The New Library

Reading through College & Research Libraries News latest survey on the top 10 trends found across academic libraries brought to mind this quote from FutureShock author, Alvin Toffler:

“The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

-Alvin Toffler

A number of library trends worth noting:

1. “Academic library collection growth is driven by patron demand and will include new resource types.” While traditional libraries have opted for a centralized approach to resource acquisition, technology – including virtual access and print-on-demand services – allows for a much more patron-centered, or market-based, approach.  Technology upgrades and the wide availability of content allow for more of, what the survey labels, the ‘just-in-time’ approach to resource acquisition.  In other words, in some instances, librarians no longer have to guess what their patrons want, but can allow patrons to customize the catalog offerings to fit their needs.

2. “Changes in higher education will require that librarians possess diverse skill sets.” Much has been written on the changing skill set required from today’s librarian.  From a sophisticated understanding of technology and service to the ability to access diverse content from a variety of sources (and through multiple mediums), today’s librarian must marshal a wide catalog of skills to meet the demands of the modern library patron.

3. “Digitization of unique library collections will increase and require a larger share of resources.” Libraries have an extraordinary opportunity to advance the availability of resources through an increase in digitized content.  Many traditional libraries lack a robust collection of digital material, and, just as frustrating, often lack the easy means for organizing and accessing what they do have.  That appears to be changing.  Many libraries are now building extensive digital collections and are paying special attention to how patrons prefer to access and use that material.

4. “Explosive growth of mobile devices and applications will drive new services.” A concomitant expectation of easy access to digital material is the ability to access that material through a medium of one’s choice.  The rise of mobile devices as a preferred medium for information and entertainment has been well-documented.  Smart phones, e-readers, and iPads have driven consumer expectations and many patrons expect content to be available in ways that complement their devices.

6. “The definition of the library will change as physical space is repurposed and virtual space expands.” Most interestingly, the survey notes that what we think of as a ‘library’ may be undergoing a transformation.  The actual physical resources available in some libraries is declining. But this need not necessarily mean that a library is undervalued and in a state of decline.  Instead, some libraries may be undergoing a shift in what it means to be a library.  Though still a source of information, many libraries are trending toward making that information available digitally on-demand and through a variety of mediums.  In fact, libraries of the future – even those bereft of stacks and stacks of physical objects – may offer even more resources as valuable real estate is modified to accomodate collaborative spaces, computers, multi-media stations, or reading and research alcoves
For those interested in the way our libraries are changing, be sure to check out College & Research Libraries News’ great summary of the whole survey.

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