ALA Annual 2001 SF and other issues

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Wed, 10 Jan 2001 15:24:38 -0800 (PST)

I'm taking the liberty of sending this note out to the list at large rather
than to the VRT executive board exclusively, because I think it's important
to get feedback from as large a slice of the group as possible.
Forgive me if I ramble or intrude...

I've been beating my head against the wall for the past couple of months
(maybe soul searching is a better metaphor) re the VRT 2001 annual program.
I've got to admit that either by dint of burnout or something else, a two
hour program in video basics is beginning to sound less and less appealing
to me...I really wonder how many folks we're likely to attract this late
date in the video century. In any case, I'm appending some ideas about an
agenda for the program. I am going to need (ABSOLUTELY) your time and
input in DC, not to mention the involvement of all steadfast VRTers, to
make this work.

Alternatively: I've been wondering if, rather than going the usual program
route, summer wouldn't be a propitious time to return to our distant
discussion group roots to do a little soul searching of our own. In
putting the video collection devel book revision together, I've been doing
A LOT of pondering about the fate of video librarianship and video in
libraries in general. It should be clear to us all that something slightly
ominous is happening: more and more erstwhile video stalwarts have moved
on, dropped out, rolled over in the past decade. Sometime I feel VRT has
become something like the Shakers...no survival without new blood (I was
gonna say no survival without procreation, but I don't think we should go
there...)
Video in libraries, while still robust, I think, seems to becoming swamped
by visions of some great convergent digital future: there's a chilling
quote in one of the draft chapters of the book by a library administrator
who sez: "All librarians are media librarians"--the notion being that
we're all bound for some homogenized, all-media, one-stop-box digital
future. That's a scary crock of foolishness, of course, but I think it
represents some fairly ugly trends in professional thinking. The
increasingly common notion in professional circles that delivery and
content are the same thing may very well kill the professional specialty as
we know it. After 30 years, most libraries continue to remain clueless
about: a) the nature of media beyond print b) the impact of these media on
the lives of library clients c) the need for a particular expertise in
bridging these gaps.

So...maybe instead of rehashing basics, we should be doing some hard
introspection in SF (all welcome) about what the future holds for us all,
the changes in the professional culture that we need to be addressing, the
directions VRT and related groups in ALA need to be following.
Gosh...sounds like the beginnings of a...gulp...strategic planning process
(akkkk!)

I'm outa here after tomorrow, but I hope we can discuss this stuff in DC.