Necessity, the Mother
by Dick Kaser
I thought long and hard about putting the word “innovate” on the cover of this issue. In this world of ours, true innovations are few and far between: the wheel, the printing press, the internet, and the iPad. And I’m not convinced the people who created any of those items set out with a mission to innovate. It’s more likely they wanted to solve a problem, answer a need, or do something better.
Still, today, there’s no lack of voices suggesting that—as we try to deal with changes in our environment—we should strive to innovate. Or, at least, think outside the box and stop assuming the rules we followed in the past still apply in all cases. Perhaps better descriptive words are “adopt,” “adapt,” and “apply.”
Recently, while moderating a panel discussion about ebooks, I found myself saying two things: first, that the presenters had reminded me how necessity is often the mother of invention and, second, that librarians are no strangers to the process of adjusting to rapidly changing conditions. In fact, I have watched librarians resiliently adapt to countless waves of technology in my 30-some years in the information industry. In my humble opinion, librarians are very familiar with invention and reinvention.
In this issue of CIL, I’m pleased to present some recent examples of how librarians assessed their situations and adjusted to current realities with novel approaches. I’ve also included some opinion pieces about how libraries might—all right, I’ll say the word—“innovate” in the future.
When first outlined, the overall theme of this issue was supposed to be revitalization. And, of course, that’s the other side of the same creative coin. As libraries realign themselves, adopt new technologies, and invent new solutions, they do what librarians have consistently done through the past years, centuries, and even millennia. They ensure the future by evolving along with the media of their day and the requirements of their patrons, users, and backers—they are not only adopters, but “imaginers” and “reinventors.”
Here at CIL, I’m afraid we’re going to have to do some adapting ourselves, as this issue marks the final one our very talented and intrepid designer, Danielle Nicotra, rendered. I wish her all the best in her new life, just as I wish you each the very best in the brand new year ahead of you. Godspeed, my friends.
Dick Kaser, Executive Editor