I really enjoyed attending YPRL's recent strategic planning sessions and relished the opportunity to do some blue-sky thinking about the future of libraries.
While varied in topic, our speakers' ideas about the future intersected in interesting ways. Unsurprisingly, the changes that technology have brought to the way we work, live and study were at the fore.
We learned that while physical book loans are on the decline across public libraries, ebook downloads are trending way up and that audiobooks are the fastest growing category in publishing. Bolinda Audio CEO Rebecca Herrmann had some exciting provocations in this space, including What shifts in thinking about service is needed to reach customers digitally? and How would a library be positioned in a digital marketplace?
While exciting, the digital divide is real and Ian Phillips noted that libraries must support digital inclusion to service the 1 in 6 households that do not have internet access, while Stefan Schutt suggested that the "differentiated space" that connects digital and physical worlds is still all about belonging. Libraries have long been a third space where community members can connect. How could we continue to create welcoming and inclusive places across virtual as well as physical spaces?
Micah Macri from Eastern Regional Libraries spoke eloquently about the need for technology to be delightful as well as useful. Rather than being driven by systems, how can we adapt technology to ensure that library interfaces that ones that patrons will love?
Rapidly changing technologies are also changing the way we learn. Rather than specific expertise, nowadays workers need soft skills that can be deployed in a variety of ways such as being collaborative, communicative, creative and flexible. Libraries have long been sites of literacy and digital literacy. How can we adapt to the changing workforce to help create skilled, successful communities?
State Library Victoria's Justine Hyde threw out three big ideas about the role that libraries could play in the future: igniting creativity through conversations and collaborations; ensuring representation and diversity in collections, programs and staff; and increasing access. An inspiring vision!
The sessions were a reminder about the importance of libraries evolving to meet the changing needs of our communities. Not only in terms of services and programs for patrons, but ensuring that we as individuals and library teams continue to learn, adapt and be agile in how we work.
By Lisa Dempster