First off, that’s not me at the easel. Happens to be a student in the library at North Carolina State University. It could have been me, though, because the other day I got the chance, along with the Herman Miller Education Solutions Group, to go to school on what’s next for the academic library.
They’ve done it before: Bring experts together for a leadership roundtable on education issues. This time, the Education Solutions Group asked the heads of academic libraries—big and small, private and public—along with several architects to share their best thinking on what’s next for libraries.
Is a library building even needed? Or, will digital collections make them obsolete? The answer to both questions is yes. Alumni report their most enduring memory of their campus experience is the library reading room, so the building is likely to remain a strong symbol. Yet, as digitization and networks become ubiquitous, the library will be as much virtual as physical.
What work will be like in the library is as much a question as what form the library will take. Will librarians raised on card catalogs and reference desks be able to jump to roaming the library and responding to students’ text messages asking for help? Will a growing need for techies to make things run mean good old customer service gets lost in the transition?
These and other questions are due to be wrestled with in an upcoming report on the roundtable. Reading it should be quite an education.