The 21st Century Library

By: Paula Ganyard, Library Director

What will the library of the future look like? Won’t everyone walk around with all of the information in the palm of their hand? Will there still be a need for libraries in the future? I am asked these questions rather frequently and my simple answers are I don’t know, possibly, and YES!  

Libraries have existed for hundreds of years, and I predict that they will exist for many more years to come for two reasons. First, the core mission of any library is to organize, provide access to, and assist in the use of information. Second, libraries are ever evolving institutions that continue to change as the way information is made available changes.

An easy prediction is that we will continue to see growth in electronic forms of information. Libraries and users adapted rather quickly to e-journals. The availability and use of e-books have been a bit slower, but this resource has been changing rapidly, too, in the last couple of years. There will also be more digitization and preservation initiatives, such as the Hathi Trust. When you have libraries that are evolving to meet the needs of the dynamic information environment in which we live, it is very difficult to predict what they will look like.

“The Cofrin Library advances the UW – Green Bay mission of teaching, research, and service by providing services and resources to meet the needs of its community and by serving as an intellectual and cultural asset for both the University and Northeast Wisconsin.”

It is very possible that the library of the distant future no longer will be a physical building; however, I believe there always will be a physical library as long as human beings find value in coming together in one location to exchange knowledge, regardless of where or how the information was obtained. When I think of the future of libraries, I think of the last part of the mission of the Cofrin Library, “serving as an intellectual and cultural asset.” I believe you will see libraries collaborating and merging with community cultural centers, such as museums, theatres, and community centers, to form the cultural-library of the future.

Finally, I strongly believe that as long as there are vast amounts of information overloading users, there will be a need for librarians to help them sift through it. Searching for information and the systems used will continue to evolve at a rapid rate and will become more complex which will make the professional librarian even more important.

Will there still be a need for libraries in the future? YES!

Cofrin Library, UW-Green Bay

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