Library as coffee house – what can we take from this model?

Last year I attended IASL in Brisbane, on a mission to present on the topic of collaborative practice with my friend and colleague, Senga White. There, we had the good fortune to hear Professor Erica McWilliam deliver a keynote titled High standards or a high standard of standardness?  You can hear the presentation there while viewing the slides – well worth just under an hour of your time.

Essentially, the presentation drew comparisons between the role of early coffee houses and their proprietors as brokers of informational transactions, viewed against the role of libraries today – as places where needs of the user can be matched with information, tools, services or social transactons.  She went on to point to our seemingly infinite capacity to keep adding to our workload, engaging with new resourcing, tools, services, tasks, without growing the capacity to remove the no-longer-relevant-or-necessary from our repertoire.  As we seek to engage in a new digital environment, it is critical that establish what traditional tasks are no longer truly necessary – and this conversation is becoming increasingly urgent.

McWilliam was funny, articulate, and I urge you to listen to the presentation.  The images taken from texts now in the public domain are captioned with wit and humour, providing many laugh-out-loud moments during the presentation.

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