Future of Libraries (Draft Scenario 2)

Scenario 2 Draft

In the beginning was the word and the word was good. But in the 1990s words became art supplies. Visual thinking had emerged as the hallmark of a new culture and the purveyors of mere words began to struggle.  This is a fast-paced world where innovation drives the supply of an endless variety of novel products and services.

Attention spans drop, demand for snack-sized information grows (a vicious circle) and employment increasingly shifts to virtual, mobile and networked models where people can work where, when and with whom they like. Demand for vocational information increases but so too does demand for escapism and distraction.

On many levels it is a harmonious world. Customers are now the co-creators of many of the things that they consume, including entertainment and information. In this sense it is more democratic than 2009. Individuals that did not previously have a voice are now creating and distributing ideas. It is a world where content consumers feed off content producers and vice versa. Individuals and institutions are highly networked and highly collaborative and library users have developed the ability to shift effortlessly across multiple formats and modes of information.

Technology, as you’d expect, is highly coveted, whether it is the latest phone, the latest hybrid vehicle or the latest energy dashboard. It is a world of smart science and engineering: genetics, robotics and nanotechnology. Clean technology is huge as is planetary engineering, which solves some but not all of the problems relating to climate change.The internet and virtual worlds are also big, very big,although
most people now connect to online sources of information and entertainment via mobile phones not fixed devices like PCs or TVs. Online video is very  popular, as is the spoken word but  text-based information and entertainment is in decline. Hence, sales of physical books, newspapers and magazine are all falling.

As it turns out, this is not a flat world, as predicted by Thomas Friedman, but a very spiky one, as prophesied by Richard Florida. Global cities like Sydney and San Francisco attract entrepreneurs and innovators but other areas, especially rural areas, struggle to attract or retain creative talent. This Polarisation is very evident within public libraries, with the very best urban libraries attracting the very best library talent from around the world, whereas second and third tier libraries struggle to compete.
As a result, library funding and library services are effectively split into two.

Flagship libraries (generally, but not exclusively, located in urban centres) modernise and extend their services and start to provide services to other libraries for a fee. Funding for digital and life-long learning is available from a variety of commercial sources and this inevitably leads to the development of a range of user-pays and subscription services, which in turn reduce access and equity in some areas.

Ironically, whilst online learning, social networks and virtual worlds proliferate, physical libraries and physical artefacts do not die. Far from it. The sheer volume of fast-paced, byte-sized information that is now readily available to everyone creates a significant demand for the very opposite.

Many people, particularly parents with small children and seniors, now place a high value upon physical media and physical spaces (especially known library and information ‘brands’).

This is partly because physical objects and environments (including people) are regarded as having greater resilience and trustworthiness but it is also because physical things are attractive due to familiarly and aesthetics. In other words, after several decades of digital living it suddenly dawns on people that something is missing in their lives — and this thing turns out to be physical things; people, physical places and physical objects.

Libraries thus evolve into venues for the physical interaction between people and ideas – a strange mixture of slow analogue thinking spaces and fast ‘spot knowledge’ centres. Other services are then added, ranging from cafes, restaurants and childcare crèches to employment and immigration services. Libraries then develop a series of joint ventures including help kiosks in shopping centres, airports and hospitals and cerebral workout centres in hospitals.

Librarians also transform into highly valued knowledge assistants and navigators, adept both at sifting information (recommending certain sources or content over and above others) and at contextualising information and knowledge. Librarians also become content creators. Local history is not only archived but is created and filtered locally and librarians facilitate the open cataloguing of much material. This local content is also turned into highly profitable live events, many of which prove far more popular than the static collections from whence they came.

Local and State governments still provide funding to libraries, but this does not generally cover basic running costs. Hence libraries start to introduce a range of premium (paid) services, although, again, this raises all kinds of issues relating to access and equity. This ultimately leads to a new Libraries Act, which on the one hand widens library access but also creates a series of new pay-as-you-go library services.

Media formats themselves are still in a state of flux and this adds to costs, as does the constant churn of new e-book titles, vocational courses and staff turnover.

Draft Timeline #2

2010
Library loans up 0.18% over previous year and 6.11% over past 5 years
Kevin Rudd announces major Oz innovation funding
Apple voted world’s coolest brands by Arnholt cool brands survey
Libraries move towards open catalogues
Samsung launch solar powered g-phone called the Solo
Steve Jobs claims that reading is no longer important
Libraries shift emphasis from distributing information to editing it
IBM reveals that there are now one billion transistors for every person on the planet

2011
Library users create 25% of library content
Gov survey reveals that 90% of employees work for small and medium sized firms
State funding for libraries now below that of public toilets
Survey say that 90% of 12-16 year-olds now own a mobile phone
Libraries become hyper-local news aggregators

2012
Schools pay students to run IT support within schools
Survey reveals that average person now has 120 digital friends
Library collections polarised between vocational learning and escapist fiction
Dymocks announces that 8 of the 10 best selling books in 2011 were TV related
Sales of paper, pencils and pens continue to decline
Librarians become facilitators for user generated media content

