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Speaker Spotlight: Ken Roberts

We interviewed Computers in Libraries 2013 speaker Ken Roberts to get his thoughts on the future and evolution of libraries and we think you’ll be interested in what he had to say!

Ken Roberts was the Chief Librarian of the Hamilton Public Library in Canada, retiring in 2012. He recently received the Canadian Library Association’s IOutstanding Service to Librarianship Award, the Ontario Public Library Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was named to McMaster University’s Alumnae Gallery. Ken leads the Canadian Urban Libraries Council Task Force which is working with publishers on a new eBook model.

Ken has a strong IT background and was seconded to unify the IT systems of six amalgamating municipalities in Ontario.

Ken RobertsOur theme for CIL this year is Evolving in New Directions. How do you see our libraries evolving in the next few years?

Wow. There are so many. I think public libraries are beginning to recognize and embrace the fact that much of our business related to the distribution of creative material, not information. In fact, we are in synch with trends for future societal needs, placing less emphasis on knowledge and more emphasis on imagination and creativity. We have played and will play and important role in helping people to stretch their thinking.

What innovative things have you seen libraries doing that others could learn from?

I have visited Northern European libraries several times in the past two years and am impressed with their recognition of creativity. I saw some really simple ideas. For example, in many public libraries computers were not booked for one-long blocks, assuming that a single individual wanted to research a topic. Instead, people could identify their projects and needed software and then book large blocks of time, weeks in advance.

Are there new skills necessary to evolve libraries in the future?

I am going to try for a tweet-length response to a question that requires much more. Much of the goodwill that public libraries enjoy comes from a nostalgic view of libraries-past. Toronto-based design guru Alexander Manu states that organizations with products need to pay attention to the “Apperception” that they emit. Apperception is the impression that people have of a place or and object or a person, as opposed to any “reality” of the object. We need skills that help us to create a new public apperception that cannot be based on nostalgia because the current generation of young people has little nostalgic memory of “library.” Creating this new apperception will require librarians who are devoted to understanding their customers (and non-customers) and improving their experiences with libraries.

Ken will be presenting the following sessions:


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