Friday, July 15, 2016

Alvin Toffler, Thomas Friedman and Filipino Librarians

On July 7, 2016, I gave a lecture on Reading as Essential Survival Skill to a group of librarians. This was during the Academic Book Sellers Association of the Philippines Book Fair at SM Megamall. The lecture-forum was sponsored by the Philippine Librarians Association, Inc. My lecture was all about reading, of course, learning how to read and reading to learn.

At the start of my lecture, I gave a book talk on two books that influences my paradigm in the practice of the profession. These two books are, Power Shift by Alvin Toffler (Bantam Books, 1990) and The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman.

In a nutshell, Toffler points out that people who have the knowledge and know how to use, manage and create technology have the power to influence and qualitatively make a change. This change in the use of power through knowledge and technology leads to a shift in the way we think, the way we work and the way we learn. The extent of the changes is massive and drastic. One of the changes that Toffler identified in the book is when the mind replaces the muscles. The proletariat is minimized and the cognitariat ascends. Thus, the rise of the knowledge economy.

In this context, technology is not only a tool, but also, an environment that can be designed and created, as well as a process of thinking. Those who possess the knowledge to understand, create and communicate this process of thinking are, the more powerful peoples of the 21st century. Thomas Friedman seemed to have recognized this technological power shift, although there is no mention of it in his book, The World is Flat (Picador, 2005). He identified ten "flatteners" that, thanks to technology, shifted the power from muscle to mind. These are:

1. The Fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989
2. The Rise of the Internet
3. Work Flow Structures
4. Open Sourcing
5. Outsourcing
6. Off Shoring
7. Supply Chaining
8. In-sourcing
9. In-forming
10. Information steroids: the availability of information and its access at our fingertips

In this landscape, where do Filipino librarians find themselves in? If Toffler and Friedman thought about these concepts of globalization and discussed the changes that affect the micro level what happened then to Philippine Librarianship from 1990 to 2015? That is a lot of years to cover. Two decades and more.

So I left a blank slide with only the title heading. I asked my audience what they think. They came up with three highlights, namely: the professionalization of the LIS profession in the Philippines; the adaptation of computers and ICT in our library services and operations; and the shift to a user-friendly paradigm.

These are all rhetorical, of course. A product of minds thinking together. Perhaps this discussion can lead to possible research that will contribute to the growth of Philippine Librarianship. If not a research paper, maybe a book. A Modern History of Philippine Librarianship, 1990 to 2015. 

Who knows? Who dares use knowledge and technology responsibly and well has the power!

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