Death of Paper Part 2: The Future for Libraries

Artistic Rendering of "The Great Library of Alexandria." by O. Von Corven

Artistic Rendering of "The Great Library of Alexandria." by O. Von Corven

Click here to read The Death of Paper Part 1: Newspapers

So. Let me say I suck at predictions. The good news (for me I guess) is most “trend prognosticators” do also. There are typically too many variables (the largest being you are basing your prediction with what exists and you are only guessing on what may exist later – see Jetsons as prime example). Anyway. Here goes.

So. Do I believe libraries (or repositories for books) will cease to exist in 10 years? Nope.

30 to 50 years? Yup.

Well. Let me qualify that. Certainly they won’t exist the way they exist now.

If I could guess (assuming we stayed on the same technology innovation path and we still have electricity – because lack of electricity could put a dent in the internet age), one or two (several more in larger population areas) libraries will exist as hub access points for printed literature. Public libraries will be busier than ever. People will come in to use the computers, read newspapers, take out CDs and DVDs, and yes, books, as well as whatever technological gizmos and stuff that will distribute/share literature.

Oh. If I were libraries I would be going into the selling business too. They may as well become “the” source of printed literature (buying, renting or borrowing) cause I think Barnes & Noble and Borders are gonna be in a world of hurt very very soon (before libraries run into trouble because they serve different functions in the “needs” world). But, hey, that’s just my opinion.

Oh. I also believe the corner bookstore may actually thrive again in a world where printed literature is no longer a mass produced, schlock commodity and becomes a more rarified special purchase.

In years past, global knowledge was captured in books. People with access to a library could tap that knowledge. The New York Public Library system (which I believe was the first but I am sure a number of cities line up to take credit for it) was founded in 1895 with the mission of “making the accumulated knowledge of the world freely accessible to all, without distinction as to income, religion, nationality or other human condition.” (and, oh by the way, if I were consulting with the National Library Association – I made that up, don’t have a clue if there is one – I would be putting that statement up in big oversized letters reminding them of this vision)

Paul Leclerc, President of the New York Public Library has called libraries “the memory of humankind, irreplaceable repositories of documents of human thought and action.” (Once again … big oversized letters up on a board)

That won’t change. In fact, later on I will make a suggestion on how library systems can take advantage of their credibility place in the world.

Libraries are the owners of “truth” in knowledge (and they should embrace that responsibility). Places like Wikipedia are flippant with facts and often skewed on what is true versus not.

Create Libraripedia.

The world is begging for a repository of knowledge that they can trust to be “true and factual.” Why the library system? Printed literature will always remain because it is the “source” for digital information. We have only to look at the Bible to see how information can be quickly bastardized in its iterations. But the original Hebrew Old Testament will always be “the source.”

Someone needs to “own” the source and share trusted information. Who is more credible and knowledgeable then librarians and libraries?

And the library system will thrive (and it should). We will need more librarians to help students navigate the e-galaxy and tell “what is valuable information or reliable from what is junk.” As my sister (an Information Librarian Executive type) says “Librarians help you find data from reliable sources. The least expensive may not be the best resource.”

She also stated this thought much much better than I ever could…“I live on the web. I use it daily. But, if doing research, I spend time finding out where the data came from. Why? Just because it is on the web doesn’t make it right. The key is where are you getting your information from? It is a website that you know nothing about?”

There you go. Libraripedia. Much better idea than the Vego-matic.

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Written by Bruce