I think the ever-increasing speed of change has been the constant challenge all through the last 35 years or so — just as an example, when I started work in university libraries large halls filled with catalogue card cabinets were the norm; indeed in some cases ‘guard-book’ catalogues were still used, where slips with details of new books were pasted (with glue, not as in copy and paste…) in the gaps between existing book details. But change has been a very welcome stimulation, and has provided me with a most exciting and rewarding career!
There has been much talk recently about the potential decline and disappearance of libraries (as well as of publishers, and other intermediaries ‘getting in the way of’ direct contact between the creators and users of knowledge, theoretical and applied). Apart from the fact that university libraries have never been busier, providing an ideal and welcoming space for study and social interaction, and often open 24/7, it seems to me that there will continue to be a vital role for interpreters and guides to the vast deluge of information available online. But librarians will have to redouble their efforts to find new and relevant ways to fulfil this role, as many are now, using current and future social media etc., and not rely — if any are still continuing to do so — on waiting for students and researchers to come to them as traditional guardians of knowledge.
I mentioned change earlier, but really the highlights are often to do with people. I’ve been very fortunate to work with wonderful colleagues (in the great majority of cases!), including people from the broader world of scholarly communication, given my career emphasis on the provision of information resources — even where our emphases and priorities have differed to some extent. My involvement with UKSG has been particularly rewarding, including the privilege of chairing UKSG for three years and attending 21 annual conferences, culminating in the slightly unexpected bright sunshine of Glasgow this year.
I’ve always tried to be enthusiastic and positive, and to enjoy myself, and I think that is the most important thing, even though I know situations can sometimes be fraught. Always be aware of what’s coming along, be ready to innovate, and at the same time be ready to work alongside others as much more can be achieved by a group working to a common goal than by an individual, at least in my experience!
Well, we have recently moved to Devon, and I’ve been enjoying the time for more long walks in the country and by the sea. There is the traditional chance to spend time with grandchildren (we didn’t have any a couple of years ago, and all being well will have five by this coming January). And I’ve been invited to give a conference paper in India, so we are looking forward to our first visit to that country later this month.