'You can of course pick the Virtual Librarian of your choice. You can have a male or female, young or old, soft spoken or aggressive conscientious or slap dash.
Such a Virtual Library would offer several advantages over current libraries. For example, all items in the collection would be permanently on display, nothing would be on loan, or away for binding, or stolen or mutilated. Secondly, the materials can be in the shape and form you like. Oversize books get put side by side with smaller books. If you like your books to have leather bindings, then th ey all have leather bindings, and so on. Thirdly, the same item can appear on many places on the shelves. You can have one library with the items in subject order. The same library again but this tim e the material in author order. The same library again, but everything in publisher order. You choose. Finally, the physical characteristics of the library can be to your choice. If you want a bright modern building with windows looking out over countryside, that's what you get. If you want the feeling of a comfortable gentleman's club, with hushed noises and deep armchairs, you get that instead '. (Oppenheim, p226)
Although technology will facilitate the eventual implementation of Oppenheim's scenario the overriding issue raised here is the concept of choice. Choice that clients will make in the future and cert ainly are making now about the type of service they want, who will provide that service, how it will be provided and the price they are prepared to pay.
When I am talking with people who work in libraries I hear conflicting stories. On one hand libraries are having to take cuts in staff and resource budgets and the situation is very depressing. Howev er, on the other hand, I am told that libraries are the way to the future and librarians are in demand and commanding competitive salaries. The two points of view would seem to be so opposite that m aking sense out of them might seem impossible. Once again it comes down to clients exercising their right to choose. If they are not happy with the service then they won't use it. How then does an or ganisation like AIMA operate in such an environment?
The response The variability in services and the amount of change taking place in libraries were key influences on the most recent AIMA strategic plan which has emphasised the identification of the skills people who work in our industry will need if they are to take a leading role in the delivery of information services and create those options to allow for the choice that clients want. The issues we aim to address in our own service delivery include:
AIMA offers a range of services under three broad functional areas:
AIMA is looking to model flexibility as an organisation skill which we believe will be the difference between the more successful and less successful libraries of the future. For us this means combin ing services where appropriate, delivering programs differently and offering a mix of services for clients to choose from. Once again it is about facilitating choice.
A number of key areas have emerged for which we are either introducing new services or redesigning existing ones. For example:
Clients are of the view that many set visions and goals that were not achievable, or were too complex or too long term and so the plans foundered. In the climate of uncertainty and change a strategic plan must not only set the direction but have a degree of flexibility that ensures the library can take advantage of opportunities which arise unexpectedly.
In consultation with clients who have expressed concerns about their lack of progress in this area we have introduced new training programs-Revitalising the Strategic Plan and Unblocking the Strategi c Plan to our calendar. Both programs are designed to cover standard strategic planning processes but include evaluation aspects to ensure past problems are overcome. They have been designed for indi viduals and as inhouse programs.
Many of our libraries have been focussing on technology in their strategic planning and some now understand that it is a means rather than an end. Libraries are shifting the emphasis of their plannin g from technology to service delivery using technology as the tool. This means that the information needs of the clients are now a high priority.
AIMA is also working in a much closer relationship with other professional associations such as the Australian Library and Information Association to bring to libraries common goals and objectives. F or example ALIA may identify an issue which is important to its membership and AIMA will support this with relevant training programs.
In today's world it is difficult to operate by yourself and AIMA has always seen itself as a partner in the development of library staff and now it sees itself as a partner in the wider information c onsulting business.
AIMA has identified a need for library staff to be successful trainers, particularly those who work in areas where they are imparting knowledge and skills to each other or to clients. Our Train the T rainer course has had a dominant emphasis on inhouse training program development and this is being redeveloped to cover training for clients in areas such as electronic information services, Interne t training, which is a major activity for many of our libraries at the moment.
Records Managers and Information Technologists are also experts in this area and have skills which complement those of librarians. In Australia we are seeing a surge of interest by private enterprise in librarians and it is because they have skills which can add value to the management of information and the retrieval of information from external sources particularly electronic information (Inte rnet).
This service involves initial consulting work, organisational and system development followed by training. In one large government agency a strategic planning and marketing exercise was undertaken wi th the library, where consideration of how they might deliver more of their services electronically was expanded to cover the whole of the agency's corporate information area.
While Leadership as a topic has been included in other AIMA programs from a three day Leadership Skills Institute which was aimed at senior to middle managers and in modules of our management skills programs, the Aurora Leadership Institute is the first time it has been treated in such a high profile and targeted way.