The New York State Library’s Regional Development Council is currently conducting a survey on the future of libraries. I’ve been blogging, on and off, about the future of libraries here at LibraryTechie for years — my first blog post was August 30, 2006, so I’m coming up on five years here.
I’ve posted my thoughts at Mouth2Ear specifically on the library of 2020 and on the topic of ereaders vs smartphones, and their implications for future library service. I truly believe that libraries will remain relevant. I don’t think we’ll see books completely disappear from the shelves, to be replaced by electronic-only access (at least not by 2020.) Especially not in public libraries where much reading for pleasure occurs.
However, the way we interact with information, as well as reading, is changing. This will affect the services people will expect from their local library. The current public library model is about books and information, first and foremost. The public library of the near future will be less about books, more about information, and also about user generated content, social space, and technology training. Ereaders will come and go, and people will be more likely to use their smartphone as their primary device for content of all kinds. The web as we know it will still exist, but it will be enhanced by an immersive model. Augmented reality will be ubiquitous; virtual reality will be gaining a foothold among mainstream users.
It’s good that the State Library folks are asking questions now. The dismal state of funding, combined with the shift in technology, is causing all libraries to evaluate who they are and who they will be. Libraries are important. Taking a “wait and see” attitude toward change is what will make libraries irrelevant, not ebooks. This is a case where those who are ahead of the curve will ensure their survival.
Please spend a few minutes on this survey while truly thinking about the near future: