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Futures Conference Day 1


by Brian K. Dawson

I have to start by thanking Mary Chute and the staff of the New Jersey State Library  for hosting the Futures Conference.  Peggy Cadigan and Betsy Beavers, both of the NJSL, were driving forces behind the event.  Additional support was provided by the sponsoring state libraries including Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia as well as COSLINE  (Council of State Library Agencies in the Northeast) and LibraryLinkNJ.

I started the day listening to Kevin Mitnick of Acceleration Strategist and co-host of The World Transformed podcast.  It was a great opening session as he helped us, well at least  me, begin to reorient my thinking. The next day and a half would be challenging as we were inundated with concepts and methods that may have been familiar but presented in fresh ways to stimulate thinking and camaraderie. He established a connection between the way we perceive time and looking at it through the lens of identifying events that create paradigm shifts.  He covered some fascinating topics from genetics to the robo-apocalypse.  It was especially interesting to see how we often focus on technological advances but forget the cultural transformations that come along with those advances. We are losing the context of society because we are so wrapped up in the ‘shiny new thing’.  I found myself asking how successful are libraries at using the reality our communities exist in to determine how we integrate technology into our services or are we pushing technology to have the newest, coolest thing?

The next session was entertaining but sobering.  In our ongoing struggle to balance access and technology we must also address privacy and security.  We are often well aware of vulnerabilities but they become concrete when performed right in front of you.  Kevin Mitnick spoke bluntly about his path to becoming a leading cybersecurity expert which started when he was 12 years old and would lead through federal prison after a two and a half year FBI manhunt for the “worlds most wanted hacker.” He easily demonstrated how to access users computers, cell phones, facilities and in the most shocking exhibit of his expertise, “stole” an audience member’s identity in 60 seconds.  After the robo-apocolypse discussion and seeing how vulnerable systems can be I was ready to go off the grid!

I did not attend Rakia Reynolds’ session Fan of your Brand but heard  a lot of buzz about her approach to establishing best practices for a library’s social media brand.  One attendee lamented that “with everything else librarians are juggling how can we successfully implement this?  How can we not?”   I was drawn back to the idea of having to shift from surviving to thriving.  All too often we get caught up in the grind of making it through the day but without the ability to make strategic decisions, tomorrow will be the same.  We tread water and do not get anywhere, we do not grow and as a result neither do our libraries or our communities.

Random Thoughts & Quotes:

  • You cannot download coffee.
  • Reality = Data + Stuff
  • Organize stuff by adding a layer of data.
  • We must move away from rigidity and recapture the wonder.
  • We should not be trying to escape reality but embrace it.
  • There is no such thing as privacy.
  • Any security measure can be overcome,  your best defense is a layered system of detection to help mitigate damage.

Misc. Resources:


  1. These statements are my own and do not reflect the position of my employer, coworkers or other organizations.
  2. There was a tremendous amount of information coming at us and I was trying to receive, process, synthesize and take notes all at once.  These notes are most likely half thoughts and statements that I was able to capture.  I apologize and hope that others in attendance were able capture and they can help add context. Look forward to other articles about the Futures Conference coming soon and follow along on twitter by using #futurescon2017.
  3. I encourage you to watch the videos when they become available and see what your take away is.


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