Library Futures, pt. 2

February 3, 2011 § Leave a comment

“Anyone who thinks they can predict what libraries will be doing more than five years from now is mistaken,” one of our librarians has said in more than one planning meeting.

Accordingly, Brian Sullivan’s bold predictions about academic libraries, “Academic Library Autopsy Report, 2050,” in the January 2, 2011 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, no doubt received a lot of attention both inside and outside of libraries.

Forty years out actually begs the question: aren’t we getting close already to an entirely different kind of library and library services?

Patricia Tully, University Librarian at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, responded to Sullivan in a letter to the Chronicle, January 23, “The Library’s End? A Long Way Off.”

(You can always tell how stirred up the response writer is when his or her text is longer than the text in question.)

Ms. Tully is persuasive.  She notes that we’ll have “book collections in the cloud….seamless search experience for users….consultation services to students and faculty….[libraries will be] headquarters of academic support services….users will inevitably have questions no matter how well structured the content….”

She rejects Mr. Sullivan’s indictment of librarians successfully ensuring their own irrelevance and demise: “We are not making our profession obsolete.”

Ironically, a perfect example of how a new breed of academic librarians is coming forward can be seen in the job description of another Brian Sullivan, who is Online Learning Librarian at Loyola University New Orleans.  Check out his “Primary Responsibilities.” A recent MLS graduate, this young man looks like the future of academic librarianship to me.

             —- Contributed by Sims Kline

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