Thursday, November 25, 2010

library as a "creative organization"

Libraries are often known as places that are all about following the rules, whether it be keeping quiet, returning books within a certain amount of time, or cataloging things using a certain system. This makes sense: to organize, preserve, and provide access to numerous physical objects rules are essential.

But, increasingly, I think that there is a case for the creative library that breaks the rules. As our resources shift to big aggregations on the network (JSTOR, LexisNexis, Ebscohost), less of our work will be about locally replicating what thousands of other libraries are doing, and more of it will have to do with strategically advancing the missions of our institutions in creative ways.

This creativity should flow through research and information management techniques that we teach students as they navigate a complex information landscape. It should surface in publications that explain how our resources and services can support local research and teaching. It should emerge in complex digital projects that we manage to support faculty and student research. It should show through in events that we put on that better connect our communities. It is also needed as we continue to manage an increasingly complex array of analog and digital media that we must access and preserve, often most effectively with consortial partners.

I don't want to throw out the rules. Rules and standards are still essential for much of what we do, and if we don't have folks who can put the right systems in place and utilize them with attention to detail, we'll certainly fail at our most basic functions. Furthermore, rules often give our creative projects a framework in which to flourish. For instance, the standards EAD and TEI are often the backbone of our digital projects.

But how do we bring creativity into our organizations while retaining our rule-bound needs? A topic for another post.

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