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The Future of Libraries

Updated on May 6, 2011

By now we are all aware that the printed word is starting to go by the wayside in favor of online media. Some believe that the profession of librarianship is headed in the same direction. I, for one, believe that this cyber-revolution is still many years away and that physical media will still exist in an age of digital downloads. Libraries will always be needed as a center for free access to different forms of media, but they will need to change with the times in order to stay relevant. I believe they will do so, for better or for worse.

One option for the foreseeable future is that libraries will eventually be turned into cybercafes. In some places, it is already happening. To be more like Barnes and Noble and other bookstores, some libraries have proposed to incorporate coffee dispensers and comfort foods into their facilities for their patrons to indulge in. This issue continues to be controversial even within these places because of the added mess it would bring. The truth is, however, that both electronics and paper are both susceptible to damage by crumbs and liquids. Even if physical forms of media are entirely gotten rid of in the future, libraries would become less like Barnes and Noble and more like Starbucks. Furthermore, these facilities would not be self-serve. Librarians would still be needed to run the help desk and manage the files that are available for download. Even now, downloadable media does have a return-by date and are automatically deleted from devices at that time. If anything, librarians will continue to receive training to remain tech-savvy and instead of being marginalized to the tasks of cleaning up or pouring out.

Entertaining the children has changed over the years and will no doubt continue to do so. In the past, children's librarians would sometimes dress up like the characters in the books they were reading to children and planned activities around them. Not everything about children's services has changed, especially at the youngest levels, but as more children are introduced to technology at younger ages, their tastes in activities may change. Everyone typically looks for what's new and cool, for instance those plastic laptops for kids. Technology goes through many fads and phases, but children will at least once in a while go back to playing with the box that their new toys came in. Hopefully the same will be true of libraries and the world at large.


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