I am told that the professions of the future have to do with virtual reality, big data, data mining and robotics...
I haven't read yet, among many other things, any mention to agriculture, or to any other form of labor to produce food. Probably because of the "disgust" that certain modern and urban societies feel toward everything meaning "peasant", a term associated with "backwardness," something they do not want to be close to.
I haven't read yet any mention to agriculture, horticulture, fruit growing, or any type of production of food that can actually be considered "food" (and not those "vitamin + protein" craps invented by some poor devil of Silicon Valley). And I cannot help wondering what future societies will eat. If, as far as we go, there is something that we can still call "society".
[Unless, of course, those "professions of the future" are intended only for certain inhabitants of this planet: those who deserve to work in something considered "a profession." The others will continue in the same limbo they are in today, sewing the clothes of "the chosen ones", harvesting their food, cleaning and recycling their trash ...]
I am also told that the future of information professionals (librarians, documentalists, or whatever they are calling themselves nowadays) consists in training, training and training, in order not to be overcome by a robot. Those who defend this are those who intimately believe that, in the event that the most probable dystopia is fulfilled and all workers are replaced by robots (more efficient, less fallible, more controllable), they will keep their jobs.
And then I remember that now famous poem (falsely attributed to Bertolt Brecht; in fact, by Martin Niemöller) that ends: "Now they come for me, but it's too late."
I am told, then, that the future is of machines. That they will do everything and that we (all of us? The societies of the so-called "third world" as well?) will be able to dedicate ourselves to what we like most, unconcerned about everything else. And I wonder what kind of "carefree" life is that they're trying to sell us: replaced by machines, interacting with machines, and watching life go through a screen, virtually.
And when I finish wasting my time wondering all that, I go back to work in the garden. Tomatoes will not harvest themselves (at least, not for the time being).
Anyone with money is quite capable of designing, building and carrying out a huge library. One with a modern design, amazing collections, hyper-connection, abundant and well-paid staff, technological resources...
The fact is that that library, placed in a country without resources, would stop working. Automatically.
I understand that in a resourceful society, such libraries (and, as I speak of libraries, I could be referring to many other institutions as well) are useful. But I do not think they are a model to be exhibited, or that they can be proposed as an example, as a "good practice".
Simply because they are projects fed with money. And money can only be used as fuel for such institutions in a handful of countries around the world. The rest is not so lucky.
And yet, international congresses are plagued by this almost obscene exhibitionism. Sometimes they seem to want us to be jealous, showing themselves as they do. Sometimes it seems that they were in a kind of competition, a foolish race of expenses and investments.
Honestly speaking, achieving something simply by having the resources to do so is not something to be proud of. "With good soil, plenty of water and a yoke, any fool is a farmer," says the old (and well-aimed) Castilian saying.
Allow me to make a silly suggestion. What if we design and elaborate library models whose success does not depend strictly (I stress "strictly") on budget, so that their principles can be exported? What if we put as an example and as reference only those models that are really replicable, sustainable in time, feasible...? What if we encourage our students and our researchers to work on building this kind of models, with the challenge of doing more with less?
And what if, for once, we stop feeding with our admiration and our applause the ego of that herd of poor devils with money that keep going around the world showing "their beautiful libraries"? Don't you think that's a good idea?
We know (more or less) the "what": what do librarians do. Although sometimes that is dictated by some superior (and usually invisible, and totally library-unrelated) policy-maker.
We know (quite well) the "how": how we do whatever we do. Those are the techniques, methods and tools filling the 90% of LIS schools' curricula all around the world.
We assume the "who". And I say "we assume" because we generally do not have too much time to know as well as we should those "who" we work for/with. Or we do not care to know them.
But we are unclear (or completely ignorant) about the "why" and the "what for". And no, the answer is not in our institutional policies, in the trendy LIS handbook, in a certain IFLA manifesto, in a particular ALA guideline, or in the words of the enlightened LIS guru on duty.
We are not always clear about why and what we work for. We do not always know our reasons, our motives, our ultimate goals: those that should "move" us, push us into action, make us fall in love with our profession, get ourselves up every morning with a new idea. Those that should make us cry and laugh. Those without which we feel a little empty — an emptiness we try to fill (usually unsuccessfully) in this congress, in that update seminar, reading this magazine, or learning that new technology.
There is much to discuss. Much to discover, to learn and unlearn. Much to correct, and so much to propose. And much to think about. Because, as Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano put it in "Los hijos de los días" (2012), "free are those who think, not those who comply".
What are we waiting for?
About the posts
Texts: Edgardo Civallero.
Las entradas pertenecientes a la serie de notas Conocimiento y biosfera pueden leerse aquí, junto a las de las series Apuntes críticos y Gotas de animación a la lectura. Asimismo pueden consultarse las distintas entradas de las columnas Palabras ancladas, Los muchos caminos, Palabras habitadas y Libros y lecturas indígenas.
Por último, las conferencias, los artículos académicos y otros trabajos similares pueden consultarse a través del listado completo de publicaciones, o bien revisando el archivo de Acta Académica (de acceso libre) o las plataformas Academia.edu, Issuu, Scribd y Calameo.