A Look Towards the Future: An Interview with "Next Gen" Librarians
In the past year the Weinberg Memorial Library has add several new librarians to its staff. These young librarians in their twenties and very early thirties are people you have grown up with the Internet and who have come of age with Web 2.0. To get their views on the ever-increasing number of innovations changing the library world, how we deliver library service, and the future role of librarians as information providers, we are devoting most of this special issue of the Information Update to an interview we have carried on with these "next generation" librarians. This interview, by the way, has been carried out using Facebook, one of the innovations changing Internet use and library service. Participants are: Donna Mazziotti, Public Services Librarian and Virtual Reference Coordinator; Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki, Digital Services Librarian; George Aulisio, Part-Time Public Services Librarian; Neil Grimes, Part-Time Public Services Librarian and High School Librarian for Wilkes-Barre Area School District; and Jennifer Maher, Evening Systems Specialist, who is currently working on a Master's degree in Library and Information Science through Drexel University's online program. Conducting the interview is an "old school" librarian, Kevin Norris, Public Services Librarian, and veteran of more than 30 years at the University of Scranton Library.
Kevin Norris Hi! Thanks for agreeing to participate in this interview article for the Newsletter. Since you are all in the early stages of your careers in libraries, let me begin by asking you: why did you choose librarianship for a career?
Donna Mazziotti I got the thought that I might like being a librarian while I was still an undergrad. The thought process at that point was: "I love books. I love people. I love it when people read books. Librarians help make this happen -- maybe I'd like being one." After college I worked in my local public library as a clerk, just to get a feel for the working environment, and felt more and more sure of it. I then decided to enroll in library school, and though the first thing one of my professors said was, "If you're here only because you like books, you're probably in the wrong place," -- haha, even though he said that, as soon as I started learning what it means to be a librarian beyond that (i.e. helping people find and access knowledge and information), I definitely felt like I was in the right place.
Anyone else have a similar experience to mine?
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki Donna, I had almost the opposite experience. I had no idea I might want to be a librarian, probably because I didn't have a particularly good idea of what librarians did, outside of checking out books.
Even when I decided to go to library school, I wasn't planning to be a librarian. I had fallen in love with Penn State's archives while working on my senior thesis there -- so my career goal was to be an archivist. But I had to take several "gen ed" library courses in order to get my MLS, and it turned out that I really enjoyed both the library and archival worlds.
That's one of the reasons I'm really enjoying my job in Digital Services. I get to be a librarian when I work on emerging technologies and collection development, but I think like an archivist when I work on digitization.
George Aulisio I have thought about this for a while now and actually think I was psychologically groomed to be a librarian by my mother - though this is probably just a wild conspiracy theory. As a child I was dragged to the public library constantly because my mother was an avid reader. I hated this; as a youth I was not an avid reader. Then when my junior and senior years of high school rolled around I found myself loving to read and would read through class instead of actually listening to my teachers (I don't recommended and I don't condone) - this was the first inkling of my mother's reinforcement of the trade.
As a sign of revolt to the world of practicality and capitalism I decided to make my fortune as a philosopher, or at least that's what I decided to study as an undergraduate. As a philosophy major, my mother had worries of me living at home until I was 35, so she would say why not study library science, and she eventually got my father to get in on it saying I should be a high school librarian. During my sophomore year, I applied for a student job in order to support my eating habits. My first choice of employment was the library mainly because that job seemed a lot easier than the other student work jobs. The application required an essay, and though I don't remember what I wrote, the Coordinator of Reference Services sensed the personality of a reference librarian in my short one paragraph essay.
Spending three years working as a Reference Assistant at Bloomsburg taught me a profound love of libraries and reference materials. So, I decided to apply to Drexel's MLIS program and pick-up a Ph.D. in philosophy on the sly at some unsuspecting college that hopefully hires me in the future. That being said I do love being a librarian and planning on being a college librarian in some form or another for the extent of my working life, so my mother was right all along.
