Is This the Future of Libraries?
Concerned about where libraries are headed and what we may encounter in the next few years? If you are, you're not alone. Most information professionals think about these issues: Where are we headed, and how can we make libraries successful and helpful to our users and our communities?
For many, the digital explosion - especially the growing acceptance of the eBook - is fueling the sentiment that there is no future for libraries. If the perception is that all libraries do is loan books and most people are reading eBooks and printed books are going away then it makes sense that they would think libraries are becoming irrelevant. More and more people are accessing information remotely. The number of people with mobile devices is growing. So, if you think libraries are only about loaning books and providing information you have reason to question the future of the library. But we know it isn’t all about loaning stuff and answering reference questions – or I hope you realize that.
Libraries can help connect people to the information they need throughout their lives. Meeting customer needs across a life cycle is essential to the community-based innovation that is needed to keep libraries relevant. Today, continuing education is a survival tool and our library programs need to support that need. Find a job; find a new job; learn a new skill; learn another new skill; parenting; caregiving; the list goes on and on. Responding to these and other needs is yet another way the library can become fully engaged in the community and increase its relevancy.
And libraries are responding en masse with new and pioneering ideas using the same technology that is purportedly overcoming them. Open spaces are now transformed into collaborative learning areas with access to materials and equipment. Librarians are using mobile devices to strengthen early, information, and digital literacy in the community. Business incubators in libraries promote economic growth and prosperity in society. And libraries actively utilize social media to reach out to customers and tout library services.