Envisioning the Library of 2012

Chris Owens, Director
Blanchester Public Library

When talking to our fiscal officer recently about one of the myriad of OPERS changes, a staff member asked if she thought the library was even going to be around in 10 years due to all the changes in technology. When told about the conversation later, my sage response was, “I sure hope so.”

Earning a degree in journalism and a job at a newspaper out of college, I can attest to not being the best predictor of the future when it comes to careers. (Although you could say I got out of the profession just in time in the mid-1990s to pursue my MLIS.) And I will always argue that as a society we need professionals to gather and disseminate the news in whatever format we decide upon. I think we can make a similar, and even stronger, argument in favor of libraries. I just hope they are both winnable arguments. 

 I always seem to have a stack of books at my bedside much larger than the amount of time I have to tackle them, but one recent book all of us in the library profession really need to read is Library 2020 by Joe Janes. Janes is a professor at the University of Washington’s Information School and writes intriguing columns for American Libraries. For the book, he posed the question: The library of 2020 will be …? to a number of different people and collected their writings. (Here is an interview with Janes about the book and the future.)

Janes is convinced libraries will be here in 2020, although he is not certain what they will look like. The multitude of issues with digital media that need to be worked out will likely result in a multitude of changes in the library. While we definitely need to be prepared and changing for the future, we also need to serve our patrons today. And I am pleasantly surprised day after day at my small library by the number of people who continue to use the internet computers, continue to check out DVDs and continue to take advantage of the variety of “traditional” services the library offers. Hopefully, all of our patrons find it hard to imagine life without the library. Is the library even going to be around in 10 years? For our community’s sake, I sure hope so.

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