Umbrella 2013 paper by Kelly and HollinsI recently described a paper on “Reflecting on Yesterday, Understanding Today, Planning for Tomorrow” which I presented at the Umbrella 2013 conference – although in the 20 minutes available it was only possible to give a high level overview of the approaches which had been used in the work of the JISC Observatory.

Yesterday, however, I facilitated a 90 minute workshop session at the University of York on “Preparing For The Future: Helping Libraries Respond to Changing Technological, Economic and Political Change“. The workshop was part of a Staff Development Festival for University of York staff who work in the university Library and IT Services department. I have to admit I was pleased to see this level of commitment to staff development which, I heard, reflects institutional commitment to continued professional development. Such ongoing staff development will be particularly relevant to the University of York since, last August, it joined the ranks of the Russell Group universities. Staff in the Library and IT Services will have a key role to play in supporting the research activities across the university. My workshop was aimed to help participants identify key development areas for the future, in light of learning from lessons from the past.

Since the session was a workshop this provided time for the participants to take part in a Delphi exercise. As Paul Hollins (CETIS) and I described in our paper presented at the Umbrella 2013 Conference:

The Delphi process is an established and structured communication technique for interactive forecasting reliant on a selected panel of experts. The technique has been adopted by the US-based New Media Consortium (NMC) for the NMC Horizon project centrepiece activity charting the international landscape of emerging technologies initiative as they relate to “teaching, learning , research creative inquiry and information management”. 

The four groups each identified four technologies or technology-related developments which were felt to have significant impact of library/IT activities in 2-4 years. The groups then voted on the technologies to identify the three most significant areas. At yesterday’s event these technology areas were mobile; social media and cloud services. Perhaps nothing surprising there, but this provided an opportunity for open discussions on the implications for Library and IT Services policies and practices. In addition we also discussed the implications of the technologies, such as ‘gamification’ which had been mentioned but received few votes.

The workshop provided a valuable opportunity to make an institution aware of the methodology which has been used by the JISC Observatory team prior to the cessation of the JISC Observatory work, in light of the cessation of JISC core-funding for UKOLN and CETIS. In light of moves away from centralised advice and support for the sector it will be important, I feel, that the sector is made aware of such methodologies in order that these approaches can be used at an institutional level.
A post entitled I want to be a Dandelion! published yesterday on the Unravelled Bookshelves blog gave another perspective of the importance of supporting diversity across the sector and a move away from Big Projects. The post reported on a talk given by Ben Showers at the Umbrella 2013 conference:

The final thought is one that led to my title today, Ben Showers spoke about tooling up, I thought I would hear about what tools I need for the future instead I got a wonderful talk about how the future is change and we must embrace as much as we can, that we are valuable and valued we just need to keep up, he drew the talk to a close saying we should be less like mammals and more like dandelions, a mammal has few children and spends long time nurturing them and puts a lot of care and thought in tot hem, and they as many to survive to keep life going as possible, while Dandelions throw many many seeds out, no care , no energy, no worries and they spread and get taken by all. We need to focus on less big things and more on smaller and freer items that float and go further, and need much much less from us.

I agree. And I’m looking forward to working across the sector in supporting institutions in identifying what those “smaller and freerer items” may be and in best practices in exploiting them. There are opportunities for consultants to work with the sector, I feel. I’m looking forward to such work after I am made redundant in less than 4 weeks time!

Note that the slides I used in the workshop session are available on Slideshare and embedded below:

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