Understanding the possibilities: a key for strategic positioning

Ten years ago I wrote an article titled Understanding the Possibilities: A Key for Strategic Visioning. (The article is behind an expensive paywall if you’re not in academia, but if you’re really interested contact me and I’ll send you the text.)

2002 represented the ten-year mark in my career. I’m now at the twenty-year mark of my professional life, having transferred from managing library technology in a higher education environment to working with Internet-based startups.

That article reflected on the formation of my career as a librarian. My exposure to the early Internet before the Web existed, the days when a young technophile got excited by command-line tools such as Telnet & FTP that offered access to, what seemed at the time, like an amazing set of databases and documents.

I want to quote a couple of paragraphs from that article:

“Catching my attention one summer day in 1991 was a message that came across PACS-L titled “Strategic Visions White Paper: Librarianship, the Profession — Prelude to its Future”. Reading this message that summer while in library school helped me decide what type of librarian to become: one who embraced the challenges of leveraging technology that held the promise of developing new ways of accessing information resources and offering new services that matched the evolving needs of students and faculty. This focus became so ingrained in my thinking that it has defined my outlook on the profession.

“From this point everything I did as a librarian became a manner of understanding the possibilities. Innovative uses of technology come about when people see new ways of using the tools. These insights usually are made only once one understands the possibilities of the technology. An important role for librarians is to help others understand how technology can be used to enhance the spread of scholarship. But librarianship is not about technology. The academic librarian of today and the future can help faculty develop digital resources that offer students new means of utilizing information. Understanding the possibilities of being a librarian requires taking risks, trying something different, exhibiting the courage to fail, and learning from shortcomings in order to improve efforts for the next initiative.”

Though I’m no longer a librarian these thoughts still drive many of my efforts in thinking how digital publishing. Ultimately, my work is never about the technology but the story being told.

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