Why I’m Optimistic

Coins

A few weeks ago I was asked by my boss to prepare a short presentation on change and libraries for the library’s staff development days in December. It’s been a great reason to read and really think about what I think libraries may be like in the not-too-distant-future.

At first I was a bit overwhelmed by all of the changes that are happening so quickly.Was it really just 2007 that the first Kindle came out? Now eBooks are about to really take off and librarians are trying to figure out this new format. The mobile web is still very young and we’re figuring it out too. Our budgets are flat, or shrinking. Library staff is working hard to serve the needs of more visitors while having less support. It could get very depressing very quickly. Really.

What does our future hold? I can only say ‘I don’t know.’ Luckily, I’ve been talking to some smart, creative people who have helped me make some sense of what is going on. I’ve come to a conclusion. I really do think libraries are going to be ok. It’s not going to be easy but I do think we will survive into the future.

I have two reasons to be optimistic:

  1. We’re smart
    • There are some very smart people in library land who are working hard to figure this stuff out and they are sharing their knowledge
  2. We adapt
    • We’ve been adapting for centuries.
      • From clay tablets to scrolls to books we’ve seen them all
      • The shift from paper to digital is another format change we will manage

Just because we are living through a very disruptive and fast changing time doesn’t mean we can’t handle it. Of course we can handle it. How? By focusing on what we do best: helping people with their information needs. Helping people connect with the information they need when they need it and providing a space for people to meet to connect with each other. As long as we remember that it is people who make the library I think we will be ok.

Will libraries look the same in 20 years? No. Will a lot of people be upset by the transformations we may undergo? Probably. Change is inevitable. We can either manage the change ourselves or wait and let someone else tell us how we will change. I don’t think we will like option number 2. So, I’m going to stay positive and work on helping my library manage change as smoothly as possible.

Pessimism doesn’t help either.

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