Transforming Libraries into the 21st Century

While in attendance at Embrace the Change - Transforming Libraries into the 21st Century, it was discussed the way in which students, academics, and all users interact with the volume of diverse media at their fingertips.  This colloquium, taking place at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, looked at libraries in general, and also specifically in Theological Libraries.

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Speakers Miguel Figueroa and John Weaver provide an interesting collective perspective on users’ relationships with media and how that is changing given the technology and resources becoming more readily available.

An intro by Pittsburgh Theological Seminary uses their experience to set the context.  The PTS Barbour Library is a microcosm of change that all libraries face today - A rich legacy from the past, and a bold new direction for the future.

Miguel Figueroa, Future of Libraries at the American Library Association says of the future:

"Build connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues.  The 21st Century Library is a terrible time to be a control freak..."

Figueroa references Joi Ito's principals for change at the MIT Media Lab.  He believes these are equally applicable to future libraries.  Figueroa also looks to the book ‘Wisdom of Crowds; Why the many are smarter than the few and how collective wisdom shapes business, economies, societies, and nations’ by James Surowieki.  Emergence has become more influential than authority.  Diverse groups make better decisions.  

Figueroa offers 5 Emerging trends affecting the Future Library.

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1. Data Experience

  • – an app about recording your dreams before you forget them, shows how data is becoming an everyday part of our lives.  With apps and data collected by simply being online, there’s an ever growing resource of focused, sometimes real-time data to be experienced.

2. Sharing Economy

  • Sharing + Technology = Experience

3. Connected Learning

  • Digital and social media create an ultimately connected culture.  Peer supported platforms offer an abundance of information.  The library of the future would connect library resources with this community and the way users learn.  Connected learning supports an experience beyond your own experience.

4. Collective Impact

  • We do not need to be the whole of the solution.  We can be part of the solution.
  • Offering a small piece of an idea gives ownership of the whole.

5. Unplugged

  • Constant connection can lead to overload.  Unplugging is necessary to focus on what is important.  Libraries can offer these unplugged spaces as another typology of “quiet space”. 
  • Where the norm used to be unplugged, offering “plugged-in” portals as program pieces, now the opposite is needed.
  • This Kickstarter product, OFF pocket, offers a privacy solution to make phones inaccessible to WiFi, GPS, and Cellular Data.  This project was funded 160% in 2013.

 “The best way to predict the future(s) is to invent it (them).” – M. Figueroa

John Weaver, dean of Library Services and Educational Technology at Abilene Christian University offers a perspective on the unique qualities of the Theological Library and how creating a “maker space” can better engage the community.

Weaver finds that undergrads still prefer reading books.  Print supports an “in-depth” reading while digital reading is associated with “skimming” and not considered “contemplative absorptive” reading.  Weaver touches on enduring importance of print in theological libraries such as Special Collections.  How these resources endure depends on the digitization, promotion and expanded access provided.

Open access culture needs synergy between libraries and publishing: open publishing and open access to material, meta data, innovative and sustainable publishing, with print on demand.  Libraries have become more conveyors.  They have become conveyors of scholarly research through means of disseminating, publishing, and facilitating access.

The Maker Lab opens up relationships between academic and public communities.  DIY and open source, patent-less design fosters a community of makers sharing resources and products.  These labs should support the “rhythm of learning” that takes place among the diverse needs of its users.  Public vs. Private, Alone vs. Together.  Steelcase has been a leader in this type of research and with their products.  See their Education Insights Guide in the links below.

Later in the morning, the floor is opened up to the public to a debate led by Tim Schlak and Dr. Liz Lyon. They ask the group three questions:

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Q1: The Obstructionist: How do we overcome that (or whom) deliberately resists, delays, or prevents change to library space.  Is the Commons Model justification enough? Partnerships should enrich the value of libraries and create libraries as a destination that engages community.  They ask – Are we (librarians) still the “master” in our own house?  If loss of our collections was critical in the profession, what will the loss of space represent for the profession? 

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Q2: What about Data? How do you get the  institution to preserve data?  Ideally IT services is embedded into libraries.

Q3: How will library staffing change?  Are we moving from Specialist to Generalist?  Knowing little about everything vs. knowing everything about little.

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