ILI2008: What constitutes a next-gen library


Session with Thomas Brevik, Michael Casey and Michael Stephens; chaired by Gwenda Sippings.

We were provided with a variety of conceptualizations of things that characterize the next-generation library, all of which points for me to one thing — and here I think I am in agreement with Michael Casey: that next-gen libraries do what makes them relevant to library users. Actually, Michael Casey is someone I have discovered I am very much in agreement with on many fronts, especially regarding staying true to the role of the library.

Ideas from the floor included various thoughts on the content and otherwise of next-generation libraries; here it was wondered whether or not there was a role for the library, librarians and computers in libraries.

Librarian education was seen generally as important, but librarian attitudes were see as at least as important — though you might not want everyone to have the same types of attitudes. Here, I reckon that most librarians are service-minded individuals, who are also idealists. The education we’ve seen in the past, however must change — progress demands this. Various people pointed out that cataloguing isn’t going away, but new skills — specifically programming skills — are very important for the continued relevance of the profession.

Thomas Brevik said some interesting things that fit in quite well with the web-service-based approach we take at UBiT 2010, where each user decides what kind of interface is appropriate for them. Take your netvibes page, and add some content, do it — do it now!

Michael Casey made a point that I also made in my presentation about suppliers not giving us what we actually need — systems suppliers aren’t kind to us. He also made the point that FOSS isn’t meeting the challenge of volume that we have in many libraries. Unfortunately, he has a very good point here.

The discussion ended with a brief debate about whether or not libraries should try to teach their users, the thing that really struck me was that most people agreed that we needed systems that users didn’t need teaching in order to use. Michael Stephens made the point that libraries perhaps need to focus on teaching users how to manage their digital lives, and how to be good digital citizens. Somebody needs to do this, admittedly, but should it be us?

All in all: interesting, but not too innovative. rly.


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