Daniel Greenstein vice provost for academic planning and programs at the University of California System told a room full of University Librarians last week that "The university library of the future will be sparsely staffed, highly decentralized, and have a physical plant consisting of little more than special collections and study areas." The meeting was held to discuss "sustainable scholarship", doesn't sound like Greenstein thinks libraries have much of a future at all! Like many of the commenters at the end of the article I actually couldn't disagree with Greenstein more. He obviously hasn't visited a university library lately. They are vibrant, vital places and often the lifeblood of the campus. You only have to be in touch with current news, studies and blogs on libraries to know that! There is so much the Library will offer in the future and rather than the distributed 'physical plant' that Greenstein describes I think we'll be a central hub for study, learning, technology, culture and socialising. Librarians will play an important role in this future by providing specialised services and reference help in a world of increasing information overload.
Maybe it's a generational thing or maybe I'm just a fanatical optimist but I see an exciting and challenging future ahead. One with a focus on people, connecting and sharing. Technology has already assisted us in this direction but in the future this will be more obvious in the physical world too. We need to stay in touch with developments in libraries, publishing, information management, teaching and learning, sustainability and technology so we can create a library of the future that inspires and engages clients and staff alike!
"Your Library does not end here" Both David Lee King and Librarian In Black have been blogging about my favourite theme of connecting the physical and the digital. I'm happy to see there are others out there thinking about ways we can create more interactivity in the physical world so there is a seamless integration of physical and digital space. With clever use of technology we can create a more engaging library experience for our clients wherever they may be. However, technology is not the only factor. Librarians need to be out there and visible in physical and digital space to continue providing expert services by anticipating and responding to client needs. The library of the future I imagine is ubiquitous, embracing the idea of 'anytime, anywhere', it supports peer-to-peer learning and customisation of space and services. Very different to Greensteins idea. I look forward to the future that I imagine.
Coming soon: more on QR codes, RFID, ebook readers, iphone, iTunesU, Augmented Reality and vampire fiction. Stay tuned.