Research Libraries UK held their annual conference last month in London. The program and several videos of the proceedings are available (and worth checking out!) online, but “The Once And Future Library: What Might a Research Library Look Like in 2030?”, a presentation by the British Library’s Torsten Reimer, will likely be of particular interest to EdLabbers.
Reimer paints a picture of future libraries in which, with the exception of providing physical space and access to resources that will remain too costly for open access, libraries’ current roles will have been largely usurped by big data and software companies. He also points to the changes automation is likely to bring to work like processing and description (and of course, staffing sizes).
Reimer does forecast one relatively new area into which libraries may expand; advocacy and data infrastructure development. Libraries in general, and research libraries in particular, have been exercising their advocacy and negotiating power in the last few years- think of the University of California’s recent break with Elsevier over the publisher’s refusal to subsidize open access, just the latest in a string of libraries canceling “Big Deal” subscriptions. I’m also reminded of a presentation given by Erin Berman, then-Innovations Manager at San Jose Public Library at the 2018 American Library Association Annual Conference. Berman argued persuasively for assuming a skeptical, confrontational stance vis a vis 3rd party vendors; limiting the patron data they collect, and demanding security changes before contracts are signed. Information access, description, and interventions in the use of user data are major issues, not just for libraries, but for contemporary civic life. To what extent will libraries want to shape what occurs?