Which Future For Libraries?

Will libraries ending up being increasingly virtual, the librarian becoming a knowledge navigator? Or will libraries vanish as the world goes wifi– will Google end up being the future library? Or will place stay central, as libraries become anchor occupants in co-located in industrial and public transit-orientated advancements? Or is social justice what libraries are really about– a place for empowering, for creating a much better society, finding areas for young and old, for books and digital media?

The library, while seeming stable has actually changed throughout history. It has actually moved from being elite based, for the couple of that might check out, to being a public space, and funded by the public has well, instead of by wealthy benefactors. And while the advent of the printing press changed the nature of the library, moving it from the monastery and the painstaking efforts of monk scribes, the recent digitalization of the world is causing a lot more dramatic improvements.

The library has actually gone into an objected to domain– its definition, its bundle of services are up for grabs– who specifies it, who pays for it, what are its fundamental purposes. And with the beginning of edu-tainment and as the peer-to-peer knowledge revolution, may libraries become places not just for receiving understanding however for directly developing knowledge.

Other problems that challenge a stable future for libraries include:

– Local and state governments dramatically decreasing their funds for libraries– other financial designs– user pays, McLibrary.

– Users altering from the young to the aged OR from the aged to the young.

– Libraries buildings as examples of “green” and even establishing cradle to serious green technologies for books and for facilities design.

– The library as a place for escape from a disorderly world, eg the Slow Movement: sluggish time, sluggish knowing– sluggish whatever– as the world quickens and moves to hypertime and culture, libraries discover niches by supplying locations of quietness and calm.

– The curator ending up being a digital avatar, connecting with users, learning more about their changing needs, and even in the longer term, arranging our memories.

– The off-shore Call Centre Library.

– Death of the book– continuing emergence of brand-new media formats.

The impact of these emerging issues indicate libraries changing significantly from today– especially in the locations of financing and location; purpose and skill sets for librarians and core activities.

But would libraries be more digital or slow; for the young or the aged; in residential areas or co-located in denser cities? Which future?


There are four possible futures.

The very first is the “Lean, Mean, Information Machine.” This future would emerge from concern about the expenses of structures, space ending up being too valuable and libraries moving down the list of core concerns for funding.

Libraries in this future would need to seek financing through philanthropy to supplement federal government financing. The choices would be: from the user, from community groups, from Federal and Global grants and from corporate sponsorship. With the anticipated increase in triple bottom line reporting, it was expected that corporate sponsorship may end up being more attractive as libraries would be a simple and safe method to show that they were good business residents– assisting young and old.

The function of some librarians would move, ending up being entrepreneurial, a broker of services and entities (community groups, corporations, city, state and federal authorities).

The second circumstance is the reverse of this. Civilizing the world, civilizing ourselves is the fundamental purpose of the library. No corporation should fund it, as in time market price would poison human worths.

The function of the library is that of community contractor– providing ideas to all, those who can and those who can not manage. Books can not be overlaid with digital sponsorship, purity needs to be kept.

Nevertheless, the best method to work as community contractors is to go to the community. “Co-location for Community Capacity Building” is the title of this circumstance. Libraries transfer to locations of intersection– of young and old, bad and rich, info savvy and digitally challenged. Among possible locations might be transport centers. Libraries could continue to develop as anchor tenants, co-existing with other federal government company, with cafe and industrial tenants. As passengers stepped out of light city rail carriages, they would enter the library. In front to them would be transparent glass, the lighting illuminating understanding.

Libraries would have numerous shifting rooms, focused on the needs of various groups. Or libraries might segment, based on resident travel patterns. Some libraries would be more classical – book focused, other edutainment, others as locations for social neighborhood groups to fulfill … Or libraries could change throughout the day– shifting who they were from midday to 3 pm to evening time.

The curator would require to be multi-skilled, understanding the diverse requirements of different age groups, ethnic backgrounds, neighborhood groups – engagement with the neighborhood would be primary. The library in this future would model what it meant to be civilized: deep and varied democracy!

In a 3rd situation, the library and the curator ends up being a “Knowledge Navigator”. Users would see and after that develop– use info to produce new understanding, brand-new neighborhoods, find out and recreate. Libraries would be a hybrid of physical and virtual space with cutting edge technologies, cultural maps of the world, to help users develop their interests, find connection to each other and find their location in the altering digital world. The library would be an ‘experience’.

For those brand-new to the digital world and for emerging technologies they would, it could train them, ensuring democratic and making it possible for gain access to for all; for those proficient, it would develop games for them to discover, indeed, gaming may end up being a metaphor for the library. Users would discover their knowledge treasures through hints left by the knowledge navigator or other users engaged in knowledge sharing and production– the division in between the fun of electronic gaming and the seriousness of the library would breakdown. Public space would ended up being an open and permeable, regional and global public space.

The last scenario, takes the knowledge navigator future however makes the tough observation – offered the billions of dollars Google and other web engines need to have fun with, and provided the skill sets of their workers and owners, what makes us believe libraries can survive. Aren’t they the “Dinosaurs of the Digital Knowledge Era”. The globalization of the coffeehouse consumes one market; digital search websites consume another market, until through continuous dis-aggregation there is really little left. The future of the library is simple to predict– there will not be any. Financing will relocate to other core areas for cities– traffic, water, dealing with global warming, contending for youths in an aging society; post-oil energy problems. Libraries will slip down the priority radar as they will not be viewed as a response to these issues.

Many librarians also are unable to fulfill the obstacle of the skills shift. They are unable to be pertinent with the brand-new world dis-order. As the library monopoly dies, other rivals go into the fray and foundationally alter the nature of the library. A couple of survive as some still want to see and touch books, however with the virtual book ready to include physical senses, the writing is currently on the virtual wall.


Will one future emerge victorious? Or will there be a mix and match? Which ever future results, for the curator, this can be both an attempting time to be working, or the very best of all possible times, where new futures are emerging, and where she and he can weave the hairs of options and produce a brand-new future for and of libraries.