What Will the Library of the Future Be Like?

At the PNWA conference I attended the panel, “Digital Publishing is Creating Agents of Change”, presented by April Eberhardt, Laurie McLean, Jim McCarthy and Kathleen Ortiz.  They discussed the new things agents are doing with e-books, apps, and trans-media publishing.  One of the topics that came up was the e-book and what role it plays in the library systems.

I was surprised to learn that not all libraries have integrated the e-book into their programs; it is dependent on the county system.  The King County Library System does have this option available for people who want to check out books in e-format, and they have offered this for a few years now.  The e-book has a “shelf life” of several weeks, and then it disappears after the time allotment is used.  I think this is a great concept, as it lends itself to the rapidly changing environment of e-books vs. traditional hardcopy books.

It made me wonder about the layout of libraries in the future.  How will they be different than they are now?  I imagine that there might still be shelves of books to browse, but maybe those books will be for display only, and they will need to be uploaded onto e-readers if someone wants to check them out.  Or maybe there will be no hardcopy books at all (a sad thought) and all browsing will be done via computer screens. While I embrace the new era of e-books and understand that change is necessary, I do hope that childrens’ picture books remain the tactile experience they’ve always been. There’s something magical that takes place when a child holds a book in their hand and turns the pages, unfolding a story for the first time.

What do you think the library of the future will be like?  Will they be more of a social gathering place, with the emphasis on even more readily available stations to conduct internet research and e-book uploads?  Will hardcopy books go the way of the newspaper? It’s all happening so fast, and it’s all happening now.  How do you envision it?

About Tara Sheets

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7 Responses to What Will the Library of the Future Be Like?

  1. Rudolph_Consuegra says:

    It’s sad that not just libraries may see a change, but any other book store as well. Nothing beats the classics. They won’t even feel much like libraries as they are quiet internet cafes.

    • Tara Sheets says:

      “Quiet internet cafes”– so true. I was just at the library this morning and, looking around, I realized that half the space was taken over by computer screens and tables and chairs for socializing. There are even snack & drink machines in our library. While it’s nice to make it a gathering space condusive to conversation, it’s nothing like the “strictly books and no talking” library of the past. I know I’ll miss the mass-gathering of hardcopy books someday. A huge Borders in our neighborhood closed down almost a year ago and I’m still not over it.

  2. You pose a great question, Tara! Considering how much of our water is used for the manufacture of paper, I wonder about the future of paper books. I’m one of those people that prefers electronic access to information, especially from home. That said, working at home gets old. I think libraries should always have a “quiet room,” but I think they could also employ something like the Starbucks model and become a hub. The need for a virtual office, often for just one person, seems to be on the rise. I think it’s a home run if you can have a secure place to work (outside an office) while surrounded by not only by high-speed electronic access to extensive amounts of information, but also have guides to help you find what you need. Even charging a nominal, monthly “hub” subscription fee or small fees for things like access to expensive industry reports would be acceptable to help cover library costs. And of course, they should serve good coffee.

    • Tara Sheets says:

      I like your idea of the future library. I believe one of Kristen Lamb’s recent posts discussed how the production of books is directly related to petroleum, too. It makes sense that things will become more digitized. I wonder how that’s going to play into the pre-requisites for those who want to run libraries (the guides you mentioned) to help others find what they need. There may have to be a re-vamp of the master’s program, as the industry changes. One thing is for certain, though. Starbucks coffee. Always good, in any era 🙂

  3. You pose a great question, Tara! Considering how much of our water is used for the manufacture of paper, I wonder about the future of paper books. I’m one of those people that prefers electronic access to information, especially from home. That said, working at home gets old. I think libraries should always have a ”quiet room,” but I think they could also employ something like the Starbucks model and become a hub. The need for a virtual office, often for just one person, seems to be on the rise. I think it’s a home run if you can have a secure place to work (outside an office) while surrounded by not only by high-speed electronic access to extensive amounts of information, but also have guides to help you find what you need. Even charging a nominal, monthly ”hub” subscription fee or small fees for things like access to expensive industry reports would be acceptable to help cover library costs. And of course, they should serve good coffee.

  4. Excellent question, Tara. How we procure and consume information and literature has changed dramatically since my childhood. I had the opportunity to hear Chrystie Hill speak on this very topic. Hill is a librarian, writer, community-builder, and a strategic advisor to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Libraries Program. She addresses your question here in her talk, which I think you will find very informative:

    • Tara Sheets says:

      Linda, Thank you so much for sending this. I watched it alone, and then called my family in to watch it with me again. I found her speech fascinating, and she posed an interesting question, “If everything in the future is on-line, why go to a library at all?” A startling thought, but so relevant to the changing times. I am looking forward to seeing how libraries will evolve to remain an important part of our communities. I was also very impressed with the Chicago library, and how it allows teens access to electronic platforms- even a recording studio. Amazing!

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