Asking big questions

Big questions were a key theme at Internet Librarian International 2010.

‘Big questions' (who are we and what are we for?) were a key theme at Internet Librarian International.   In his keynote address, author Robert Rowland-Smith challenged the audience to consider the nature of knowledge (it is not necessarily the same as ‘the truth'!) and the process of understanding.    What is the role of the librarian in a sophisticated and complex information landscape?

Bethan Ruddock, a key figure in the increasingly influential new professionals network, also asked a big question - do libraries have a future - and other speakers and delegates picked up this theme.  What are librarians for?!

End users increasingly rely on brands (e.g. the BBC) to facilitate their understanding of the world.  We should also give up telling users about the ‘right way' to do information research, suggested Tony Hirst of the Open University, and acknowledge Google will probably be their first stop.    We can mediate on behalf of our users and should work to develop our own trusted brand- perhaps moving beyond our role of ‘innocent bystanders'.   We should be conversing with our users and taking part in debates.  This was a theme picked up by Hazel Hall in her keynote paper which encouraged a more collaborative use of social media.   

Libraries may have a future, but librarians and information professionals have many futures open to them.