My previous winner of this (grossly under-recognised) award Louise Guy from Cirque du Soleil was not at the conference this year, although I did bump into Chad Eng, drummer in the death metal band From the Wreckage, looking suitably cool with his shoulder length blond hair and goatee beard.
This year I didn’t come away with a clear winner, but instead a trio of cool librarians.
Mary Ellen Bates
The first, and most surprising discovery for me, was Mary Ellen Bates. She is a big name in the information profession with more than 25 years of experience in business research. She has written hundreds of articles and white papers, conducted hundreds of speaking engagements, and is an acknowledged expert on various aspects of online and Internet research. Instead of her usual topic relating to what’s new in internet research and tools, her much more ambitious title was, The Next Information Revolution, and our Role as Revolutionaries. She caught my attention with her second slide which flashed up for just an instant with this photo of Patty Hearst, best known for her attachment to an SLA organisation with truly revolutionary intentions.
Her presentation (which I will cover in a later blog) was primarily about our new clients and customers known as millennials or digital natives. And how we must re-educate ourselves to provide services they want in the way they want. These are customers who will be telling us what they want rather than vice versa at present. Her blunt but effective scenarios contained scenes of librarians explaining the limitations of their databases or catalogues only to be met with, ‘I see your lips moving, but I’m not listening’. Or even worse, a response consisting of one of the two favourite three letter responses of this new generation, OMG (Oh My God) – meaning I’m not impressed, and WTF (What The ‘Heck’) – meaning I really don’t care at all about what you are saying to me.
As you can see by her photo Mary Ellen does not immediately strike one as of the revolutionary mould. In fact you could say she looks something close to the stereotype of the female librarian (although sans hair in a bun and wearing a pearl necklace). But with her casual (joking) references to giving up on her crack pipe, and other amusing but unexpected comments I didn’t have time to note, she effectively destroys that negative image of information professionals.
Needless to say, as a cutting edge librarian she has a blog (since 2006) called Librarian of Fortune (Mary Ellen Bates contributes white noise to the blogosphere) at http://www.librarianoffortune.com/
I can’t wait to hear her next presentation.