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Over the last couple of days, I have been reading a flurry of “end of the year” posts. These end of year reflections (and the end of the decade that people had a hard time naming) have made me think about my own reflection of these time periods. It was only within this last past year that I really delved into the library and librarian blogosphere. During this time, what has really captured my interest in the library oriented blogs is the spectrum of beliefs that exist when it comes to where libraries are going and where they should be heading. In thinking about the wide range of perspectives, the different library theory approaches, and the variety of libraries that exist, I believe there are five current universal truths that will be the basis for any discussion about the library in the future decade.
Without further ado, here they are.
1.) Perception of information is changing
Information is now an instant gratification commodity, capable of being gained through a multitude of means (especially computer based). For libraries, this requires us to be flexible with our interfaces; whether it is face to face or with our customers accessing our resources, there has to be an eye towards the least amount of steps from an inquiry to a result.
2.) Literacy is changing
What it means to be literate twenty years ago is but a part of the greater definition now. The ability to read and write information on computers now shares with its print brethren. The integration of technology into our lives, for better or worse, is inevitable as we move more information into digital formats.
(For more on this, be certain to check out Bobbi Newman’s Transliteracy page.)
3.) Libraries are now part of greater information chorus
This aspect is two fold. First, there are the plethora of non-library internet based websites which provide accurate information on specific subjects. (Think more Mayo Clinic, less Wikipedia.) Libraries are now just one of many potential end points for a inquiry. Second, there is an explosion of user generated content. There are individuals who create pages and sites about topics that are extraordinarily niched (such as local history, family history, and local specializations). They represent a small but important information resources for inquiries that in the past would have been relegated to the vertical file and/or genealogy room.
4.) Communication is our friend
The world communicates on a myriad of levels, from the tweets of Twitter to the web published academic papers. On the one hand, these represent new and different ways to connect to our customers and to communicate with them on the mediums they are using. On the other hand, the technology exists to make communicating between each other (read: libraries) easier so that a catalog no longer needs to be held in relative isolation. And not simply catalogs, but there can more contemporary sharing of policies and practices that been successful.
5.) The underlying philosophies of the library have not changed
As much as the information revolution has swept through the profession, the commitment to academic freedom, intellectual inquiry, and act as a community resource (whether you are serving the public, a school, or a company; a space for all, if you will) are still intact. It is the common bond between everyone in the profession; and while we may not agree on how best to serve the spirit of these, they still represent basic elements that are universally embraced. This central dogma is what gives us common cause to provide information to those who seek it.
In closing, I am reminded of a quote spoken by the character Don Draper in the television series Mad Men. I think it will serve us well in the decade that is to be.
“Change is neither good nor bad. It simply is.”