Making Work and Technology Work for Librarians

Working remotely, or commuting to and from the office. Speaking face to face, or communicating through a computer screen. Feeling connected to co-workers or isolated from them. Taking advantage of technology, or feeling overwhelmed by it.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created stark choices for many workers and their employers, and these choices will come into even sharper focus as the pandemic eases. Increasingly, employers and workers will need to harness the forces driving the future of work and technology and implement new practices and processes accordingly.

That was the overriding message of InfoTrends 2021, a half-day exploration of the intersection of work and technology presented by SLA on April 29. The four speakers—Brian Merchant, a tech journalist who’s writing a book about human opposition to automation; Debra Jasper, an expert in enhancing professional communication and presentation skills; Chrissy Geluk, an information professional who enjoys experimenting with new technologies and using them to enhance her productivity; and Jeff Schwartz, a consultant who leads research into the future of work—shared insights and skills that, taken as a whole, spoke to the challenges and opportunities awaiting special librarians and their organizations in the months and years ahead.

Among the takeaways were the following:

  • “Today, when we present, we have to fight for attention, and attention is EVERYTHING. No one gets up in the morning and says, ‘I’m looking forward to watching a webinar today.'” Debra Jasper
  • “The original sin of automation was that it was done undemocratically and for purposes of profit extraction. We have to fight back against those impulses wherever we detect them.” Brian Merchant
  • “We have to ask ourselves, what is the end we are seeking when we talk about re-imagining or re-architecting work? I think the future of work will be, to borrow a phrase that Thomas Friedman uses, ‘dynamic stability,’ like riding a bicycle. It will always be in motion.” Jeff Schwartz

Between the presentations, networking breaks allowed attendees to gather at virtual tables and share their reactions and insights with fellow librarians and information professionals. Seema Rampersad, a librarian at the British Library, and Eugene Giudice, an information professional with Dentons in Chicago, acted as “catalysts” for the discussions by sharing their observations.

Recordings of the InfoTrends presentations will be available soon in SLA’s Learning Hub.

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