Jennifer K. Maher I guess this is where I'm supposed to say "I didn't choose librarianship, it chose me." In a way, this is true. I had finished my undergrad degree in math and was pondering whether to attend a Ph.D. program in Rochester, when I decided what I really needed was to get away from school for a while.
Without any past library experience, I applied for a job at the Abington Community Library (my childhood library in Clarks Summit) and somehow I was offered the position. I was the "reference and tech support librarian" and I really enjoyed the job, particularly the technical aspects. After about three years, I saw an advertisement for a systems position here at the U. and decided to go for it. Here I am!
It wasn't until last year that I felt ready to return to school for my master's degree. I've been attending Drexel's online program, and through my coursework and activities here in the systems department, I've really come to love the field. I can't see myself in public services, but I love working with technology and helping people "behind the scenes," so systems is a good fit for me. It's a particularly exciting field right now because of the emergence of Web 2.0 technologies and the recent emphasis on digital collections!
Neil Grimes Some of my happiest memories as a child were in libraries. I remember my mother taking me to story hour as a child and it was literally the highlight of my week. During summers, I would participate in the summer reading programs at the local public library - the Osterhout Public Library in Wilkes-Barre. In college, I found myself spending hours in the library at King's studying, researching, or reading. I often joke around with students that if it hadn't been for the library, I never would have graduated from King's. While in my senior year at King's I was faced with a tough choice: graduate and get a job, or go on to graduate school. My adviser, whose wife had her MLS persuaded me to pursue my MLS. When I mentioned the idea to my mother, she embraced the idea and said that I should follow the path to becoming a librarian. It is a decision that I am very happy that I made. Every day on the job is different and being a librarian allows me to interact with so many different people.
I have learned so much from doing the job and enjoy living up to the daily challenges on the job of helping patrons, improving my search strategies and skills, and embracing technology to improve my own learning and teaching. Over the past few years, I have had experiences as a librarian on the elementary level, the secondary level, and the academic level. Each level has its rewards and challenges. I think that I get no greater feeling in the world than when I see someone reading or asking for help in the library. Those moments are unique and priceless. I teach my students that the pathway to success begins in the library. I am finding myself to be a very positive role model at the high school where I work, not only because I am the librarian, but also because I am the National Honor Society adviser.
Stereotypes - The Good, The Bad, and the "Shhhh" Factor
Kevin Norris Several of you mentioned stereotypes of librarians -- "librarians love books" and "librarians check out books" -- and not really knowing what librarians do. Do you think the librarian stereotype persists in the mind of the general public?
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki Definitely, and I think it's one of the main challenges of the profession in the next decade. We're so associated with books in the public mind that I don't think most people even think of librarians when they need help finding digital resources.
George Aulisio I shudder at the day I may have to say "shhhh" to someone being obnoxiously loud; in fact, I'm not even sure I could bring myself to do it.
Some stereotypes are true though, for example they do hand out cats with your MLS/MLIS diploma, I'm pretty sure about that one.
Donna Mazziotti Hey, I didn't get any cat at my MLS graduation! No fair!
But seriously, I have a love-hate relationship with librarian stereotypes. Well, I generally don't like the "shhh" stereotype -- gotta love that reaction we all probably got at some point: "What do they teach you in Library School? How to be a professional shusher?" Not a fan of this misconception.
But stereotypes like "librarians like books" I happen to like, because it points to our thirst for knowledge, and it also identifies us as people to whom the general public can come and have conversations with about books and ideas. This can only ever be a good thing.
I think what Kristen said about widening our public face to include access to knowledge in electronic formats is important. However I think it's a problem that time will take care of faster than anything we can do about it -- since library users who are also digital natives are slowly and eventually going to outnumber those that are not. And digital natives expect their knowledge and information to be in electronic form, so of course their understanding of what a librarian does will incorporate electronic access as well as print access to knowledge and information.
Neil Grimes I can recall librarians in the past reminding library patrons to be quiet (the shhh stereotype), but I am finding that students learn more when they are guided via an information professional (librarian)'s instruction and engaged learning through a computer or by walking students to the shelves and explaining how to find information in books.
