Thinking about the future by Dee Brennan

As human beings, we spend a lot of time thinking about the future.  And, as librarians, we spend time thinking about the future of librarianship and libraries.

So, I am very pleased that ALA has established the Center for the Future of Libraries to help us think about the future.  On their web page Center for the Future of Libraries  their mission is described.


The Center for the Future of Libraries works to:

Identify emerging trends relevant to libraries and the communities they serve

Promote futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians and library professionals shape their future

Build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues


I haven’t seen a lot of press or discussion about the Center or its work but I think it’s pretty interesting. I especially like the Trend Library .

Throughout my career as a public library director, I paid close attention to societal trends as a way of keeping my library up-to-date and even, occasionally, on the curve of change.  Our profession tends to be among the very last to adapt new ideas, technologies, etc., and I think one reason is that we are not very comfortable with trends.  We’re constitutionally more comfortable with ideas like authoritative and authority control and we are really good at organizing and classifying things – all of which imply formal and long standing ways of doing things which are pretty much the antithesis of trends.

Trends help us see how society is changing and what new demands may be placed on us.  They tell us about the society we work in and the people we serve and can help us understand our customers and colleagues better, serve our communities better, and force us to not operate in a bubble or on an island.

I will highlight some of the trends, make a few comments and ask some questions. I’d love to hear your comments and questions also.


Collective Impact: a retake on advocacy that describes how community groups or organizations from different sectors work together to solve major social issues so that their collective impact is greater;  this trend may lead librarians to “reframe library issues and priorities to align with the big social issues with which society struggles.”

I point this out not because it is a new idea, but because it defines successful advocacy; when we focus on the effects, good or ill, of social policy on our users and our communities, we are more successful in explaining why we should get more political support, more funding, etc.

Drones: don’t laugh until you read this; it may seem farfetched, but Amazon has been talking about using drones at least since last April (when Jeff Bezos was interviewed on 60 Minutes). Just imagine the effect that they could have on rural locations and libraries with inadequate broadband access.  Not to mention physical delivery!

Fast Casual: I love this one. Does anybody besides me remember the idea of mass customization? The Trend Library says the fast casual concept “has oriented consumers to more active and social spaces where they can see people hanging out… Empty lobbies, formal service counters and other traditional features of library spaces may be at odds with fast casual experiences.”

Oh oh. It’s past time to get rid of those desks! They are intimidating barriers for customers who are already afraid to “interrupt” the library staff and ask for help.

Internet of Things: wearable technologies means service everywhere.  Great for the customer, challenging for libraries.  Why is it so hard for us to deliver service in the way that our customers want it and expect it (because they get it from other vendors or service providers already)?  We have to be more agile and able to aggressively add new technologies that will improve service.  Why can’t we use text messages for hold and overdue notices? Is it our vendors? Or is it us?

Resilience: it’s not enough to have a disaster plan. Your organization has to be resilient or poised for rapid recovery from a disaster. A resilient community or organization would “plan and build in ways that would reduce disaster losses, rather than waiting for a disaster to occur and paying for it afterward.”

A few thoughts about the Center for the Future of Libraries and the Trend Library.


What thoughts do you have?

Celebrating 100 Years in Waterman

Member Spotlight

The Clinton Township Public Library of Waterman Illinois is celebrating 100 years of service. The library was built with a Carnegie Grant of $3,500 in 1914. Waterman was the smallest community to receive a Carnegie Grant. The library will have an Open House on Monday, December 22, 1 - 9 p.m., with a brief program at 7 p.m.

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