Through ‘Libraries of the Future’, JISC is hoping to explore these and many other questions, to open up – with partner organisations and librarians themselves – a debate about the future of the academic and research library. The theme will encompass a variety of activities – events, printed resources, interactive Web 2.0 services, podcast interviews, and so on – but encouraging debate and discussion will be at the heart of all of them.
On the one hand, this is very exciting: a large-scale, public discussion on what the role of the library should be, sponsored by an organization with the clout to really move the discussion forward, and to implement things at the conclusion, and that has shown itself to be unafraid of change.
On the other hand, this is very discouraging. While the library community sits around and discusses what restaurant we should patronize, everyone around us is eating our lunch: the Open Library and Google are tackling mass digitization of books, Google is fighting our copyright battles, LibraryThing is reinventing the OPAC, Yahoo Answers is providing more reference in a day than most libraries do in a year… need I go on? But (I hear you say), LibraryThing employs a librarian (and one from your very own alma mater, Pomerantz), Scriblio was developed by a librarian, as was libraryh3lp… need I go on? (I hear you say.) Yes (I reply), but von Hippel draws a distinction that I think is relevant here: between the development of entirely new tools and processes, and improvements to existing tools and processes. I would argue that innovations from library-land are predominantly the latter, while the former is coming predominantly from outside.
But then, I’m just cranky because I’m in the middle of end-of-semester grading.