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki George, you're right on about some stereotypes being true. I got my two cats a month after I started library school.
Jennifer K. Maher I don't think I'll be receiving any cats at my graduation, but that's probably a good thing. I already have two, and any more would place me dangerously close to crazy-cat-lady territory.
From the Systems side of the table, the one stereotype that bothers me a bit is the automatic assumption that "librarian" equals "reference librarian" (or circulation, or children's librarian). Public services, in other words. But there are so many other positions for librarians, especially now—ranging from tech services to systems to emerging technologies to even something as specific as GIS/map librarians (another particular interest of mine). Librarians are also valued more and more in industry and corporations now, as the sheer amount of information that needs to be preserved and organized grows by the day.
Let me attest to the fact that you can go through "library school" taking almost entirely technology-related courses and still have a very well-rounded view of the profession!
Kevin Norris Well, I have had cats in the past, but not now. And, I have occasionally shushed people, but only when other patrons complained about the noise. Also, I believe I have seen in polls of public respect for professions, that librarians rate high -- so there are positive stereotypes, too. One stereotype none of you mentioned, though -- this is a female dominated profession -- at least, in the numbers. I remember when I was a new librarian about 30 years ago, a woman sitting next to me on an airplane asked me while we were chatting what my job was. When I told her I was a librarian, she smiled and told me not to worry, that I would have a "real" job someday. I have also had older patrons on the phone tell me they would call back when a librarian was on duty, assuming I wasn't one. I think the assumption was that it wasn't a "guy" job. Any thoughts on this, particularly Neil and George? Kristen and Donna chime in, too, if you want.
Jennifer K. Maher Wow, Kevin, I don't know that the lady on the plane necessarily had any sexist stereotypes about the profession ... it sounds to me like she was just putting it down altogether. Could it have been that most people think (or realize) that this isn't usually a high-paying career, and assume we're doing it just to get by, maybe like a waiter who aspires to be an actor, until we can join the real "rat race?" Ugh, I want no part of it. This is an insulting stereotype to me.
I'm very curious to hear what George and Neil might have to say on the issue of this being a "guy" job or not. My assumption is that most men who are interested in librarianship don't really care what others think and will do what they believe in regardless ... but maybe this is another stereotype.
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki I think the fact that librarianship isn't a high paying career is related to it being a female dominated profession. Like nurses and teachers, we've been traditionally undervalued and underpaid. I don't think that it's the sole factor, but it is one to be mentioned.
George Aulisio I would say the profession is still dominated by women, but it's becoming slightly more diverse. The stereotype I've recently heard about is: "Guybrarians" are more technology oriented, whereas our female counterparts enjoy the traditional aspects of library research. I think I partially fall into this stereotype, I enjoy the technology, but I also enjoy the research aspect.
This stereotype within a stereotype plays on the idea of the differences between men and women. Men traditionally being considered the Logical/Rational sex and thus interested in Technology and Science. Whereas, women are considered the Emotional/Humanistic sex and thus more attracted to the Humanities.
One explanation could be:traditional library research (before the advent of computer tech) was more closely aligned to humanities research. Combing through books and card catalogs until your eyes became so dry they turned into dust. Now that the profession is moving more to the technological, possibly more men will gradually catch on to the trade.
Another possibility is that, stereotypically, women enjoy reading more than men do; and let's face it, reading does have a lot to do with becoming a librarian.
Of course, we are all bundles of different aspects, each of us has our interests and claims from both the humanistic and technological side of the profession. So, stereotypes are ridiculous the more I think about it.
Kevin Norris I believe also that I have read that in the 19th and early 20th centuries, women were thought to be better than men at detail-oriented work. This was true in other professions, as well. For example, in the early film industry one branch that was open to women was editing; their supposed ability at noticing small details of continuity would make them better at matching shots.
I think Kristen made a good point, though, about the pay and gender. Also, at one time, small public libraries were often staffed by women volunteers.
