Journeys and Transformations
By Marydee Ojala
Editor • ONLINE
I thought about giving this editorial the title, “From Here to There and Back Again,” expanding on The Hobbit’s Bilbo Baggins’ book title, There and Back Again, since many of the articles in this issue talk about the professional journeys of information professionals. Then I decided it was an inaccurate representation of these people’s experiences and skewed the lessons to be learned from them. Many describe going “from here to there”—from a corporation to academia, from information gathering to intelligence creating, from librarianship to communicating and publishing. Like Bilbo, they followed no maps. Instead, they invented their own career pathways. They transformed their work lives and built new products and services, in one instance as a life-affirming reaction to terrorist attacks.
Bilbo Baggins went there and back again. He came back to the same physical place, but he was a changed hobbit. Transformational librarians can switch physical venues and not return to the same place. However, you can transform the space around you, transform aspects of what you do, or totally reinvent the notion of librarianship rather than come back. As TFPL Ltd [www.tfpl.com], a U.K.-based recruitment firm, found, the recent development of “e-roles” indicates that the boundaries among information management, content management, and information technology are blurring. Thus, it’s a perfect opportunity to think seriously about how to capitalize on such tumultuous times.
Transformational librarians look at changes in the information world and take advantage of those changes to enhance their roles. When you’ve been online for a long time—as some readers of ONLINE will attest—there’s a tendency to sigh and reflect on “the good old days,” to remember a brighter, shinier past than actually existed, when “online” connoted “elite” and librarians ruled cyberspace. Everyone has a seat at the online table these days, but they don’t necessarily bring the ethos, tenacity, or knowledge that is instinctive in the information professional’s makeup.
In its 30 years of publishing, ONLINE has frequently covered change. The evolution of job duties, functions, and titles of information professionals has been exciting to watch. It seems that each decade sees its own form of transformation. In 1990, Allen Veaner wrote a book, Academic Librarianship in a Transformational Age, which is still in many library collections. Five years later, Jane Dysart and Rebecca Jones wrote an article on the attributes of the transformational librarian for Dialog’s Quantum program [http://quantum.dialog.com]. To them, delivering value was paramount—and it still is. The question is how best to deliver value in an online, always-connected information environment.
It’s important for information professionals to focus on the possibilities for transformation that exist in their milieus. Even if you think opportunities for innovation don’t exist, looking at the situation differently may help identify potential new roles. If nothing strikes you, then it may be time to transform yourself by moving on. What shines through all of the articles in this issue is the ability of information professionals to adapt to rapidly evolving work situations, to guide digital projects, to remain positive, and to have fun during the journey.
is the editor of ONLINE. Comments? E-mail letters
to the editor to