07 November 2007

#15 Libraries & users in the future

One of the most exciting things for me about the Web 2.0 features we've been exploring is the collaborative aspect which encourages library users to contribute their expertise to enhance the services on offer. Librarians have traditionally been seen as the authorities who present carefully selected materials to their users. This role has been changing for some time now to one that is more directional and enabling for users. The ubiquity of the internet has made it imperative that librarians be involve in the creation of internet content, too, not just navigators of it. Del.icio.us and LibraryThing are brilliant examples of how knowledge can be distributed among users rather than to users. The challenge is to find mechanisms for encouraging and enabling users to share their knowledge as a part of what they are already doing. Applying the idea of del.icio.us bookmarking in a targetted way - different buttons for specific resources (wikis?) - within an organisational intranet perhaps, could be a useful knowledge management tool.

But it is important to keep in mind that not everyone will be directly "connected". And there will always be those who want to use libraries only to find good books to take away and read on their own. Also, we are an ageing population and many will never be users of technology. I can envisage expanded mobile and home library services with more librarians visiting users (not just delivering books) equipped with laptop computers, library newsletters, transcripts of discussion group meetings and personalised reading selection lists. These lists could be created from services such as LibraryThing and Whichbook customised to the library's IPAC to enable housebound library users to have greater interaction with their library services even if they aren't able to use the technological tools. Together with their visiting librarian/s they can have a personalised library service equal to other more mobile and connected users.

Now that scenario may be useful for the next 30 years, but after that, as one of my colleagues has suggested, everyone will be chip-implanted and "wired" to everyone else. I think I would prefer to have a librarian visit me!

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