Virtual professionals

I just finished reading Tame the Web’s “Office Hours: Finding Balance” post on balancing technical/virtual pursuits with physical librarian duties and with personal pursuits. I was especially intrigued at his take on balancing virtual and physical worlds in the realm of the library profession, study, and pursuit:

What I am not suggesting,however,is to focus all of your attention just on the Web,social networks and the next big thing. Being out in the world is equally important. The online and the physical should complement each other in a cyclical fashion. It troubles me to think some still see advocacy for online participation as an either or proposition:you can *only* be online “in the cloud” or on Facebook or you can *only* be performing your librarian duties in the building. Again,a balance between the two makes for a well-informed,capable library professional. These concepts should be part of every LIS student’s learning.

Of course, a balance between home/profession, virtual/physical, and play/work is a necessary for all professionals, regardless of their field.  But I’m wondering about the library profession specifically, what the future may hold for us, and if it’s realistic to say that well-informed, capable library professionals are those who operate both in the virtual and physical worlds.

Case in point: online students, like myself.  I attend SJSU’s SLIS program entirely online, having never visited campus.  I’ve never spoken to any teacher, professor, or classmate face-to-face.  There are opportunities available to me through the program, such as graduate assistant positions and class presentations, that are similarly available in “normal” graduate programs, but performed exclusively through virtual environments. There are internships available that I can perform virtually.  And, most importantly, I can then enter into employment in an entirely virtual environment.  Theoretically, I can finish my MA and get a good job to take me through the rest of my career all from the comfort of my own home.

Is this the future of our profession?  Yes, there will always be people working in buildings with other people in a physical environment.  But will the information professionals be those people?  Won’t our expertise be more effectively used in the same environment where the information is being produced, published, and distributed? Won’t that environment be primarily (or exclusively) virtual in the years to come?

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