth.
In the new issue of Kirjastolehti (“Library magazine”, ISSN 0023-1843) there is an interview by Ira Koivu of four people who identify themselves as members of this “Nuorkirjastolaiset” -movement. Here is my brief translation of the article’s ingress:
Kirjastolehti 6/2010: "We demand change"
We demand change!–Young professionals building a new library
Pessimism, cynicism and frustration persist among young professionals, so it’s been told. That’s why we asked four young library professionals what’s wrong with the library now and what would be the library of their dreams. And most importantly: how it’s done?
Now, in response to the article, we are having quite a heated discussion on Kirjasto-kaapeli, the most important public discussion forum of finnish librarians. The discussion there is titled KYSYMYKSIÄ NUORKIRJASTOLAISILLE (Viite: Kirjastolehti 6/2010 (engl. “QUESTIONS TO YOUNG LIBRARY PROFESSIONALS (Reference: Library magezine 6/2010“). It started out as a list of questions to Nuorkirjastolaiset, but the discussion soon lost focus (i’m expect Godwin’s law to fulfill very soon; you know how these online discussions sometimes are LOL).
Anyway, it seems all sorts of fears and frustration within the profession is partly reflected on young professionals, especially if they are united. It’s not just this article and it’s response on Kirjasto-kaapeli, but i think i’ve noticed it elsewhere too. All sorts of reservations and suspicion towards a network of organized, proud, largely unknown people come to my ears. Some librarians are worried about age-racism because the name has the word “young” in it, and some colleagues think that young professionals are all about wasting library resources on Facebook and Twitter and not doing proper work. Some claim that new professionals are too blind to see behind cold statistics and that economic efficiency is something that is categorically wrong and dangerous for libraries. Some ridicule and say that all voices of change will be hushed as soon as the new professionals get a steady job.
All of these fears and accusations has been heard many, many times already. Previously the blame has been on a) politicians b) evil capitalists c) library directors d) consultants or e) the mass media. Now, at least part of the blame is on young professionals… in other words: on close colleagues.
Do you recognize this, or something similar from your environment? I would love to hear what sort of response “new professional movements” are having elsewhere? The NPSIG group seems to be very well received within the IFLA organization, or that’s my impression. Is your library profession openheartedly welcoming it’s young, self-aware, confident and united members with their ideas, energy and innovation, or do some colleague see them (=us) as a threat?
Did you see this blogpost titled Get in the goddamn wagon at Shimenawa? It is calling new professionals to stand up, because the library directors, assistant library directors nor library associations (including IFLA i assume) are too stuck in their credit systems and strategies that they cannot achieve change. Inertia is lost. What do you think? If invading the associations and institutions is not a good way, then what is? In the comments Eric Hellman is proposing building new institutions. I don’t see that happening anytime soon, since an “institution” itself is a concept of the romantic past. We must build a romantic future LOL!
All in all i think there’s a massive, massive hype about need for “change”, but beyond that i find it hard to come across what this “change” should actually produce. Perhaps i’m reading all the wrong discussions, the ones where “change” is the goal itself. I appreciate that of course (like every postmodern subject does but that is quite hard to put on the an agenda and actually pursue, let alone reach. Several issues can be filtered from this post, one is that the library directors are staying in the positions for decades. If that is not what we librarians want, should we try put a cap on that? 5 years max? Can new professionals for example agree to publicly and vocally boycott any positions, where the boss has been in the position for more than that?
By the 10th or so comment the discussion has turned toward ALA and ARL funding accreditation policies or whatever.
In the comments WoodsieGirl links to LIS New Professional Network (LISNPN), a website for new pros from the UK. I haven’t seen this before and looks lively, do take a look! If you have something like this your self, please let it be known. We have a closed Facebook -group called Nuorkirjastolaiset in Finland.
A group of finnish new library professionals at IFLA 2010
A group of finnish new professionals held a non-formal, round-table type of a gathering in Göteborg during IFLA 2010. About 25 people were present, a surprisingly large number of activists. The gathering took place in a park close to the IFLA 2010 venue.
The initiative came from Marjo Perälä, who got quite a bit of feedback on her blog Nutturat auki (“Let your hair run loose” or “Unknot your hair”), when in June 2010 she proposed in a blogpost Nuorten kirjastopäivät 2011? that young professionals should have their own professional conference. That suggestion really seemed to strike a chord, and so it was decided that IFLA 2010 is a good opportunity to meet face to face.
At the gathering after everyone introduced themselves, Veera Ristikartano summarised background information about the unformal Nuorkirjastolaiset (finnish for “Young librarians”) -group. Basically, it started as a network of a few LIS-graduates from Tampere University, who have landed in academic libraries in Finland and who have been making quite similar observations about problems of their new employers.
People from several library sectors (public, university and polytechnic, National Library) were present, and we identified several common issues that all our institutions share.
The position of libraries in a digital world. Should we stick to the traditions, or move forward? Are we able/willing to really take the initiative?
What do diginatives expect from libraries?
Is the library education really relevant in everyday work?
Recruiting has not developed, new people are still hired on out-of-date requirements
Definition of both “a library” and “librarianship” is unclear at the moment
Library management tends to be authoritarian and commanding, and doesn’t give room to ideas and initiatives
Libraries must open to one another. The unnecessary competition and jealousy among libraries must be stopped
The so-called Nuorkirjastolaiset (Young librarians) -network must not become a yet another forum for complaining and whining
In our meeting, management of libraries got quite a bit of a bashing! Recruiting – a critical function of management – was critiqued and also the bosses failure to lead libraries to any direction. Many see their own libraries as passivist and conformist, and hostile to changes. Many expressed disappointment in resource allocation in libraries, and that all research and development (R&D) has been isolated and encapsulated into projects ran by non-permanent staff.
The Finnish Library Association has been supportive of this movement from the start. In Göteborg we decided to have a meeting during Turku book fair, September the 30th. We discussed how to get our bosses and managers there too, to open a wide discourse with them about the issues listed above.