Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stephan Abram on the future of libraries

OCLC invited library futurist Stephan Abram to talk about Information 3.0 last month. You can (should) listen to his talk here (fourth bullet point down) although be warned that it is an hour and fifteen minutes long.

Here are some things that I took away from listening to this talk.

  1. Librarians often respond to new technology with passive resistance. We say we are open to it but refuse to actually use it and thus never learn it. I'd say this is pretty true.
  2. If libraries have a future that future lies in leveraging their human resources. Our collections and search capabilities are not that special, what we have to offer is knowledgeable staff. We need to be more aggressive in marketing that.
  3. Libraries are first and foremost social institutions.
  4. Librarians are a pretty homogeneous group and thus are not well situated to guess what our users need or how they will use what we offer.
One of the things Abram says is that libraries need to engage with online social networks and not be critical of people wanting to consult with peers as a part of the research process. He notes that we often consult with peers when doing research. I think this is a valid point and something I've been meaning to discuss in this blog for awhile. I think the ability of social networks such as Facebook to connect both student and non-student researchers has the ability to reshape the research paradigm from an essentially individual quest to an essentially collaborative exercise.

I can imagine a future where one of the first steps of any research project is to find the relevant community (or communities) and build a list of fellow researchers who you can work with. Professional societies and the networks they create have allowed this to happen in the past but the new tools will perhaps open up this type of networking to the masses.

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