As volunteer-run organisation, ILN is full of people from different parts of the library industry. As well as being Program Coordinators for ILN, we all play a number of roles in libraries as do our Country Coordinators. This month’s discussion topic has been inspired by one of our coordinators, Alyson Dalby, who amongst her other roles is a Director for the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA).
ALIA are currently running a project which is designed to stimulate a discussion about the future of the profession. They’ve created a discussion paper and have a series of workshops planned around Australia for the latter half of the year. The discussion proposes a few interesting scenarios for the year 2025, including the following:
- Public library services are networked across whole states, with a national service model on the horizon. While electronic material (e.g. ebooks, movies, games) is available for loan, catalogue records contain simple links to purchase material not immediately available. Some online content attracts fees. The work of library staff has moved away from collection development and maintenance, and towards programs and events. Teaching and facilitation skills are in high demand.
- University and TAFE (Technical and Further Education) libraries have become the conduit through which students access and even purchase etextbooks. Physical collections have shrunk and patron-driven acquisition guides most purchasing decisions. Excellent research skills remain in high demand.
- School libraries will be staffed by teacher librarians working for local networks, serving multiple schools and using a roving model. The school spaces are increasingly used as community spaces, and school libraries overlap significantly with public libraries.
I find this to be an interesting exercise. I have a number of reactions to what I read, including questioning whether using sector-based predictions is the best model. Some of the ideas in the paper excite me – I like the convergence theme, because I love the idea of the lines between professions, sectors and roles being porous. But I also wonder what impact this has on our ability to define and recognise the profession. Will librarianship still be a profession, or just a job for people that have a certain set of skills? Is that a bad thing?
What do you think the profession in your country will look like in 2025? We’ve all heard both dire and rose-tinted predictions about the future of our profession, and the chances are that the extremities are unlikely. But I think it’s really important that we don’t sit back and let our professional future happen to us. I think we, as a profession, can create a shared and varied vision of our future, and then look for ways to make it happen.
Australia is not the only country debating these issues, we’ve found examples from The Arts Council in the UK , the American Library Association (ALA) for Public Libraries, a joint UK project for Academic Libraries, and one from British Columbia.
So our discussion topics for you this month are:
- What is your vision of our future?
- What can we, as individuals, organisations and associations, do to create this future?
- Is this conversation happening in your country? Share links on the topic with us in the comments area below.
- Is the vision for the future different for different kinds of libraries?
- What will your library be doing in 2020? 2030?
Share your thoughts in the comments below, or join the discussion on twitter, using #interlibnet so others can follow along.