Innovations Changing the Library World
We can get back to this topic, if you like, but let me ask another question -- what do you think are the most important recent innovations in the library field?
Neil Grimes Traditionally, most men have been driven towards careers that would bring them wealth and power - senators, governors, mayors, doctors, lawyers, bankers, etc. I went against the norm because there is one thing in this world that you can't put a price $$$ on and that is knowledge. I have always been interested in knowledge, learning, and libraries. Working in a library, I believe that I have an impact on learning and the creation of new information.
I agree with what George had said about advancements in technology and the use of technology in attracting more men into the librarian profession. Within our lifetimes, I see libraries and libraries becoming more digital, and it may change the avenue with which we help library patrons. Instead of patrons coming to the desk to ask for help, they very well may just send an IM, e-mail, Facebook message, etc. Library patrons are doing some of these things now. In my 3 years as a professional MLS librarian, I have found that it is often easier to explain how to use a library's catalog, search databases, or search online by working with students on a one-on-one basis or teaching an information literacy class to a room full of students. Explaining how to do these searches through IM, e-mail, and any other form of electronic communication may take more time than if the library patron(s) had come to the desk and asked for help in conducting their search or attended an information literacy class.
In my opinion, I think that the importance of librarians often gets overlooked in our fast-paced ambition driven society. Also, I believe that there are different reasons why each of us chose to go into the library profession. Overall, I chose the library profession because some of my best memories over the years have had to do with libraries, librarians, and books.
Seated from left: Jennifer Maher, Donna Mazziotti, Standing: George Aulisio, Kristen Yarmey-Tylukit, and Kevin Norris
It is my belief that without librarians that we would never advance as a society. Too bad librarians don't get paid as much as some professional athletes do.
In response to Kevin's new question about technological innovations - I would say some of the biggest that are going to continue to impact libraries and librarians are the use of digital reference programs such as MEEBO and VR, the fact that most libraries are now WI-FI throughout the entire building. Even programs such as YouTube, Facebook, individual faculty/librarian webpages, and online subject pathfinders will impact how librarians and library users learn research skills as well as improvements in online databases and database searching that will allow for easier and increased use of online databases. It is my worry that technology may eliminate the need for librarians, but then again it may increase the need for more librarians. Anyone have any thoughts on this?
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki Neil, I think the answer to your question about whether technology will either eliminate or increase the need for librarians depends on how well the profession adapts to technological and cultural changes over time. Instead of dismissing Google as inferior to our beloved databases, can we become experts in internet searching and even work with search engine developers to create more powerful and more cohesive information-finding tools? Can we step away from our reference desks, both physically and virtually, to more deeply explore and fulfill our communities' information needs? Can we break down the barriers between librarianship and other information fields (not only information technology but also informatics, knowledge management, records management, archives, etc) to integrate and harmonize our efforts?
I think this is already happening in a lot of ways, in a lot of places. But in my perspective, it's not yet the status quo for librarianship. I think it's our job as "next-gen" librarians to continue the work that has been started and strive to remain relevant and necessary, by constantly rethinking what librarians do and how best to do it.
Kristen, I agree with you as for the need for librarians to embrace technology and incorporate it into their work. As to the extent this is done, it depends upon the individual librarian and whether the library organization (school, academic, public) wants to invest in more technology tools and resources (laptops, databases, websites, etc.).
It would make sense for Google to consult librarians on the use of technology and how to improve search strategies and results. Maybe they do this already, maybe not.It would be a good question to e-mail the founders of Google, though.
I believe that librarians who integrate, harmonize, and collaborate when it comes to the use of technology in teaching, learning, and the creation of new knowledge and ideas will help to contribute to the advancement of our society and the creation of new knowledge as a whole. It is definitely our job as "next-gen" librarians to grow over our careers in order to better serve our library patrons and expand our own knowledge of technology and learning.
Are Librarians Passé?
In reading everyone's recent responses, I think the most interesting and in some ways most provocative thread of conversation is the question of whether or not technology, technological advances, etc. will render librarians obsolete. I agree with Kristen and Neil, that the only way to keep this from happening is to work with the technology, not in opposition to it. I think all of us here have no problem doing this.
