I’m in Minnesota this week for CNI. Though I proudly wear the “OCLC” label now, I’m actually here representing LITA as part of my vice presidential stint. OCLC is ably represented by my friends and colleagues–Marilee Proffitt, Mindy Pozenel, Constance Malpas, and Jim Michalko.
After a (finally) warm weekend in Columbus, I arrived to a snowy morning in Minneapolis. Someone told me that you can tell it’s spring in Minnesota when the smaller lakes begin to thaw. It reminded me of an image that I encountered when I first got to OCLC. Outside my window is one of the large ponds that dot the OCLC campus in Dublin. Slightly frozen, I saw several members of Dublin’s rather robust goose population crossing the thin ice covering the pond. Mind you, it wasn’t quite comical–it was actually done with as much grace as a goose can muster in such an exercise. (I’ve actually encountered a scared goose–a long story involving college, alcohol, and the near imprisonment of my college roommate–I was but an innocent bystander).
It dawned on me that these geese were not afraid because if the ice breaks, they can swim; and if the water is too cold, they can fly. Well, the metaphor for librarianship is almost too easy here. I would argue that sometimes fear of the cold water makes people forget they can fly.
Back to CNI…in the opening plenary, Daniel Atkins, recipient of the Paul Evan Peters Award, noted that he viewed tenure as an obligation to take chances–an interesting, if not somewhat rare belief. But he also noticed (comically) that it took 20 years for the overhead projector to make it from the bowling alley to the classroom.
What chances are libraries going to take in the next five years? Will it be migrating away from a telnet-based ILS module to a ten-year-old windows or web client? Will it be using open source applications? Is that the thinnest ice on which we are willing to venture?
I say take some chances. Don’t worry if the ice breaks–you can always swim. Don’t worry if the water’s cold–maybe you can fly.