Below is the story written by Adam Wall, our 1st-runner-up in the Futurist Library Story Contest. We hope you enjoy it!
Library Futurist Story by Adam Wall
The great, distant future of twelve years from now may not seem far away, but a lot can, and will, change between now and then. Unfortunately the old epigram, “The more things change, the more they stay the same” exists for a reason. Libraries will absolutely adapt. They have to. But the cynic in me realizes that new developments will be mostly superficial, born more out of necessity, rather than the embracing of new technologies and developments. The future is scary, and we librarians are so ingrained into not only our own libraries, but the larger system as well, so that true advances will take more influence than the vocal minority can exert. Before the 2025 landscape can be appreciated, it’s important to imagine the foundations upon which the changes are built.
In twelve years, librarians will still feel an inordinate sense of elitisms about their profession while simultaneously being insecure and resistant to innovation because they fear it will make their jobs obsolete. The public, students, faculty, and staff (anyone who isn’t a librarian) will still have no clue what we actually do. Library journals will still be filled with laughably bad “research” written by of touch librarians repackaging old, inane ideas as new ones. This will largely be caused by an unnecessary tenure process, which, while being chipped away at by cynical librarians, will still be considered the status quo. Finally, librarians will still be sitting around in bureaucratic committee meetings having lengthy debates about whether the official library mascot should be a kitten knitting a scarf, or a LOLCat.
Even though the scene behind the librarian won’t change, the public face and the physical aspect of the library will be revamped. Circulating collections will be increasingly digital in all libraries, but will need to maintain at least a small physical collection due to an ever-present digital divide. Digital publications will become more popular as they grow into their own distinct medium rather than being plain PDF copies of the texts. The remaining smaller collection of physical materials will move off industrial book stacks and start to resemble a bookstore layout organized by subject, allowing for a more browser-friendly collection.
The library building itself will evolve as it expands its study areas and computer and multimedia labs. Technical services and a few reference librarians will still retain offices in this building. Larger institutions will experiment with placing library liaisons in buildings where each subject has faculty offices or where a majority of the classes are taught.
These shifts will all be made as librarians begin to alter their perceptions of what it means to be a librarian. Librarian will become a profession, not a level of education. As young professionals work their way up into administrative positions, MLS programs will be reevaluated and built less around theorycrafting and more around relevant, innovative technologies and practical skills. This will play a vital role in teaching future librarians to embrace change, which will only improve our profession as a whole.