Google may be a tool that our students go to first and immediately when they have an information need, and though the appeal of this tool is the ability to search in "natural language," as a librarian I still know a few tricks of the trade that make my Google searches a lot more streamlined than I think a non-librarian's might be (Example: I always search phrases in Google using quotation marks, and the website I want is almost always in the top five results. I love to offer this tip to students, because it blows their mind when they realize there's a way to have greater control over their Google search results.) My point is, librarians will always have something to offer the world of online/digital searching, because the technology behind it is a tool that requires skill just like any other tool But I would take this even further... If our goal and mission as librarians are to increase access to information and help create lifelong learners, then I am all for eventually phasing-out Boolean Operators and the like.
But, I am only for this if the alternative so-called "natural language" searching is just as efficient and effective, and has the ability to narrow and focus a search in the same way good ol' Boolean can.
Along these lines, and to answer Kevin's question, I think a technological innovation that is going to rock the boat of traditional search strategies is the new "Discovery" interfaces like Encore, put out by Innovative Interfaces, Inc. Rather than having the search focused from the get-go with a really long and complex search query, these systems allow you to start with a simple search, and then click your way through (i.e. browse) subjects and categories of ideas until you find the sub-sub-sub-set of information that meets your information need. I think this will take getting used to for librarians, but I also think it: 1) increases information access by making our library systems more familiar and user-friendly to our young patrons who are working on systems like these sometimes before they know how to speak; and 2) creates life-long learners out of young researchers who may "discover" two or three new things along the way, on that click-path, before they eventually find the piece of information they need right in that moment.
And if we as librarians really and truly seek to increase information access and create lifelong learners, if this is true and it's not just empty jargon, then we cannot be threatened by this kind of technology. Instead we have to master it ourselves, so we still have tips and tricks to offer along the way, even when the students appear to be more adept at these technologies than we are.
Not to mention, librarians will always be needed to fill the crucial task of helping researchers of all ages define their information need... the good ol' "Let's turn this topic that interests you into a viable research question/thesis -- let's spin it so you have something worthwhile to prove about this topic, thus creating new knowledge..." THIS is probably the most exciting and rewarding part of being a librarian, and it has nothing to do with technology -- it's the part of the reference interview that occurs before I type or click a single thing, and I live for it... at least at my job I do.
George Aulisio I will attempt to answer both the questions of "most significant advancement" and the question of "obsolescence," and even try to combine them.
I would have the say electronic databases would have to be the most significant advancement (for the betterment of librarians). Though the internet is probably the most significant "advancement" for librarians, it's probably somewhat debilitating to the profession.
Databases, which allow for keyword searching, are still esoteric enough so librarians are important, but also make our roles as researchers that much more accomplishable. Personally, I've said this before, I don't think I could have been a librarian 20 years ago - I wouldn't have the patience when asked a question, such as, "I need a scholarly article on the phenomenology of a bat." Sure, I'd probably turn to Nous or some philosophical journal concerned with the philosophy of mind, but I'd probably be browsing for days. Now, I could get tons of articles in under a minute.
I say the internet is somewhat debilitating to the profession, because its so easy for students to think that they can get everything they need from using Google. Sure, librarians and professors know this isn't the case, but I sometimes fear we may be the only ones.
On the other hand, the advent of the world wide web and cheap access to it has given us more information literacy topics to discuss, i.e. how to evaluate web resources, what criteria needs to be assessed, etc. So in that sense it makes us a little more useful for the time being.
Certainly, students (and the public) will get better at finding information as computers and the internet become more and more integrated in people's lives, but I'm not sure the quality of one's findings will ever improve without the education of information literacy being integrated into our lives, as well. It'll likely be the case that C & IL training will start showing up in elementary and high schools. Possibly, by the time students are in college they will no longer need the training.
