What is the Future of Libraries?

About a month ago, there was a Ted Conversion on the topic, “What is the Future of Libraries?”. If you are unfamiliar with Ted Conversations, it comes from the folks who do the Ted Talks. The conversations are touted as a new way to share information. What is interesting about Ted Conversations is that it draws a number of online participants from all over the world leading to diverse perspectives and ideas.

The topic of the future of the libraries was just one of these Ted Conversations that really could boast of a host of views. What was interesting was there was no real consensus. The ideas ranged from the extremes from the disappearance of libraries to libraries’ eventual growth and change.

Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:

  • Libraries have not joined the electronic age. Either they will become like “churches” or “museums” of the future or they will disappear because they can’t get on board with the digital revolution.
  • The word “Library” is no longer relevant because it evokes an emotional attachment to the print world. Perhaps the word for what we call libraries should evolve into something like “Learning Center” or the “Information Station”.
  • People want libraries but don’t know what types of services libraries offer. Libraries need to better promote themselves and explain why they’re important.
  • Libraries have to evolve or they will disappear.
  • Libraries need more smaller branches that offer more atmosphere and less of an “institution” feeling.

There were many more points. To see the whole thread, check out Ted Conversations on the Future of Libraries. But one thing is for sure. We need to re brand and re-emphasize that libraries are not storage facilities. Librarians know that libraries are much more than just print books. But some of our patrons don’t and continue to associate libraries with the image of a warehouse for books. In this sense, I really liked the idea of associated libraries with a new name like “Learning Center” since there was less focus on the storage of print materials and more on community services and events.

For more on the subject, have a look at these articles:

Many Schools Adding iPads to Education

New Game at the New York Public Library

What’s your future for libraries?

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2 Comments

Filed under cataloging

2 responses to “What is the Future of Libraries?

  1. Allen

    The future of libraries will extend the emerging hybrid of virtual and a diminished, revamped physical presence. Information access and pleasure reading will be primarily virtual services, but physical buildings will provide community spaces for access to technology and study space, sharing of ideas and culture, access to physical volumes, and technology/information training. The virtual will predominate.

    • Jen

      Thank you for your comments Allen. I think to a certain extent what you describe is already happening. With services like OverDrive, other eBook providers and eresources, in conjunction with aggressive weeding of print materials, libraries can and are redesigning their physical spaces. Some are adding comfy chairs and fireplaces. Just about 2 years ago, the Boston Public Library created a nice reading area with big comfy armchairs. BPL also had tons of events from movies to authors to exhibits. Check out this YouTube video on the new library at the University of Chicago: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESCxYchCaWI.

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