Asking the questions — Libraries “From Now On”

flickr:  A. Currell
flickr: A. Currell

I’m very excited to say that I’m headed to the Library of Congress tomorrow for a Summit convened by ALA, entitled “Libraries From Now On.”  The Summit is  a think tank event  where we will be doing some deep pondering about how libraries are developing into the future.

Attendees range from representatives from Google and the MacArthur Foundation to various agencies in DC, like the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the National Archives, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, to public and academic librarians from all sorts of institutions,  and a couple of school librarians.  (I’m thrilled to see a representative from nearby in Texas (San Antonio Public Library) and that Julie Todaro, Pat Smith, And Shaula O’Connor, all Texas librarians, were involved on the planning team.)

We  have been asked to arrive with two words or phrases that we relate to libraries, and to leave with two words or phrases (that perhaps will change over the course of the event.)  I’m one of only a couple of school librarians at the Summit, so I am hoping to get ideas from you as well.  What would be your two words?

We  will be inspired/provoked by four speakers about future trends:

“How to Think Like a Freak” -Stephen Dubner — co-author of Freakanomics
What are Libraries Good For? ”   Joel Garreau — author of Radical Evolution and Nine Nations
“Education in the Future:  Anywhere, Anytime” – Dr. Renu Khator — chancellor of University of Houston
“From an Internet of Things to a Library of things” – Thomas Frey — Executive director of the DaVinci Institute

The Summit organizers also prepared a hefty reading list for participants, which I’m sharing below for those interested in following along.   Recommended-reading-list-for-Summit-with-annotations–FINAL-4-16-14

Some of the readings I’ve already done have been pretty thought-provoking.    In  The Cities We Want (Slate), Witold Rybczynski shares some thought provoking ideas about what Joel Garreau calls the Santa Fe effect (check his articles in the readings list), the desire of Americans to move to more medium sized communities which serve them throughout their aging process.   This movement has been allowed by the ubiquitous nature of technology, since people can live anywhere more easily.  But, the author points out, ” Laptops, personal digital assistants, and cell phones are held to be the tips of a great dispersal iceberg, but the migration of work to the motel room and the home office has been accompanied by a countervailing trend: the need for face-to-face contact. ”   That desire for shared spaces, Danah Boyd reflects in It’s Complicated, is partly what compels teens to use social media more — she posits that their overscheduled lives mean that connecting from home is one of their more feasible options.

All of this speaks directly to libraries and makerspaces as places where human beings can go to connect, and work separately but together and that the human need to gather is still vital to our communities.

Another interesting story that I stumbled upon about how many hotels are incorporating small libraries into their environs made me ponder whether stand-alone library branches are the way to go in terms of library services–and what pop-up libraries might look like out in the community in conveniently used locations.

The Arts Council of England’s Future of Libraries manifesto also provides some interesting trends–again, embedding the library into the community more, and maybe even blending it with other services to the community–their ideas are well worth a good read.  And what do all these ideas mean for school library “future thinking?”  That will be my most immediate focus during the Summit.

I’m looking forward to taking a deep dive into these ideas and more from the speakers and readings — I invite you to take a look at the readings, and I’ll share more of the Summit via Twitter at #libfuturesummit and here once I return home.

Onward to the future….


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