The Wikiman does an excellent job this morning of collecting discussions around points on the “future of libraries” and how these are already happening in many places. Many of the points are not related to collections, but rather service focused, which I think is an interesting shift that is happening in the profession.
Some highlights are:
- Smaller borrowing limits for unlimited time periods
At Penn State we have already increased the loan period for most all of our patrons (except community borrowers) to a semester-long loan. We would offer longer loan periods, but this works best with out current automation system and procedures. Most patrons also get unlimited renewals and can check out a ridiculously large number of items at a time. The benefits to students and faculty alike have far outweighed the fears of empty shelves and scarce resources.
- Front line staff will become much more highly skilled
At my branch academic library we have four full-time staff: two librarians and two library assistants. All of us do reference, answer questions, and have proficiency and skills in providing good customer service and an increasing skill set and familiarity with the resources and services offered. We also combined the reference and circulation desks into a central “information desk” shortly after I arrived, and all front line staff, including student assistants, do “reference triage” where simple questions are answered as skill sets allowed and more difficult questions are passed off to the “experts”. It has really worked well for us.
- Library will offer a wide range of “non-library” programming
We have seen an uptick in the amount of “non-library” uses for the Library building in recent years from an increase in computer lab space to “digital commons” where students can edit and create video and sound recordings and usage of the library classroom for outside conferences and events. All of these have benefited the library by showing that it is a viable and dynamic space on campus and a place that students want to be.
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