For decades, libraries have enjoyed a fairly static and well-defined environment. But developments in technology, increased user expectations, and shrinking budgets are forcing libraries to evolve and adapt. Traditional librarianship was mainly focused on supporting access to and management of information contained in books and other printed materials – on the tasks associated with selecting, organizing, cataloguing, and preserving such objects. On a more abstract level, the work was tied to supporting the information lifecycle: the range of activities surrounding how information is created, disseminated, collected, organized, catalogued, described, and preserved. As we move further into the 21st century and are experiencing an exponential growth in available information and data, this core work is even more important than ever – although it is manifesting itself in entirely different ways.
Our view is that the importance of libraries has increased rather than declined and that the need for professional services for information and content management will be even greater in the future. However, libraries must also provide different services to support the new digital information landscape and be positioned to adapt to new challenges and changing requirements.
The challenges libraries are facing are exceptionally complex; no simple, single solution exists to prepare libraries for the future or adapt to the present, and each organization is unique in its context, culture, and needs for information management. But some common questions can be used to start discussions, generate new ideas, and prepare for the future.