I will start by looking at how online services will be provided. None of us know how far technology will have moved in 10 years, but it is a certainty that it will be even more embedded into our lives than it is now. This is particularly important in relation to the information services that library and information professionals provide ( I will use librarian and library as shorthand for the rest of this think-piece).
As more and more information is available in, and only in, electronic format the emphasis of the roles that library staff of all types will carry out will change. It has been said more information does not mean better information. There will still be a need for library professionals to help people find what they want, in a format they can use and at the time they want it…. I have heard something like that before. It does not, however, mean that public libraries need to set up as many different ways of finding this information as there are library services.
My first vision statement for library services in 2022 is that ‘access to online information is facilitated through one online portal that is contributed to and supported by customer facing staff (and other professionals, customers, volunteers they have helped to become fully information literate) with personal support available wherever and whenever it is needed.The content and design of this portal will be managed by library information professionals working closely with their ICT colleagues (who are the experts on the systems that can be used to access content) using a range of the latest electronic technologies available. Where more local information is needed it will be provided by linked in subregional contributors which are professionally mediated.”
So what does that mean for the library building in the community? My second vision statement for library services in 2022 is that “there are local library places where people and communities can access a range of books, information and other services in the format and style that they are most comfortable with using. They will be flexible/ dynamic spaces with a range of local services accessible and space that can be used for local community activities. They will also let people meet virtually with others from the region, country and world (and space?). Some will have regular professionally qualified library staff, some will have immediate electronic access to professional support – some of which would be holograms who can interact as if the librarian is in the same place.”
When I am talking about professional library staff I am referring to staff who operate in a professional way providing effective library and information services who are trained and supported by professionally qualified librarians. These librarians can actively use and apply their skills to support all people and communities in a non-judgmental, inclusive and supportive way. In this world the description librarian will describe people who are excellent at finding, organising and disseminating information resources, they will also be excellent at helping people to gain confidence in finding information for themselves and always there to help those who are not confident, do not want to , or cannot manage by themselves. Even if the country has managed to reduce the percentage of people who are illiterate and not IT literate that helping hand will still be needed.These are skills we are already using as librarians (and I am a Chartered Librarian myself in case you are interested) and will always be needed. It is the arena’s in which we use them that will change and develop.Kate Millin is the Black Country Library Services Project Manager and the ideas here are purely her personal views. @Kate_Millin