2013
Due to litigation schools announce that all lessons will be video taped
IBM announces $200 million library sponsorship deal
Library events generate more visits than loans
Libraries announce universal fee wi-fi in an attempt to compete with McDonald’s
Siemens announce ‘global nervous system’ based on wireless sensors
Singapore government completes universal free wi-fi initiative

2014
Information increasingly ranked according to reliability
Libraries introduce free to fee sliding scale of payments for information
All NSW government services now accessible through virtualgov.com.au
McDonald’s persuaded to give away snack-sized books with Happy Meals
UKs new Poet Laureate announces that all of her poems will be written in txt
Urban libraries roll out RFID on all books and other physical artefacts

2015
Libraries announce that they will no longer retain physical copies of new books
Libraries start charging for events, which become a significant new income stream
State Library creates replica of Clive James’s library to mixed reviews
Gov mandates that all library managers blog at least once a day
Survey reveals major split between urban and rural library funding in NSW
Federal gov rolls out national broadband strategy

2016
Sony launches the long awaited ‘Readman’ digital reading glasses
Mayhem as Google announces that Project Gutenberg only accessible from G-phones
Westfield launches Book Butler services in all its shopping centres
Sydney water charges customer $25 for paper bills
Librarians transition from analogue gatekeeper to digital guides
News Corp announces funding for the promotion of reading and informal learning
Government’s smart library service comes to a halt due to a lack of funding
Libraries offer evening dance classes

2017
All school lessons for years 5-12 now available as downloads
ABC introduce pay=per-view for all programming
Survey by CBA says that 90% of 18-25 year-olds have never written a cheque
Virtual book club meetings pull in 750,000 people per week across NSW
Study reveals that successful libraries are all defined by three things; what’s there, who’s there and what’s going on there

2018
NSW library network announces that visits are down 10% on 2015
The ideas Store @ Surry Hills Public Library voted Australia’s best retailer
26 libraries across NSW close due to lack of funds
Libraries become cornerstone of new cultural preservation industry
Bottom falls out of the antiques market. People no longer want ‘old’ things

2019
Libraries become favoured meeting places for teenagers and seniors
Libraries offer yoga and meditation classes
Seek.com.au announces funding for job kiosks in libraries
SMH Survey says that people spend an average of 65 days per year in virtual worlds
Information bartering and swap meets emerge
Libraries start to charge users to charge mobile devices

2020
Secure data back-up services prove an unexpected revenue generator for libraries
Blacktown library re-brands its librarians as ‘information engineers’
Paper use now down by 300% since 2009
Information mediators revealed as the most in-demand profession by BRW magazine
Survey says the average home contains 8 phones, 6 computers, 2 TVs and 12 books
Top selling book of the decade is Cerebral Whiteout by Susan Greenfield

2021
Rural libraries set up innovation spaces in conjunction with CSIRO
Libraries offer drop in technology advice and repair
45% of employees no longer have physical place of work to go to each morning
Library survey reveals that most popular services are: phone charging and toilets
Top selling book of 2021 is I want it Now by Paris Hilton

2022
Peak oil crisis and plastics shortage creates further confusion over media formats
Survey reveals that 90% of people never switch their mobiles off
Hyatt Hotels offer ‘information breaks’ to escape constant digital connectedness
Increasing polarisation between technology haves and have nots
All school examinations now digital

2023
Libraries start to charge users that use a desk for more than 3-hours.
Over-55s exempted from 3-hour rule following ‘grey protests’
Art Gallery of NSW creates digital collection and sells 50% of its physical collection
Top five selling books of 2023 are all about Climate Change

2024
Libraries shift towards the provision of recreational services
With the exception of flagship libraries buildings become increasingly dilapidated
Low funding in most libraries increases wait times to 30-mins for simple queries
MIT study says that the average person now has to remember 36 passwords
The internet is now 10,000 days old

2025
Art Gallery of NSW merges with State Library and move into single building
Libraries introduce staff selections — subjective listings of favourite information
Apple announces that its iBooks store now contains 122,430,055 titles
Facebook is now bigger than America, with a population of 456 million

2026
Libraries start selling book collections to pay energy bills
Building maintenance costs soar by 200% since 2015 due to climate change
Most popular e-book of 2026 is Slow by Penny Wong
4.8 billion people now own mobile phones

2027
Librarian that burnt books to heat the local library over winter is dismissed
Apple says its new iPhone can hold 136,000 books.

2028
Libraries widen their local influence with the introduction of information evenings
Google buys the BBC

2029
Average e-book now just 100 pages in length
Spam declared world’s #1 issue

2030
National Australia Bank offers technology loans to finance e-education requirements
Libraries start to merge with churches

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One Response to Future of Libraries (Draft Scenario 2)

  1. Pingback: Fyra scenarios om framtidens folkbibliotek « Peter Alsbjers blogg!

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