I return once or twice a year to the first statement of our mission in Upon the Objects to be Attained by the Establishment of a Public Library, the 1852 Report of the Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston. Possibly the most important document in the history of the free public library in the United States, the report spells out the justifications for the establishment of such a library in that city.
With school back in session and students returning to the library—sometimes of their own free will, sometimes grudgingly—the library can seem quite full again after the late summer lull. This is a great time to think about the different demands that are placed on library spaces and how to manage these demands to ensure that everyone can use the library to do what they want to do.
Just after Labor Day, Amazon announced the October debut of Kindle MatchBook. “For thousands of qualifying books,” purchased new in print going back to 1995, said the company website, customers can get “the Kindle edition for $2.99, $1.99, $0.99, or free.” Publishers and authors can opt in to the program, but currently only a tiny fraction of Amazon titles are available.
When we began to think about the future of libraries, we thought it might be interesting to approach the future from the types of jobs that could be in libraries in the next ten years, basing our future descriptions on the following trends: (1) information everywhere, (2) continuing increase in use of mobile and embedded technology, (3) rise of social knowledge, (4) longer living and the emergence of lifestyle design, and (5) integration of robotics into the world.
Spaces. Services. Digital content. Collections. Learning experiences. Interfaces. Any way you consider it, there is no library practice that doesn’t intersect with accessibility. Accessibility is the principle that the fullest use of any resource should be given to the greatest number of individuals. More than compliance with laws and guidelines, accessibility is a form of social justice. As the most established cultural providers of public space and digital content, libraries share a responsibility to promote universal access to our full range of services for all users, regardless of whether they rely on adaptive technology or not.
People have always known that they can often achieve more working with others than they can alone. Today collaboration is a vital feature of organizational life, but finding the right partner for a supportive relationship is still no simple matter. There are risks and costs, along with the tension between self-interest and resource sharing. Once the right partner is found, the team must figure out how to make the relationship work.
Privacy in our society is being undermined with a daily intensity that may be unmatched in history. The confluence of compromises in our digital lives and the political arena chips away at our sense of what needs to be private and risks codifying a culture in which privacy is not a right but a state hard-won by continual effort or, worse, a state only available to those wealthy enough to protect themselves.