So, I will take the cynical view, because I am by nature a cynical person. I think there will be a point in time when librarians will no longer be in demand, not because we will become obsolete, but because administrators just won't want to pay our salaries. I think it'll come down to a question of what's more important, money or student's having free IL advisors readily available to them. Students have free IL advisors available to them right now, but not all of them take advantage of us, and their grades will suffer because of this.
Clearly, money is more important than anything in our society; so, we lose. There probably won't be a complete abscence of librarians - just a lot less.
That being said, I don't see this happening in my lifetime, per se. Maybe toward the end of my career I will be at the beginning of this trend, but I don't see myself someday losing a job over it.
Trend du Jour?
Kevin Norris What new innovations do you think will just be "flashes in the pan" -- today's big hot item, but tomorrow's passing fad?
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki I think that in the long run, we'll be surprised at how quickly popular tools and websites can disappear. For example, Facebook is huge right now - they have incredible market penetration and visibility. But, they're a for-profit company, and they're not making any profit. And they've also had some issues with customer service. I'm no MBA, but if they can't find a sustainable business model, the company could end up folding - even though it seems so integrated into our culture right now.
From an archival perspective, this frightens me. So many people have spent a lot of time and energy building social networks and communicating over Facebook. And who saves their Facebook notes or status updates? If the company did collapse, all of that could be lost to history in a heartbeat. We won't have a record of how people communicated using these types of tools.
None of this is to say that librarians should ignore Facebook or other "big hot items" - just to warn that we'll have to adapt rapidly, tracking and responding to the trends of our patrons' information usage.
However, I would say the tools that are getting the most use now will evolve as user needs change, whereas the tools that no one is giving the time of day to, will probably fade into obsolescence. I personally put Second Life in the latter category, while Facebook and the social networking technology behind it would be in the former.
Although Facebook itself, as a brand, may not always be the "it" social networking site as Kristen mentioned, I think if its creators and designers respond to user needs and feedback, it can continue to evolve and stay relevant and useful.
The other important thing to remember about social networking sites in particular is, they are only as interesting/effective/useful/resourceful as the community members that make up the network. Since everyone is on Facebook, it almost doesn't matter (to an extent) how good or bad the technology is: you can't jump ship without losing all those contacts. This truth is probably a temptation to the Facebook designers to become complacent in adapting to user needs... It's a tricky balance, and for all our sakes I hope the Facebook team is up to the task.
George Aulisio All of the new Web 2.0 technologies definitely have the aura of being "flash in the pans." Devices like virtual reference services via IM will likely be on the rise in the coming years. Personally, I feel the accessibility of IM reference might make chat reference such as tutor.com's software obsolete.
Items like podcasts will likely flounder, unless distance education continues to be on the rise. Then short streaming podcasts might end up being a norm for most libraries.
Wikis will probably not have the same applications as they are being looked at today. I think Wikis are great for inter-organization communication of topics, ideas, and concerns. However, I don't think its a good platform for conveying ideas, resources, and other general topics to the public-at-large.
Blogs are kind of the great unknown. The nature of a blog is nothing more than an amateur's pedestal for discussing what is interesting to them. Considering this, I would say that blogs would not be widely popular, but current trends tend to say otherwise - people love blogs.
However, most people don't find library topics that interesting (surprisingly), so we might see the disappearance of library blogs talking pop culture and trying to be hip and alluring to students. What will likely remain are news feeds formatted to look like a blog, which will just display information about new library resources, hours, etc.
Some items our library has not yet adopted are text messaging services. Personally, I like this idea a lot and don't see why it wouldn't catch on. Having a text message sent to your phone telling you your book is overdue or has been recalled. Or having the option of sending a book's call number directly to your phone when doing a catalog search for a book seems to me like something that could catch on - I know I would probably opt to just have the call number sent directly to my phone rather than jotting down those digits; this is mainly because I am lazy.
Any more commenting like this might instill a negative self-fulfilling prophecy and frankly I kind of like Web 2.0 stuff, so I'm not going to try and contribute to its failures.
