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Today and Tomorrow: Futures

Let's examine revisiting the past, library technology, library facilities, and library obsolescence.

A recent study found that 50% of all library users go on to buy books by an author they were first introduced to at the library. - Library Journals' Library Hotline (December 2011).

Do bookstores, robolibraries, and online collections complement or compete with libraries? Is competition a good or bad thing for libraries?

Listen to The Future of Libraries in the E-Book Age by Lynn Neary.

Read What Will Become of the Paper Book? by Michael Agresta.

Read 10 Changes to Expect from the Library of the Future.


It's interesting to look back in history and see how people from the past predicated the future of libraries.

Charles Ammi Cutter published a short story in 1883 titled The Buffalo Public Library in 1983. Th story appeared in the Papers and Proceedings of the Sixth General Meeting of the American Library Association, Held at Buffalo, August 14 to 17, 1883. He predicted a library might look like 100 years in the future.

Read The Buffalo Public Library in 1983 by Charles Ammi Cutter.

Kurd Lasswitz wrote The Univeral Library in 1901.

Read The Universal Library by Kurd Lasswitz.

An elaboration of The University Library, Jorge Luis Borges' The Library Babel was published in 1941.

Read The Library Babel by Jorges Luis Borges.

In 1937, H.G. Wells published the essay The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia in the Encyclopedie Francaise.

Read The Idea of a Permanent World Encyclopaedia by H.G. Wells.

In 1949, Vannevar Bush published the article As We May Think in The Atlantic.

Read As We May Think by Vannevar Bush.

Ray Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 in 1953.

In 1965, J.C.R. Licklider wrote Libraries of the Future. It's amazing to read how many of his predictions came to pass.

Read Libraries of the Future by J.C.R. Licklider.

Revisiting the Past

Little Library, littlefreelibrary.orgRegardless of the high-tech innovations, how can we look to the past for ideas that can impact library users today and tomorrow?

The Little Library is a great example. Like the traveling library and library stations of the past, the Little Library is a small, community-based service.

The photo on the right shows an example of a Little Library. Courtesy of the Little Library website.

Learn more at Little Free Library.

Watch Little Libraries from NBC.


Library Technology

How will the next generation of technology impact libraries? Will your local public library have a robolibrary that serves books like a Redbox for readers? Will you be checking out books from a robolibrary at McDonalds? Will you be downloading an e-book from a grocery store checkout line?

Read What the 'death of the library' means for the future of books by S.E. Smith.

Library Facilities Design

The Super-8 loops, film projectors, and betamax tapes are gone. What will be next?

From CDs to DVDs, it won't be long until more materials disappear. What does this mean for your library? With e-books replacing fiction paperbacks and digital subscriptions replacing print journals, what will happen to library shelves, storage, and other aspects of library facilities? How do spaces change with the removal of computer towers and microfilm readers?

Read The Once and Future Library by Charles G. Mueller to begin thinking about facilities of the future.

Library Obsolescence

It's not just physical spaces that are changing. What about virtual resources and digital obsolescence? Can you still read the information on your old Wordstar floppy disk from the 1980s or the laserdisc from the 1990s? Will you be able to read a PDF file or .mov file in another fifty years?

Do we need library rooms and buildings? Do we need librarians? Do we need libraries? What function do they serve now and in the future?

Read Beyond the Bullet Points: Libraries are Obsolete by R. David Lankes.

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