What does the future hold for the realm of public libraries?
What does the future hold for the realm of public libraries? Will we see more and more integration of advanced technologies in libraries or will the focus be on professional services and knowledge of the librarian? And who is going to be at the center – technology, librarian or users?
The third in a series of articles on “The renewable library” will review a variety of studies dealing with “the Library of the Future “- who it will serve, what means, what services it will provide to end users, and more.
Looking to the future
Many studies believe that in the near future, the library will be part of a universal information and knowledge search interface to search all world libraries and accumulate results in one central interface, including advanced filtering capabilities. This will lead to openness and connectivity between a variety of software, search tools and libraries, as the information will come from various sources and to a much higher added value for end users.
In addition, as it is today and will certainly be in the future, the main search interface for end users is Google and not the OPAC interfaces of the libraries, the library’s information will be accessible and available through this interface and will lead the user directly to the appropriate library catalog.
The search results will be presented by popularity and leading questions will be offered for other common alternative results. In addition, the responses will be grouped according to the format and language in which the user searches and upon clicking results will be offered in close by libraries, according to his user profile, indicating the GPS location in real time.
The search results will allow performing actions like ordering and loaning and, if necessary, the user will be offered a link to purchase the book in the preferred media – digital or physical.
Additional studies and methodologies believe that the future of public libraries will be much more users’ oriented and will incorporate advanced technologies to attract the new readers / users with tools they know, and offer them a unique user experience. Today you can already find the integration of advanced technologies in libraries around the world that give voice to a different kind of user experience.
Location and Wearable computers:
In their research paper” Get lost in the library? An innovative application of augmented reality and indoor positioning technologies” in “The Electronic Library journal”, Tien-Chi Huang from the National Taichung University of Science and Technology in Taiwan and his colleagues claim that the use of Augmented Reality including equipment and technology that support it such as special glasses, watches that are synchronized with mobile phones and other Internet services, will be popular not only for entertainment in the library, but also as another way to navigate in the future library as a functional tool.
Such a system is already implemented in an experimental library in Taiwan where you can find your way around the library through the wearing of augmented reality glasses that allow an orientation and examination of books and information by quick scanning of the their bar code content.
Another possible direction suggested by researchers for the developing interfaces for public libraries is the subject of Gamification. Examples of this can be already seen in the public library of New York which promotes the theme of Gamification to attract young readers in the trend of adventure games that combine the use of a smartphone to detect clues / books and finding their way or the solution to the riddle.
This type of game that takes place regularly in the library is shown in the video below:
Another example, taken from the Brooklyn Public Library which runs an interesting app that encourages interaction through text transmitted by smart phones, which promotes and advances early childhood literacy
Virtual References Services
Lynn Silipigni Connaway, a Senior Research Scientist and her colleagues in OCLC Office of Research argue that the perception of the public library by its users is going to change in accordance with the generation and age gap that has been created and is deepening over the years.
In their research paper “Sense-making and Synchronicity: Information–seeking Behaviors of Millennials and Baby Boomers. They explain that this is due to the development of the millennium and the following generations, who were born into the digital environment ( “digital natives”) and speak the technological language fluently.
These young people are accustomed to the use of technology and instant and fast communication which is based on impulsivity and the receiving of immediate response. The researchers predict that eventually, these young people will become the main market segment of public libraries, as well as readers and as future parents.
The technology that will respond to this issue will come from virtual reference services that are similar to chats with the librarians, through specialized applications or exchange of messages via SMS messages (text messages).
They believe that the future reference services will be based mainly on such technologies.
The focus is not only on the users. New Technologies that will facilitate the work of librarians will come into focus as well.
The Popular Science magazine reported that researchers of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in Singapore, have developed robots that can locate missing books on library shelves and return them to the place. Many libraries around the world have already begun to stick barcode labels on the books that would allow the librarian to locate the book shelf, but this action still requires a manual scaning of the librarian; The new robot, called AuRoSS, is using its arm to scan the book, and it has a laser-based navigation system and wheels attached to its base, and so it returns the books straight to the corresponding shelf.
According to the researchers in Singapore, the robot is also programed so that after the closure of the library it returns the books to the shelves. The Scientists hope that the robot would be able to relieve the librarians from the exhaustive labor of returning books to the shelves. Librarians, for their part, hope the robot will not take away their jobs. Real-world trials at Singapore libraries revealed the AuRoSS robot’s potential — up to 99 per cent scanning accuracy was achieved, even with curved shelves.
These changes and innovations will probably have an inevitable impact on future librarianship. As the library’s services will allow end users more independence and the library physical labor will be replace by advanced technologies such as robots arranging the books, independent lending / return stands, chats, etc., the librarianship profession may be affected.
According to the American Ministry of Commerce and employment in the last two decades more than 25 thousand employees in the American publishing industry lost their jobs. The office has recently published data on the literature and journalism market in the country, which show that since 1990, over 25 thousand employees in the publishing industry have lost their jobs (from 85 thousand in 1990 to 60 thousand in 2016). However, the situation of the press is much worse, where over 275 thousand workers lost their jobs in the past 25 years. The authors of the report point to the Internet and digitization as causes for the narrowing of the traditional printing industry; they show that during the same period, the number of employees in television, film and the Internet increased from 30 thousand to -198 thousand. In addition, the change of the technology giant Amazon to a monopoly in the field of books has also become a significant factor in reducing the number of employees in the books market.
Nevertheless, we can see innovative initiatives that adapt to changes and the spirit of the times and manage accordingly. For example, the bookstore “Librairie des Puf” located in the heart of Paris, prints the books on the spot. The store boasts that the books are not even in her store. Instead, it offered on-demand printing services and the customer can choose a book from the catalog and within minutes receive a printed copy of it. The use of print-on-demand allows the shop to hold in its catalog less popular books or books that are out of stock, all without taking up space in the store itself.
‘I do not have to worry about storing my inventory’ explained Alexander Goodfroah, the store manager,’ We are located in a store which is less than 80 square meters and can offer customers any book they want.’ Goodfroah said that following the success of the sale upon request, store owners are planning to open more branches in major cities in France such as Lyon, Bordeaux and Lille.
Hence, the future is already here. The developments and innovations which the public libraries are going through continue relentlessly, and without doubt will alter the field dramatically, both in technology and in the level of services offered to users and the impact on librarianship and librarian status.