Predicting the Future - The Library of 2050
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki I have one more topic to bring up before we close out -- I just downloaded the new Pew report on the future of the internet. Some of the internet experts had really interesting things to say about the near future - such as internet access being almost entirely over mobile phones or similar devices, etc.
We've talked about some recent technological innovations, and we've talked about whether or not librarians will stay relevant in the future. Assuming that libraries (if not librarians) will still be relevant, how about looking further out? With all of these rapid technological and societal changes in mind, what do we think libraries will look like when we're getting ready to retire? Say, 40 years from now?
George Aulisio The library of 2050 may very well be a fraction of the size of the libraries of today, possibly contatining a small book collection of likely reference books for quick reference sources, but very few circulating books. The majority of the library's space will be taken up by increased study area space. In place of circulating books you will likely see touch screen monitors strewned across the walls. Doing all your searches on these touch screens and uploading your book selection, journal article, webpage, etc. directly to your future evolution of the Kindle or Sony's Digital Book or e-Reader via WiFi or a Bluetooth connection.
Hopefully, in addition to libraries having increased technology they will also be eco-friendly, having large windows which have awnings which move according to the sun's position in the sky, trapping as much warm sunlight as possible in the winter, and leaving the inhabitants cool and "uncooked" in the summer months. Rooftop windmill generators and solar panels will certainly take care of the bulk of electrical needs.
Oh, and hopefully, by then, technology will no longer need outlets in which to plug into. In the near future we will live in a world without wires, even energy is safely and easily transported through the airwaves.
Librarians may or may not be replaced by holograms of Leonard Nimoy. That is still debatable, hopefully the librarian union will be strong enough to hold off that development for as long as possible.
Donna Mazziotti LOL George you crack me up.
Ok, so I'm trying to picture libraries in 40 years... And honestly, I have this sneaking suspicion that "externally" things will look very similar to how they do now. I think the reason for this sameness-of-look (I am thinking building architecture at least) is because I don't think anybody's going to pay millions of dollars to downsize a library building. And as long as there is space for books, I do believe the space will be filled with books. Or, maybe more computers and study space... but books too, I honestly think so.
However, I do agree with some of George's speculations, in particular having far more computer workstations with touch screens used to download eBooks, articles, and other electronic information. Or if not workstations per se, then we will be further along in OpenID technology (I don't know if that's even an official buzz word or if I'm making that up) where a person will have a single sign-on for all electronic access points in their life -- including the library. As such, students are more likely to get the info through their own devices than through computer workstations. One other tweak to George's imagined future library would be that, instead of an evolved eBook reader (although I am looking forward to eBook readers evolving, for sure!), I think the current device that will evolve is the cell phone/PDA/text message/email checker/do-it-all gizmos kids (and adults) are using these days. With pull-out mini-keyboards, they are turning into the more convenient and by far the most relevant computing device. I think, if you enlarge them a bit and make the screens more easy on the eyes, and the connection to the Internet stronger and better, and increase storage, you have the future of information retrieval right there in the palm of your hand.
As for where librarians fit into this future library, I believe we will still go to work each day to a Library building; however I think every librarian, across the board, will need to have a virtual presence for delivering library service, and one that is ubiquitous, and not simply signing into something once a day, or only during prescribed shifts. Unfortunately, I see my current, little niche-position of "Virtual Reference Coordinator" eventually fading away, since all reference will be both virtual as well as traditional. As such, the traditional Reference Coordinator would necessarily take on the role of coordinating VR too, since these will become close to synonymous.
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki Lots of great ideas to respond to!
First of all, George, you mentioned libraries of the future being more eco-friendly - which makes me want to stand up and cheer. Making our work more environmentally sustainable is one of my big dreams, for the field in general as well as for the Weinberg specifically. I hope this is something we'll continue to work on as a community in '09 - so maybe it won't take us 40 years to get there!
