the talk i meant to give

amy posted this June 26th, 2011 | filed under: discovery, ilovemyjob, innovation, inspire me!, moi, presenting, ranting | 13 comments »

whoa. that was intense. while i’m not happy with my presentation at TEDxLibrarians, i am happy that i accepted the challenge (doing things that scare me n’all). such a learning experience. rock.
the event, however, was wonderful. many thanks to the organizers for a such a thought-provoking day. shelley and fiacre – you guys are the best.

here is the talk i meant to give.


so when thinking about this talk, i started thinking about things i do everyday
i use and evaluate new technologies – from high speed book scanners to the semantic web
i educate my community – from finding accurate authoritative information to author rights
i design new service and spaces – both in meatspace and cyberspace
and where do i do all of this?

i almost never refer to this as the place where i work. because the library is a building, and what we do, what librarians do, is more than just what can be found in a building. in fact, the very reason most of us do what we do, is because we want to bring the library to the community, and not vice versa.
when people ask where i work, i typically say…

i like this term. this is what i’m passionate about. it’s… vast. it represents all the different kinds of librarians out there – public, academic, special.
it means more than just books on shelves in buildings. it’s more than bunheads and shelvers.
it’s a community of people who believe that helping people find and do things is what makes the world a better place.
it is everyone who wants to provide access to information, because…

because access to information is a human right. i believe this. librarylanders believe this.
we see this as a driving force for what we do and why for many of us, this is a vocation, not a job. i’m not a librarian for the bling. i’m a librarian because i fundamentally believe that i can help make society a better place to live by figuring out ways to provide better access to information. so when i’m having a bad day, and stressed about budgets, and policies, and workplace shenanigans, i remember: THIS IS WHY I DO IT.

librarians as thought leaders is a killer concept.
being a librarian, i know that there are many definitions of thought leader – from business literature, HR blogs, philosophy texts, and various talks given by people held at airport hotels on a saturday morning.
but when i think of librarians as thought leaders, i think of…

believing in access to information as a human right means fighting for our communities. fighting to make sure the digital divide continues to shrink. fighting for privacy for our users. fighting against the entire concept of censorship. and lately, fighting for libraries.
so this is my call to arms. librarians are revolutionaries, and society needs us. and no i don’t mean killing all the things with fire.
true thought leaders, true revolutionaries, are willing to overthrow the system, or join it, if that’s what works best for their community.

there is a long list of things that are worth fighting for, and worrying about.
but there are also things that i am not worried about:
the end of print books
the end of libraries
students using wikipedia
google replacing librarians (my brain beats a google algorithm in any street fight. please note: i fight dirty).
there are things that we should worry about – and as librarians are uniquely placed to fight for.

the scholarly communication system needs a complete overhaul.
scholarship has moved online, publishers need to adapt and change.
librarians are uniquely positioned to help fix scholarly publishing. we support research and publishing on a daily basis. allowing publishers to then charge us ridiculous sums of money to make this research, which we helped produce, available to our communities, is ludicrous. as one of my favourite librarians recently said “we don’t owe publishers a living”.
and as a librarian if you are not supporting the open access movement, ask yourself if you really believe that access to information is a human right.

another issue that we can help fix –
access to electronic content has been taken over by large corporations who ultimately care more about the bottom line, than the community. Harry Potter is coming to the ebook format. but only available through the publisher’s website, not through the library. this despite the fact libraries have build entire reading programs for kids around Harry Potter and are, i would argue, responsible for much of the success of the series.
and there is more, there’s always more. the fight for net neutrality – that is our fight.
it’s time for a renewal, and, okay, i’m going to say it… CHANGE?

there is lots to be fixed. revolutionaries are doers, not sayers. revolutionaries don’t make provocative statements, they take radical action.
they are always looking for ways to make society better. they don’t shake their heads and say “but this is how we’ve always done it”.

challenge legacy processes.
all of them.
it’s a kickass time to be a librarian. so many opportunities to make society better. and that’s why we do this, right? we aren’t becoming millionaires. we aren’t going to rule the world (ok, maybe we will). so what are we?

we are educators (if you don’t think you are because you don’t do officially do “instruction”, just ask your friends. i guarantee you are the person that they go to with questions on a regular basis)
we are ninjas (no one sees us coming, and then POW we smackdown a school board who wants to ban a kids book about growing up in a gay family)
we are curious (that old adage about curiosity killing the cat? think about how curious librarians are. then think about librarians and cats. no killing happening there ; )
we are community-minded (you can’t have a properly informed citizenry without a library. point final.)
and we inspire each other.

