As someone who no longer works in a library (but for libraries), I feel that I’ve had more space than ever in the last year to think about the future of libraries, removed from the daily grind of library work. Irony, much? This month, there’s been an absolute flurry of content by Australian library bloggers who are completing a 30 blog posts in 30 days challenge. Not something I could contemplate with much of my June to be offline, but they’ve inspired me to post some of my thoughts after reading their posts.

Advocacy, not acquisitions?

One of the topics that’s come up quite a bit, and comes up whenever I find myself in a group of librarians, is what is the future of libraries? I wrote a recent post about some ideas for public libraries, but what, more generally, are the things that will keep libraries of all types thriving in the future? I’ve seen Aaron Schmidt talk about libraries not focusing on circulating content so much any more a couple of times, and while I think that there is always going to be an acquisition arm to what we do, I wonder if more of us will join in the work to reform copyright, advocate on behalf of users, work on projects to increase access. For many, that would be a shift in skillset and expectations about “what librarians do”. For others, this is what they have been doing their whole career – every time they refuse to sign a an unfriendly publishing agreement, or advise researchers to retain copyright to their work.

Find everything, through collaboration

We need to collaborate more – we have consortia at many levels, conferences where we get together, associations where we work together. But all too often, we don’t know enough about what’s happening at the library down the street. I can attest that I have often been guilty of this – sometimes I would visit other libraries in my city to see what they were doing, and attend their events, but it was all to easy for a year or more to go by without talking to or working with colleagues from the other nearest academic library. Libraries are fragmented – if you’ve ever tried to search all the public library catalogues in your city to find a service or book that you want, it’s not an easy task. No wonder users find ‘The Google’ or ‘The Facebook’ easier. It’s just one place.

I loved the Libraries Australia service when I lived in Sydney – the function I used it for has now been replaced by Trove. I cannot tell you how often I used or recommended this service to users. This type of service is being rolled out in other countries now, not modelled on Trove, but the idea of a single-search portal for all libraries in a country. For example, here’s the Lativan Library Portal. This is what we should be doing.

Teaching data

There’s definitely a role for libraries in teaching users how to make the most of data. Libraries teach classes for users on databases, and finding articles, using social media, information literacy and so on. But I think there is a strong need now to begin to teach how to work with open data sets, linked open data, to know how to adapt and build on this data, and to contribute data back. For quite some time now, I’ve been thinking about the role of linked open data in libraries, and I want to expand on this in future posts, but the opportunity is two-fold: one, to make use of it ourselves in what we produce, and secondly, to teach others. More and more governments are providing data. The World Bank recently opened up its data set. Being able to use data, present it, and do something with it is becoming more critical, but there’s not really anyone out there filling this need. Why not libraries?

3 ideas in 30 days

I may not have been able to take part in the 30 posts in 30 days challenge, but I thank everyone who is for providing such thought-provoking posts and inspiring me to put a few ideas out there.

Originally published on the blog