Monday, December 14, 2009

Could libraries do with a Steve Jobs in the changing information world?

I have read plenty about Apple's Steve Jobs (1,2 & 3). I have seen him in 2002 at Mac Expo, meet some of his former work colleagues and business associates whilst working on a documentary.
Here is a brief synopsis of Steve Jobs career that really won't do him justice. First of Steve Jobs is not a nice person. Many stories about him being a first class pain in the butt. One story abound that he called the Apple Lisa project was named after his first daughter, even though he denied she was his as he was said he was sterile. It was later proven he was a father.
The interesting thing about Jobs really, is unlike someone like someone like his assumed nemesis Bill Gates, Job's has recreated himself in many guises four times. In the 1970's, him and Steve Wozniak created Apple and the Apple. Jobs was idea's man and the sales force, Woz was the introverted engineer who created the Apple II. Was therefore was the creator of the Apple brand.
Secondly, after John Sculley ousted Jobs from Apple, he went and started NeXT Computer workstations which Tim Berners-Lee used to create the World Wide Web.
In 1986 he paid $5,000,000 for what would later become Pixar studios .
Finally, in 1997 Jobs went back to Apple and created his digital hub. His creating the Ipod and Itunes, has meant Apple has taken a march on the digital music and video market.
My reason for feeling that librarians and information professionals need someone like Jobs is that he has done something our profession needs to do many times. He has created. He has been at the start of the Microcomputer industry. He has been there to create machines that assisted in the world wide web. Started one of the most prestigious film companies in years and started a whole new way listening to music.
All these were not only great pieces of engineering but also management. These were also created with panache. Jobs has constantly re-invented himself and his products he has worked on.
In our profession we need to do this. We need to change and re-invent our role. We all have been to work and heard people say they can get information from only Google. Libraries need people to pre-empt what patrons need before companies like Google take our role. Google have already taken a march on search. We need to take a march in either new area's like some have done already or create an improved and personalised service.
My problem is though, do we have the managers or leaders to take us there? Can we re-invent the library? Are we ever taught this? My main concern at University when doing my Masters was that we were not taught to be advocates of our profession or to think outside the box to keep ourselves relevant. Where is the libraries Steve Jobs? Any idea's would be much appreciated.

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