Although I was tired by the end of the week and tempted to head straight home after work on Friday March 8th, I had RSVP’d to attend an evening lecture at the Library of Congress titled “The Knowledge Revolution and the Future of Libraries,” presented by Dr. Ismail Serageldin, director of the new Alexandria Library in Egypt. The invitation had arrived in my VLA in-box, and it was one of those events that felt too good to pass up (although I doubted that I’d come away with any practical insights to pass along to my colleagues).
The evening lecture included a free reception in the Thomas Jefferson Building’s Great Hall and an opportunity to mingle with the Librarian of Congress James Billington and the Egyptian Ambassador to the United States, Mohamed M. Tawfik. Equally valuable, however, was the chance to chat with LC staffers and other knowledge seekers and admirers of the world’s great libraries. In The Great Hall, underneath expansive archways and alongside the 15th century “Giant Bible of Mainz,” I nibbled on dainty vegetables and sipped white wine with an LC cataloger while waiting for the lecture to start. The cataloger was anxious to hear more, after having attended Dr. Serageldin’s noon talk on the loss and rebirth of the Library of Alexandria. The 12:00 session, which apparently ran overtime, had been so engaging that only the LC Librarians who were needed on Reference actually got up and left at 1:00 p.m.
Although Dr. Serageldin’s lecture was too content-rich to summarize in these “Openers,” I can share a handful of insights that I gleaned from my scribbled notes. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina director observed that “Good things come to those who wait … given that those who wait work like hell while they’re waiting!” (I think most VLA members will relate to this.) He then went on to explain that the library of the future will be a meeting place, and that we must be willing to collaborate with others to create offerings that cannot be found elsewhere. Serageldin also advised that we increase our digital images; put more effort into integrating images with text; and make use of technology to print books on demand. He stressed that we need to keep changing our plans as the world changes, and that we need to remain humble. Did we see the Internet coming? No. Did we foresee Twitter and Facebook? Of course not. “I don’t know where we’re going,” he concluded, “but it will be very different from the present.”
Given that “The Library” will continue to evolve as new technologies ebb and flow, it’s of special value to be a part of the Virginia Library Association during such transitions. As many of you already know, VLA provides its members with an unlimited array of continuing-education opportunities in the form of online training tools, news of upcoming events, committee activities, and annual conferences. And for those who miss out on such learning opportunities, you sometimes get to experience them, vicariously, within these journal pages.
In this issue, you can read all about VLA’s 2012 Conference, which offered a wide variety of sessions for VLA members and library supporters from every corner of the Commonwealth. If you attended the conference but missed out on a specific event, you might have a chance to learn about what you missed. You might also be excited to learn that the 2013 VLA Conference, scheduled for September 25–27 at the Williamsburg Hotel and Conference Center, promises to be equally engaging! So mark your calendars early, and be sure to keep an eye out for any announcements and additional opportunities that are open to all members of the Virginia Library Association.