The "fuzzy" library
At OCLC's "Cataloging Efficiencies That Make a Difference" event held recently at the Gutman Library, Harvard University, Eric Childress commented during his keynote that today's libraries have "fuzzy boundaries." One librarian later commented that he found the concept "thought provoking," but wondered if Eric considered this a "positive thing" for libraries. I decided to follow up to find out his thoughts about this comment.
Eric confirmed that the "fuzzy" library affects both the collection and the staffing within a library. Collections now consist of a variety of resources: licensed content, free resources on the web, electronic devices, etc. Therefore, what libraries own is not nearly as clean as it used to be. The "fuzzy" library can also move beyond the boundaries of one institution. For one example of collaboration between libraries, visit the 2CUL website of Cornell and Columbia, an effort to combine library resources of both institutions. For more "fuzziness," would their collection count as one or two collections after they are combined? Also, in the past, staff could rely on their duties to remain steady with not much fluctuation in job expectations. Today change is the one thing staff can rely on. Staff is being asked to do more with less, and take on additional responsibilities not previously outlined in job descriptions, which sometimes blurs the lines within organizational structures. With more fluid roles, this is a probably a good thing for staff, but in many cases there are no clearly defined expectations, which can be unsettling. With change, there is more fuzziness for the future, but more opportunity for all.