For libraries to become something other than a large depository of old books they need to adapt to the different needs of learners in the 21st century. Beyond the obvious, and that is the move towards E-books, what additional value might libraries bring to 21st century learners? You may wish to consider the idea of what would be lost to society if all libraries were closed down?
Libraries tend to be central to the community that they reside in. Public libraries are usually located centrally in a town or city; school and university libraries are often located in the heart of the campus or building. They are places that community members who might not normally interact with each other can come together in a place of learning. I believe this is crucial for the development of ideas. Although we can do this to some degree via digital technologies I continue to think that there is great value in people coming together face to face.
Some people describe the current period of time as the Information Age. Perhaps it might also be described as the ‘Distraction Age’. Increasingly we are observing people finding it a challenge to concentrate for sustained periods of time as they are distracted by the exponential growth and access to information. The value that libraries bring is a quiet space where concentrated reading and reflection can occur with far fewer distractions. After all, how many other places can you think of where there are as few distractions?
As we think about the future of libraries we also need to consider the role of library staff. Recently I had a discussion with a journalist friend of mine. He commented that they are having similar discussions within the television channel that he works for when considering the point of television news. After all, why would someone tune in to the 9 o’clock news when this information can be accessed almost immediately via a digital technology? Librarians and journalists can help us to think about information in a way that we may not have without their input. We can access information without their help, however we must be able to think about information critically and from multiple perspectives if we are to make deep and conceptual meaning.
In my view libraries have a significant role in the future of learning.