As for how many books we'll have in forty years - I wonder if book collections of the future will look more like our current Special Collections library than a circulating collection. Especially considering that ebook readers (or as Donna suggested, PDA/iPhone type devices) will likely become much easier to use, I could imagine that we would only keep certain books, in whose physical form we found intrinsic value - maybe we'd only keep a book signed by the author, or containing a scholar's written notes in the margin, or that belonged to a former president, etc. The world of book publishing is already changing so quickly that I think we'll soon see a shift to print-on-demand, such that it won't be necessary to keep print copies of books handy for circulation.
OpenID is already a reality, although it's a struggle right now within the open source community to convince more sites to accept OpenID usernames (see openid.net). I definitely agree with Donna that this will be a fixture of 2050 life. It's a little bit of a relief to think that when I'm at retirement age I won't have to trust my fading memory to remember hundreds of different passwords!
Donna, I'm also with you in seeing my current niche fade away! I don't think it will be long before all librarians will have to be experts in Digital Services.
Neil Grimes I agree with all that the library of the future will look much different than those of today. The possibility exists that libraries of the future will be run off of renewable energy sources; this may even be government mandated for libraries and other public buildings. There definitely will be fewer books. An individual's whole life could one day be accessible off of their PDA or cell phone device. Textbooks and books in general will be available to be downloadable to a laptop, PDA, or other computing device. This will eliminate the need for students to walk around with bookbags (kiss JanSport bookbags goodbye!) and fashionable laptop bags will begin to be the norm. Library websites will be much more interactive for the user than they are right now. There will also be touch screen monitors and workstations throughout the library for students to use and search at their discretion (I see this happening as the touch screen technology becomes cheaper.). I see the use of smart board technology in libraries so that information literacy classes can take place anywhere in the library, not just in a classroom. There will be fewer dividing walls and stacks of books and many more open spaces. People will interact with each other in the library much more than they do now. Research will be done more in groups than on an individual basis. The future of libraries looks very promising and almost limitless!
George Aulisio I've worked in a university library before and it was that experience that made me decide I wanted to be a college reference librarian. However, here at Scranton was my first professional position. The months I've spent at the University of Scranton have been a wonderful experience for me. Students, faculty, and staff have all been extremely welcoming and kind to me.
Speaking strictly of the library, I've had both the luxury of working with other young librarians who are new to the career and learning of their interests in Web 2.0 technologies, the future of libraries, the future of the profession, their teaching strategies, what they've learned from their respective graduate programs, and what drives them to be the great librarians they already prove to be. In addition to the new librarians, I've learned a great deal from our more experienced comrades, as well. The practical advice, encouragement, and reminders that sometimes using a book is easier than using a computer have been an immense part of my development as a reference librarian.
In conclusion.... I like my job! Where else can I discuss awesome things with intelligent, fun coworkers over Facebook???
And what's interesting is, I think in this we (as an academic library, versus other kinds of libraries) are unique. I worked in a public library for a few years before coming here to Scranton, and if I had stayed on full time there, using cutting edge (versus traditional) technologies, like Facebook, would not be embraced or welcomed in the slightest. In this, I think the library culture and attitude towards new tools and technologies here at the U are ahead of its time. Ultimately, our mission and goal is to increase information access for our users -- i.e. what does the student need to succeed at finding the right information? -- and this is what propels all of our technology and library service initiatives. And this is the only reason they succeed.
Kristen Yarmey-Tylutki My turn on the closing thoughts...
I agree with Donna - the best thing about working here in the Weinberg is that the entire library, faculty and staff, is so open to new ideas. Over the past few months, we've started lots of new projects, usually using new technologies, and never once have I heard any backlash - no "that's not the way we do things here," no "why should we bother changing?". What I have heard is interest and support - questions, suggestions, comments - from all directions. Even when Donna and I canvassed the library taking pictures of everyone for Facebook, while we did hear some concerns about privacy, we also got lots of enthusiasm and questions about what it means to "be on Facebook." Some of the staff members told me that they went home that night and showed their daughters or sons their picture online. The fact that so many people were willing to try something new and a little scary just to support two newbie librarians meant a lot to me. And it made me proud to be part of a library team that works hard not only for its students but also for each other.
Thanks so much to all of you for such a fun discussion!