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Libraries in 2006

It’s hard to believe that 2006 is almost over. I was just getting used to writing that number on my checks, or when I sign important papers. There’s nothing quite like signing a VIP (Very Important Paper), dating it, crossing out the date, writing the correct date, and then contemplating all the various people who will grab your file and chuckle at the girl who doesn’t even know what year it is.

These are the thoughts that flitted through my head as I signed various (routine) medical forms yesterday, and then life continued all around me as I wondered how 2006 would be remembered in library circles. (And yes, I really am that crazy sometimes.) So what do you think are some of the salient features and overarching questions in libraries this year? I don’t pretend to have a clue, but I know that a couple of themes were important in my small part of the library world. In no order whatsoever, they are:

  • Space: everything, physical or electronic, takes up space. Ideas are cheep but space isn’t.
  • OPAC/Catalog/Discovery System Bruhaha: I have no idea if this was a theme in previous years because I wasn’t paying attention, but I know for sure it was a theme this year. People are pretty sure that what we have now isn’t cutting it for our users, but opinions are rather more divided on what should be done about the whole situation.
  • The Pedagogy of Information Literacy: what do our users need to know, and how will they learn these skills best? Active learning, gaming, virtual experiences, embedded information literacy… so many options.
  • The De-Scarification of Technology: Web Apps make doing stuff online, either privately or with networks of other people, easy and portable. This year (many) librarians started using web-based tools to work and play, and the amount of really great and authoritative information available online exploded… again.
  • The User Experience: There’s been a trend toward measuring every product and service by it’s effect on the user experience. (This one is very far-reaching and basis of many, many other topics)
  • Data: It’s not just about books any more.
  • Books: It’s still about the books. And how do you convince students that every once in a while there’s just no substitute.
  • Sustainability: This is especially important to my library, where printing is free. With more and more journals available only online, there’s a whole lot more printing than can be good for any planet. There’s also the problem of sustainability in terms of workload. It seems like there’s always enough work for twice the number of staff.
  • Doing vs. Collaborating: what with wikies and tagging and other such wonderful things, we can collaborate with each other and our users to create content where we used to have to do everything in isolation.
  • Metadata: We have the computing power, bandwidth, and massive aggregations of data to make metadata exploitation possible like never before.

I’m sure there’s more, but I wanted to put down some thoughts so that when I’m teaching library school classes 50 years from now I can tell my students with some authority what issues were interesting me and my compatriots back when users actually had to type their queries into crazy things called “search boxes” rather than simply think them while inhabiting a virtual discovery environment, and when we had to search three entirely different kinds of systems depending on whether we were looking for books, journal articles that might be indexed online, or journal articles that are too old to be indexed online.

Ok, so the thought-driven discovery environment is a little ambitious for 50 years… but you get the idea.

What would you add as a driving theme of 2006? Lets put our heads together and write the bird’s eye view of lib06.

2 thoughts on “Libraries in 2006

  1. I’ll have to get back to you on your actual question when it’s not after midnight and I haven’t had 3 pints of beer … but you are not at all crazy! ;)

    And I’m with you on the date thing. I did actually move into 2006 OK (much smoother than normal), but I have a feeling that 2007 is just not going to come along so well. That’s a really odd date.

  2. Sounds like you had a more interesting night than I did. I wrote this blog post. No beer was involved.

    I also checked my feeds every 5 or 6 minutes, but nobody was updating. No beer was involved with that process either. :)

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