“The library is not a building, a website, or a person; it is a platform for scholars, students, cultural enthusiasts, and others who want to absorb and advance knowledge.” – Brian Mathews
As I began diving into the foundational readings and lectures, the phrase “the future of the library” kept coming to mind, which is perfectly summarized in this article on Slate. I am frequently asked by friends, family members, and colleagues why I am working on a master’s degree in library science. The question is a mix of curiosity and incredulity: Why invest so much work into becoming a librarian when libraries are outdated and old fashioned? After all, we now carry access to the entirety of the world’s knowledge and information in our pockets, right?
Spending some time with these readings has given me a better (or at least a longer) answer. I am working to be part of a new generation of information professionals who are redefining what libraries can be in the 21st Century. I love the quote from Brian Matthews that starts off this blog post. If a library is a platform, as opposed to a physical space or single website, it has a greater potential to serve the needs of all its users and to grow and innovate. As an employee at a tech startup, I am accustomed to the rapid change that is a necessity of staying competitive and meeting the ever-changing needs of our users. It is critical to always be looking ahead and being willing to try new things. If we release a new feature, we have to be prepared to hear from our users/customers/patrons and tailor it to their needs.
“If we remain steeped in nostalgia then I think we’re in trouble. At some point we have to take a leap into the future. Our focus can’t just be about adding features, but about redefining and realigning the role and identity of the academic library. We can’t map our value to outdated needs and practices, but instead, must intertwine ourselves with what’s needed next. It’s time to innovate.” – Brian Matthews
The library of the future is a lot like the Jedi Archives from Star Wars. Users have instantaneous access to any of the world (or galaxy’s) information in an electronic format. Though written in 1992, Buckland’s “Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto” perfectly predicts the changing form of libraries. Along with the traditional “paper” library, new automations and electronic resources have increased the efficiency of libraries to adapt to the changing needs of their users. In a way, libraries are the competition for tech services like Google, Amazon, and Netflix. The advantage is that libraries have a mandate to be free and accessible for all. I’m looking forward to exploring these concepts and ideas going forward, and delving deeper into the Hyperlinked Library.