What do you think the future of libraries will be?

Here’s the original.
I have been pondering this question ever since I finished reading Michael Buckland’s “Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto.” What kind of improvements could be made on current library services? What new services could be added based on imaginative extrapolation from current trends?


Buckland originally published his book in 1992, and many of his predictions have proved to be true. Well, I can’t really call them predictions. As Michael Gorman wrote in the Foreword, the bulk of books about the future of libraries and librarianship are “unrealistically futuristic or technically obsessed or consist of lengthy and arid speculations…on the contexts within which we work. Michael Buckland’s book falls into none of these categories…this book is pitched in the medium term, that its strengths and value can be found,” (n.p.). So, instead describing Buckland’s ideas as predictions, perhaps it’s better described as thinking ahead.

All he’s doing is thinking a couple of moves ahead, much like chess players do. Well, smarter chess players than me, to be entirely honest. My chess-playing is entirely defensive, focused on keeping the king and queen alive and hoping I can somehow stumble on the perfect check-mate setup. Buckland is playing technology chess smartly. He explains how he thinks a couple of steps ahead to try to help the rest of us to see his logic, so we can figure out how to apply the same thought processes toward our particular situations at our own libraries.

Instead of discussing his incredibly accurate offensive chess-playing (insert comic of potty-mouthed chess pieces), I want to take concept of thinking ahead to the near-medium future from now. Not the early 90′s. From 2012.

Okay. I’ll be honest. Discussing such topic at length is totally material for a long paper…or even a book. So let’s just call this a brainstorm session. What things could be improved? What do you think natural outgrowths of trends will be? Here are two of mine:

1) Right now, embargoes and pricing issues make database subscription frustrating for some libraries. Especially the embargoes, which forces some libraries to purchase the print copy along with an electronic copy just so their patrons and researchers can access current information. Budget realities and peoples’ expectations about the immediacy of information is going to financially pinch these journal publishers and databases instead if they don’t adjust their strategy. Embargoes should end, and the database pricing needs to be reduced, or libraries will be looking to alternative means of access while some patrons simply seek out an unauthorized copy of articles.

2) There will be a trend toward more lenient copyright licenses. It’s cheaper than lawyer bills and lawsuits against infringers, it builds good-will and respect from information-seekers, and it gets the ideas out there more easily to raise the creator’s profile. A good example of this is Jonathan Coulton (not to mention that I love that his Creative Commons license lets people do sign language interpretation so I, too, can enjoy his songs.)

It’s not without its flaws, and there may yet be further copyright innovations. A good article to read on the subject is Adrienne Goss’s “Codifying a Commons.”


Buckland, M. (1992). Redesigning library services: A manifesto. Chicago: American Library Association.

Creative Commons. (2012). Case studies: Jonathan Coulton. Retrieved from: http://wiki.creativecommons.org/Case_Studies/Jonathan_Coulton

Coulton, J. (n.d.) FAQ. Retrieved from: http://www.jonathancoulton.com/faq/

Goss, A. (2007). Codifying a commons: Copyright, copyleft, and the Creative Commons project. Chicago-Kent Law Review, 82. Retrieved from: http://heinonline.org/HOL/Page?handle=hein.journals/chknt82&g_sent=1&collection=journals&id=987


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