"Research libraries’ communities and boundaries will expand. Faculty and students will remain the most important group research libraries serve, but other audiences will also emerge to take advantage of these rich resources. The great research and national libraries of today will be the
great collaborators of the 21st century, sharing resources to develop new collections only possible in the electronic world."
The posting below looks at some of the characteristics we might find in the coming the 21 century library. It is from Chapter 11: THE LIBRARY OF THE FUTURE by Suzanne E. Thorin and Virginia D. Sorkin in THE LEARNING REVOLUTION: The Challenge of Information Technology in the Academy, Diana G. Oblinger and Sean C. Rush, editors, IBM North America. Anker Publishing Company, Inc., Bolton, Massachusetts. Copyright 1997 by Anker Publishing Company, Inc. http://www.ankerpub.com/ Reprinted with permission.
THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY LIBRARY
It is clear that no one believes that the 21st century library will arrive one day over the Internet and that on the next day we will close the doors of all library buildings or redefine them as museums.
The users, the sites, the functions, and the staff will all look very much as they do today with some differences beginning to be discernible.
Research libraries’ communities and boundaries will expand. Faculty and students will remain the most important group research libraries serve, but other audiences will also emerge to take advantage of these rich resources. The great research and national libraries of today will be the
great collaborators of the 21st century, sharing resources to develop new collections only possible in the electronic world.
University and college libraries will reach out more to the communities in which they reside. The public library and the research library in college towns will be much more closely linked, sharing information with their users seamlessly. The depository library network will assure access to government information for all citizens without having to visit the library site. Users unwilling
or unable to physically enter a library building will have access from home or some other convenient location. Both the mission and outreach of all libraries will broaden to audiences currently excluded.
None of the traditional formats will disappear, with the possible exception of the not very traditional CD-ROM , which may well be replaced. Books, serials, motion pictures, and recorded sound will continue to be published and stored on library shelves and archived for posterity.
The access capabilities of the library will begin to rival collections in importance, however, as more content becomes electronically available. Breadth and depth of electronic content in various areas, such as history, mathematics, and the sciences, will be common in the 21st century.
Site specificity will slowly decline in importance. Lending libraries are unlikely to disappear soon, but it is not unrealistic to expect textbook publishers and the academic presses to adopt and
adapt to electronic publishing quickly once the issues of copyright and royalty payment are resolved.
The function of libraries will remain. They will continue to select, collect, describe, store, and manage information. Large areas will be electronic and may or may not be on-site but will be accessible. Navigation and assessment of electronic information will be the most important new function users will expect libraries to perform.
Librarians will retain their traditional function as organizers of knowledge, but the great reference librarians of today will be joined by computer experts with particular expertise in electronically accessible bodies of materials.
MIGRATION TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
In building the digital research libraries of the 21st century, we should consider the following.
Reconfirm the Mission of Libraries
Assess how closely what is being done now supports the mission of the institution. Mission discussions bring out differences of opinion and can lead everyone to new clarity. After agreement is reached on the mission, identify priorities within the mission: Who are the people to be served, and what are the services to be provided? Budget allocation should match the priorities. No one has sufficient resources, but many are adding services while book and personnel budgets continue to fall.
A Library's First Duty is to Serve Its Clients
It is a myth that the electronic age will make libraries obsolete and that books are outdated. This is borne out by the difference between the expectations of humanities and social sciences scholars, artists and performers, and scholars and researchers in the sciences. Before a decision to move from a paper to an electronic resource is made, the researchers who will use the resource should be consulted.
Librarians must talk with students and professors regularly about how well libraries are serving them. Librarians must know the literature and trends in research, must reach out to the internal clients always and the external clients when possible, and must aim for 100% satisfaction.
Use Technology to Help Meet the Library's Mission
Reading library literature is important, but librarians need to read the popular literature on the emerging digital world too. Librarians need to read what scholars are saying about how they use and expect to use technology in the future and what information technologists suggest about future possibilities. All of this should be applied to the mission of the library. Librarians should use the technology first so that they know what is hype and what is real.
Examine Old Assumptions
Understand what "the other side ' thinks and how they speak. Many technologists cannot understand the language of librarians, and some librarians have no interest in learning and speaking the language of technology. Librarians must be willing to clarify their business practices prior to automating them. Similarly, technologists must recognize that many librarians today are also capable technologists. The gap between information technologists and librarians has narrowed, but it must close completely, since the need to understand each other will only increase.
Librarianship has traditionally segmented certain specialties. Distinctions between reference work and cataloging are blurring today because of the increasing ability to search and retrieve full texts
and other materials online. Emphasizing the similarities in library specialties will lead to cross-specialty learning, which in turn will help strengthen library services overall.
Break Old Patterns
Through digitization, different formats can be displayed together or in close sequence: maps, recorded sound, text, motion pictures, and photographs. Exercises such as visualizing how the layering and combining of information are changing research and learning and hence are changing librarianship must expand the profession's thinking.
There are so many possibilities for scholars to enrich and broaden their research through the access to and use of digital images. The ability to study a particular manuscript, then to call up the
pertinent maps and photographs on the topic is a powerful one. For example, it is much easier today to understand how the Thirty Years War affected the musical careers of Heinrich Scheutz and his
contemporaries. Thanks to digital libraries, it is possible to stuffy German music history in context through the study of images of war scanned from paintings as one reads accounts of the way or compares scanned maps of the period. Music students have traditionally been concerned first (and sometimes only) with music. Such isolation, as rich as it is, can be broadened easily today through the availability and use of digitized documents.
It is time to mine parochial library resources to enrich the digital collections being created. It is critical that current information to be linked to historical and cross-cultural resources to promote
Do Not Close the Buildings Yet!
The old model will not go away. People will continue to cherish the feel of a book in their hands, the ambience of doing research in a library, and the sense of community that using a library produces.
Library buildings and collections are unlikely to disappear.
Last, and not least, librarians need to stop occasionally and look at the privilege of being a part of this landmark change in the way the world communicates. Some days the venerable glass truly is half
empty. But, for the most part, days in libraries are full of empowerment —librarians can make sure that the coming changes are for the better. K. Waynec Smith, OCLC’s chief executive officer, said it just right: "Whether your view of the Information Superhighway is optimistic, pessimistic,
or simply mystic, I submit that libraries are already in the fast lane of that road to the
future. It will indeed be a new era for academic libraries, but it will be an era that I built on thousands of years of library tradition, and on an enduring purpose."