Last time I wrote, I was preparing to say good-bye to a colleague who helped me work through my first semester as an academic librarian. As spring semester approaches, my library welcomes a new member to our staff. The search committee and hiring processes wrapped up and I think the experience was something that library schools should touch on to prepare new librarians for once in the working world. For any new librarian who will go through the process, I recommended listening to others on the committee and to your human resources contact for the legal aspects you must keep in mind during the search process. I also went through notes from my administration and management class in graduate school – to refresh the basics. Most importantly, make sure that you speak up in search committee meetings – remember, you will be hiring a new staff member that everyone will have to work with everyday. Our new staff member started this week and I have helped with the transition and the training; all is going well. Training is one of the easiest parts of the transition; library school did a wonderful job preparing me for that aspect.
The World Future Society recently released an updated and expanded list of its top ten technology forecasts for 2007 and beyond. Despite the occasional prediction that libraries will be obsolete, the futurists didn’t see our coming demise in their crystal ball this year. What did catch my attention is a prediction about education. It read:
Schools based on classrooms and a human teacher will dwindle over the next 25 years. Why sit in a classroom when you can visit virtual worlds and experience your subjects? An avatar, a personalized interactive guide, will answer all of your questions and help you pose new ones.
Perhaps virtual worlds will one day provide the ultimate in active learning by placing learners into virtual environments where they obtain real and authentic practice. What would such a learning landscape in higher education mean for academic libraries? There could certainly be a need for librarians to help students navigate what is sure to be an even more complex information environment, but we might just be doing it as avatars. Somehow I suspect that we’ll still have real, physical campuses for students who want that experience, but what if owing to cost the traditional college experience is available only to a privileged class? Perhaps we all need to start paying closer attention to what’s happening over at Second Life. If you tend to be skeptical about future predictions you might find this article to be fun reading.
And speaking of serving students whose learning isn’t dependent on a campus, take a look at Laura Rein’s article, in last Friday’s Inside Higher Ed, on serving the needs of distance learners. It’s a thoughtful look at how library buildings could be better designed and equipped to help librarians provide effective support to distance learners, a group that will rarely, if ever, use the library building.
Posted by StevenB