I spent the last several days in a room with the strategic advisor network of the global libraries program at the gates foundation. It’s exhilarating to have the time and the space to sit with the collective intelligence of a dozen or so library professionals who are managing global library associations, building the most innovative public libraries in the world, advancing scholarship and practice, developing local economies with the public libraries they lead or support. Exhilarating, honestly, feels like it doesn’t do any of this justice.
By the end of our time together, the group came up with three priority suggestions for the team on where to invest resources in order to “build the global library field” (in my own words):
- human capital and leadership networks
- measuring impact and communicating value
- shared solutions and infrastructure
Implicit in all of these was the notion of “articulating a vision for the future of libraries” and a strong emphasis on “community engagement” and “partnerships” in doing so.
I left the meeting with a renewed, and still profound, sense that this team is the best positioned organization in the world to advance the field globally. They’ll do it with their continued deep engagement with stakeholders (our group is just one small way they engage inside the field) and their commitment to working with others to get the job(s) done. I also felt extremely grateful for my time there. I am so lucky to know every individual in this group; and am changed myself by my interactions with them whenever we have the chance to meet and exchange. I also left the meeting feeling that there should be concerted, coordinated effort to articulate the future of libraries - in context with how content and learning is changing. It certainly wasn’t missed in the discussion, but I would have traded “human capital” investments for more focus there.
It’s hard to prioritize, and really, working in any of these critical areas will do much to energize the institutional change we need now. If you were personally tasked with “building the global library field” - and you had significant resources to apply to this challenge - what would you do?