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Today and Tomorrow: Current Topics

Let's examine library accountability, preservation, lost libraries, library organization, technology, sustainability, new libraries, and tradition.

Over the past few years new topics have been introduced into the field of librarianship. Soon these will be historically relevant.

Explore examples of libraries from today.

Skim the Top 10 Public Libraries of the New Age by Adel Zakout.

Skim 20 Beautiful Private and Personal Libraries by Emily Temple.

Library Accountability

Hunger GamesProviding quality service has always been an important role for libraries. However library boards and administration are increasingly interested in accountability. Howdo you know that your programs are effective? How can library use be increased? Should underused branches be closed? Why or why not?

Many librarians are finding that a knowledge of marketing is helpful in understanding the needs of the clients as well as providing effective, efficient, and appealing materials, services, and programs.

The photo shows a program to celebrate the Hunger Games books from the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library in 2012.

Watch For Librarians a poem by Hans Ostrom.


Whether preserving ancient libraries or digitizing faded color photos from the 1960s, preservation has become a growing concern. Issues including restoration, storage, digitization and other considerations.

Dig DeeperDig Deeper
Read Cloonan, Michele Valerie (Summer 2007). The paradox of preservation. Library Trends, 56(1), 133-147.

Lost Libraries

When a library is destroyed or closed and dispersed, what is lost? What's the impact of lost libraries?

The Impact of Loss

What's in your personal library? What does it say about you? What does anyone's personal library say about them? What's the value of tools like LibraryThing and Good Reads in tracking reading histories?

I enjoy exploring the homes of authors and historical figures. For me, exploring their book shelves is like a trip through the mind of a person who is long gone. The homes of Carl Sandburg, Ernest Hemingway, and Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt are a few I've explored.

When a library closes, a library is damaged by flood, or a library is destroyed in war, what is lost besides the materials themselves?

When items are digitized and the physical documents are stored or destroyed what's gained and lost?

Read Lost Libraries by Craig Fehrman (September 19, 2010, Boston.com)

Rebuilding Libraries and Cultures

Since the beginning of library history, libraries have been pawns in conflict. Often the target of destruction, libraries are also looted as part of the spoils of war.

During both World War I and World War II as well as other situations, war reparations in the form of payments and transfers of property and materials were part of negotiations. However materials plundered in war continue to be hoarded in many areas of the world by both individuals and governments.

Dig DeeperDig Deeper
Read Sroka, Marek (Winter 2007). The music collection of the former Prussian State Library at the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków, Poland: past, present, and future developments. Library Trends, 55(3), 651-664.

Increasingly, global organizations are focusing on the importance of helping libraries rebuild collections. Or, in some cases create libraries for the first time.

The photo below shows "Lida Yasmin Gallego at work in The Biblioteca Juan Carlos Montoya Montoya. Gallego is one of the hundreds of thousands of library visitors who benefit from the information resources provided by the EPM Foundation's Network of Public Libraries. Photo Courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/ Patricia Rincon"

Woman on computer,

Library Organization

The introduction of technology has radically changed how library users access information. Some librarians are discussing whether radical changes need to be made in how materials are cataloged and classified.

With the introduction of social media, some libraries began letting users add their own topics, tags, and keywords. Folksonomy is a system of classification formed through the the collaborative creation and management of tags to annotate and categorize content. Coined by Thomas Vander Val, this approach became popular around 2004 and has been adopted by some libraries as one of several new ways to think about classification.

Discussions of organization have also moved into the physical placement of books on shelves.

Blog articles like Done with Dewey and postings like Dewey Free Library express the frustration of librarians over what many see as antiquated classification system.


As libraries became increasingly crowded, librarians began to seek ways to reduce the space needed for books.

In many cases, technology is being used to explore innovative types of shelving and book transport.

Robotics are becoming an integral part of many libraries.

At the J. Willard Marriott Library at the University of Utah, remote collections are accessed by a robot "book fetcher" shown below (left).

Remote book fetcher, Wikimedia Commons, Nelson Pavlosky, Flickr CC A-SAMobile Shelving Wikimedia CC-A Andreas Praefcke

Library Transport System Dr. Marcus Gossler, Wikimedia Commons CC-A-SAThe mobile aisle shelving used at the Harvey S. Firestone Memorial Library at Princeton University reduces the need for space between bookshelves (shown above right).

The stack transport system at the University Library of Graz in Austria provides access to the stacks through an automated tracking system.

The photo on the right shows the University Library of Graz in Austria.

Skim Silence a Thing of the Past at Louder, Digital Age Libraries by Jill Barshay (Nov. 26, 2011).


Interest in green technology, energy efficiency, and sustainable societies has been embraced by many librarians.

For instance, the recently German National Library uses geothermal power for heating and cooling.

Dig DeeperDig Deeper
Read Edwards, Brian W. (Summer 2011). Sustainability as a driving force in contemporary library design. Library Trends, 60(1), 190-214.

New Libraries

Since ancient times, new types of libraries have arisen as old kinds faded away. Even now, new libraries are springing up in malls, city centers, and even airports.

Airport Library at Schiphol
The Netherlands

In 2006, representatives from the Dutch public libraries developed the idea for a library at the Schiphol Amsterdam Airport. Intended to help airline passengers pass the time while waiting for their flights, the multimedia collection focuses on Dutch culture providing fiction in thirty languages as well as photo books and music by Dutch musicians. Intended as a reference, patrons can read, watch, and listen in comfortable surroundings.

Learn more at the Airport Library of Schiphol.

Read The Library at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol by Clark Boyd.


With new technologies, some people continue to follow techniques for production of materials that have been around for thousands of years. The photo below taken shows woodblock printing in Sera Tibet. (Courtesy of John Hill).

Sera Tibet CC-A-SA John Hill Wikimedia Commons

Indy-Marion Co Library Wikimedia PDIn some ways, libraries have changed very little over the centuries.

For instance, most libraries like the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library in Indianapolis (shown right) still allow patrons to browse endless bookcases filled with books.

In many cases, traditions aren't being abandoned, they're evolving. Over the past twenty years, variations of Ranganathan's five laws have been created. To the updated variations go to Wikipedia.



Cox, Tamara (2012). Dewey Free Library. Available: http://www.scoop.it/t/dewey-free-library

Kaplan, Tali Balas (April 14, 2012). Done with Dewey. ALSC Blog. Available: http://www.alsc.ala.org/blog/2012/04/done-with-dewey/

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