Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The future of libraries is what we create in the present

Things have become clearer.

In the future, collection development will be opposite of what we do now. From the description of Dorothea Salo's upcoming talk at the 2011 Superconference:

Buying books and journals distinguishes libraries less and less, as published information becomes a commodity and open access makes inroads into scholarly communication. Perhaps this will turn collection development inside out! Instead of collecting from the vast information world for our patron base, we will collect unique materials from our patron base to preserve and present to the world. 

In the future, librarians will help people build their own libraries.

Students will search and browse through the online libraries of their professor and other experts, both living and passed, for research and learning materials. In the future they are likely to do this before searching google because this is the behaviour that they are exhibiting in the present.

When it came to course-related research, however, almost all of the respondents turned to course readings first—more than Google, and more than any other resource. The findings suggest that students in our study turned to course readings because the resource was inextricably tied to the course and the assignment, were at hand, and were sanctioned by the instructor (pdf).

We will come to see one large collection of items as the result of a quaint but ultimately unkind hoarding instinct. The mission is now to associate every item in a library building into a smaller and more meaningful collection of items. Each item in the library will have an explanation of why it was selected for the collection, just like a museum. With attention and selection, even the cast-offs of libraries have become valuable. Nothing will be allowed to be de-selected from the collection until it is digitally scanned first.

Some are inclined to believe that libraries will be places where people will create together.  I tend to think that the future is festivals. The library that first brought subject guides to the profession now  lead the way today with their event programming.

As we no longer live in a world of scarcity, librarians and other digital humanists will develop and use tools to help manage and understand information.

Library “discovery systems” and/or catalogs are designed to organize and provide access to the materials outlined above, but they need to do more. First of all, the majority of the profession’s acquisitions processes assume collections need to be paid for. With the increasing availability of truly free content on the Web, greater emphasis needs to be placed on harvesting content as opposed to purchasing or licensing it. Libraries are expected to build collections designed to stand the test of time. Brokering access to content through licensing agreements — one of the current trends in librarianship — will only last as long as the money lasts. Licensing content makes libraries look like cost centers and negates the definition of “collections”.

Second, library “discovery systems” and/or catalogs assume an environment of sacristy. They assume the amount of accessible, relevant data and information needed by students, teachers, and researchers is relatively small. Thus, a great deal of the profession’s efforts go into enabling people to find their particular needle in one particular haystack. In reality, current indexing technology makes the process of finding relavent materials trivial, almost intelligent. Implemented correctly, indexers return more content than most people need, and consequently they continue to drink from the proverbial fire hose...

What can we do to make these things come to fruition?

By the way...

When I talk about the future I really mean this afternoon.
When I talk about the present I really mean this morning.