Prepared by Ken Roberts, B.A., M.A., M.L.S
It is safe to predict that libraries will soon face radical change.
Despite uncertainties about exactly what services we will provide, the core mission of libraries will remain vital.
Still, libraries must work together in ways that are unprecedented to ensure that ideas and knowledge are available to everyone who seeks to learn. This role will be threatened by the emergence of electronic publishing.
Electronic publishing also promises enormous opportunities. In theory, school students and members of the public will soon be able to access far more information and creative material than at any time in history. This is particularly true for students and residents living in rural communities, where printed books have been difficult to obtain. This unique opportunity will be lost unless library systems work together more effectively than at any time in their past.
There is a growing realization that physical libraries are becoming even more important community spaces, places where people gather, share and learn from each other. Print collections will occupy less physical space but, if anything, libraries will find that the competing demands for both quiet study space and for noisy public space will mean that, if anything, library buildings may need to become larger and more flexible.
Given wide variations in the level of local financial support for libraries, combined with a high degree of local autonomy, it will prove difficult for all library system to change at the same speed.
As current users age, libraries need to ensure that their services are aligned with the needs of a younger, more demanding and more technologically oriented clientele.