this. everyday i aim for two things:
1. care about my community
2. do that well

Peter Brantley of the Internet Archive had a great post last year about leadership in libraries, and how we can’t let just those at the top determine the future for us. in it he quotes Faulkner’s “Them that’s going, get in the goddamn wagon. Them that ain’t, get out the goddamn way.”
so i guess what i’m trying to say today, is that on those days when this gig feels a bit too paper-pushy / reprimand-y / WAY TOO MANY MEETINGS ZOMG… remember: librarians are able to start revolutions, and that is a powerful thing. we can build the future of libraryland together and show the world just how awesome it is to call yourself a librarian. it’s not going to be easy, but it is right, and as crazy as it sounds, it will make the world a better place.

join me in the revolution. you won’t regret it.

13 Comments on “the talk i meant to give”

  1. 1 Cecily said at 10:33 pm on June 26th, 2011:

    I’m sorry you weren’t happy with your TED talk, but this post and these slides inspired me. I know I could be doing more, but I let the safety net at MPOW lull me into complacency. I have the ability to kick ass, and I don’t need permission to do it.

    Thank you, Amy.

  2. 2 Mike Ridley said at 7:46 am on June 27th, 2011:

    Your TEDx talk was fab; you set the stage for the entire day. Congrats. Looking forward to storming the barricades.


  3. 3 Julia said at 1:22 pm on June 27th, 2011:

    I so would have loved to have been at TEDxLibrarians and have actually seen your talk. Thank you for this post- it’s awesome. I hope many more of us get on the wagon!

  4. 4 Dorothea said at 8:59 pm on June 27th, 2011:

    This is inspiring. Thank you for it.

  5. 5 Robyn Stockand said at 10:29 am on June 28th, 2011:

    I loved your talk live, and am grateful that you’ve posted this version as well. Ultimately it comes down to each and every one of us stepping up and embodying the power and wisdom of our profession that is ours to claim. You did so admirably, an example to be followed.
    Thank you.

  6. 6 bob farwell said at 1:43 pm on June 28th, 2011:

    Thank you Amy,

    My perspective is a bit different, but I hope, like your presentation reflects a genuine concern with how libraries and librarians assess their role as community assets and validate their essential value to community health. There is an existential element to be considered: about our immutability as institutions and the value of our contributions to the common weal. There was a time, not that long ago, when the status of libraries as community assets was unquestioned. Libraries were in so many respects inviolable institutions. There was an implied consensus about their importance to the common weal, to education and the maintenance of community fabric; they were unassailable. That consensus has frayed. The exhibits are manifest: reduced budgets, closings, disregard for the essential functions we perform. The response must be a commitment of time and energy to planning, assessment and advocacy, based on the understanding that not making the investment of time in these areas leads to awful consequences.

  7. 7 librarians are revolutionaries, and society needs us. » Bear Bahoochie said at 10:21 am on June 29th, 2011:

    […] A librarian’s call to arms – speech notes from Jambina […]

  8. 8 The Commonwealth Cafe Blog said at 11:46 am on June 29th, 2011:

    […] has this to say about academic publishing. …the scholarly communication system needs a complete overhaul. scholarship has moved […]

  9. 9 Open Access: talkin’ bout a revolution | Exploring the Information Ecology said at 8:28 am on June 30th, 2011:

    […] ePublishing & digitization coordinator at McGill University Library), in her own unique way, reminded us that “scholarly pubishing is broken” and fixing it will require us to become […]

  10. 10 Rebecca said at 1:19 pm on July 2nd, 2011:

    Woot! You go girl!!! oh yeah, oh yeah. (doing my happy dance in my office). Proud to know you; wonderful to hear you; fantastic to read you; cuz now I retweet you.

  11. 11 TEDxLibrariansTO, Part 1 « Literate Programmer said at 9:03 am on July 5th, 2011:

    […] call an opening call to arms.  She’s got her “talk I meant to give” version here (I know all about this) so I won’t try to summarize.  Best part?  The […]

  12. 12 Managing for Rebellion « Tiny Glass Houses said at 4:22 pm on July 14th, 2011:

    […] power, we must not manage rebellion, but manage for it. We must encourage everyone we manage to “challenge legacy processes. all of them. often.” (Buckland, 2011). We must encourage them to resist our authority for change when they think […]

  13. 13 LibPunk Radio: We’re coming back. Join in! | LibPunk said at 12:46 pm on February 19th, 2013:

    […] is still taking a break), but is also starting a new job. Amy rocked the TEDxLibrarians (See here preso here.), and I lost my job. That’s a lot of […]

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