A Kind Reader wrote in some despair about the future of libraries, apparently after finding out about companies serving libraries that provide, in Kind Reader’s words, “One Machine to Do it all, Zero Humans needed.”
The question is, should this person go to school to be a librarian, which would imply that the future will require human beings as librarians with human patrons to interact with, or should the person give up the dream and just become an IT professional working in the background keeping the machines running.
There’s always panicky talk about the future of libraries. I saw a reference to some meeting recently asking something like, will libraries be around in five years?
That’s a pretty silly question, but I assume it was supposed to make people think about something or other, although I’m not sure what. It’s pretty easy to answer, too. Yes, they will be. Five years isn’t a very long time.
But if you were younger and thinking about starting a career in librarianship, basing your love for the profession on what you’ve experienced in libraries your entire life, is it a profession you would join if you had a choice?
Also, let’s assume you’re the sort of person who has a choice, unlike some people who end up librarians because there’s not much else they can do. Do you become a librarian?
I hate to say it, but I’m kind of doubtful if I would. When the Librarian 3000 sentient robot is invented in 2032, librarians will become unnecessary. That’s sounds like a long time in the future, but it’s only 18 years, leaving young people starting in the profession today in their mid-40s facing total obsolescence.
On the other hand, the drive to make libraries into things other than libraries might help some. If libraries are community centers, they’ll probably still need humans working in them, just not librarians.
Given the aging Baby Boomers and the shrinking social safety net, libraries might transition into impromptu eldercare facilities, for example. Those places require a lot of people to do the work. Most of it isn’t pleasant or interesting work, but it’s a job, just not one most people would choose if they had better options.
Thus, it might seem the techie route is the way to go. Someone will have to dust and program the Librarian 3000. But if you like the idea of working with people, that might not be a good idea.
Nothing against the IT crowd out there, but a lot of them aren’t exactly people persons. Sitting alone in a darkened room staring at computer monitors all day isn’t a chore for a lot of them. It’s a perk of the job.
So if you like libraries because they let you work with the public in some sort of librarian capacity, the future might be pretty dark, and becoming a librarian might not be the right choice for a lifelong career.
Then again, maybe there are no lifelong careers anymore, so why not.