Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Forecasting the Future of Libraries 2015

Trends in culture, community, and education point to increased potential for expanding the role of libraries of all types


I used to think being trendy was a bad thing—a sign of someone who lacks individuality or perhaps is fickle. But in a world of rapid change where people are more and more aware of the latest technology, news, and innovation, being trendy—or at least knowing what’s trendy—is almost essential.

In 2013, the American Library Association (ALA) an­nounced the formation of a Center for the Future of Libraries. The project, initially supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), focuses much of its work on identifying emerging trends relevant to the libraries, the librarians, and the communi­ties they serve.
Why trends? Well, as many of us already know, it’s nearly impossible to accurately predict the future. But we can identify trends, and they can be key to understanding what the future might bring. Identifying and organizing trends helps us think about the changes happening in the world and the potential effects they will have on our future. (See Edward Cornish, Futuring: The Exploration of the Future, World Future Society, Bethesda, Md., 2005.) Awareness and understanding of trends can help us actively plan for our own work and for the work with the communities we serve, open new opportunities to innovate and experiment with and within these “currents” shaping society, and better enable us to envision the integral role we can play in the future.
ALA’s center is modeled on the American Alliance of Museums’ (AAM) very successful Center for the Future of Museums (CFM), which promotes social, technological, political, and economic trends to its members and high­lights the many ways that museums are innovating within those trends. CFM and its founding director, Elizabeth Merritt, have used their popular blog (futureofmuseums, Dispatches from the Future of Museums e-newsletter, and annual TrendsWatch report, to help members and the general public think proactively about what the museum might look like and what they could provide in the next 10, 50, or even 100 years. AAM’s and Merritt’s work continue to inspire and influence the Center for the Future of Libraries, and we benefit from their support and expertise.
Many libraries and librarians have already proven their exceptional ability to spot trends and integrate them into their programs and services. But even the best of us can be overwhelmed by the pace of change, the amount of information, and the multiple sources and sectors from which we piece together our understanding of trends.
This special section focuses on some of the key trends shaping libraries. It pairs with American Libraries’ an­nual coverage of the ALA Emerging Leaders. These librar­ians are, after all, representative of a new wave of library leaders who will help shape our futures—and likely have already contributed to, influenced, or led the trends that we will cover.
The first piece, “Trending Now,” is a quick introduction to the Center for the Future of Libraries’ “trend library.” The trend library is designed to provide the library community with a centralized and regularly updated source for trends—including how they are developing; why they matter for libraries; and links to the reports, articles, and resources that can further explain their significance. As a collection, it will grow to include changes and trends across society, technology, education, the environment, politics, the economy, and demographics.
Makerspaces are playing an increasingly important role in libraries. Four librarians from three library maker­spaces—Tampa–Hillsborough County (Fla.) Public Library System’s The Hive, the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Maker Jawn, and the Innisfil (Ont.) Public Library’s ideaLAB—talk about how maker culture is transforming their libraries and share ideas about this important trend’s direction, in “Making Room for Informal Learning.”
Keeping up to date with changes in education is impor­tant for all of us but especially for those of us working in academic and school libraries. Joan K. Lippincott shares her thoughts in “The Future for Teaching and Learning” on how academic libraries can leverage growing interest in active learning, new media and information formats, and technology-rich collaborative spaces within the higher education environment.
Natalie Greene Taylor, Mega Subramaniam, and Amanda Waugh, all of the University of Maryland’s College of In­formation Studies, look at how school librarians can in­tegrate three trends—the mobility of information, connected learning, and learning in the wild—to keep up with the future of K–12 education in “The School Librar­ian as Learning Alchemist.”
There is news from two library science programs’ ini­tiatives exploring what’s ahead in library education, in “The Future of the MLIS.” This focus on the education of librarians is important for all of us.
For many of us, thinking about the library of the future begins with thinking about the future of the library as space and place. To help illustrate that future, we asked some of the winning architects from International Inte­rior Design Association’s (IIDA) and ALA’s Library Inte­rior Design Awards to talk about current and future trends that influenced their designs, in “The Future, Today.”

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Trending Now

A library of trends that matter to libraries

| February 26, 2015
The Center for the Future of Libraries’ trend library ( brings together and organizes information from across industries to pres­ent succinct information on trends, including how they are developing, why they matter for libraries, and links to the resources that can further explain their significance.
We’ve selected five trends from the collection to high­light. Visit the trend library to learn more about each and to see the expanding collection of trend information.


Long a hallmark of internet culture, anonymity is a selling feature for new mobile apps such as Whisper and Secret.
Information shared via anonymous apps includes emo­tional confessions, workplace secrets, personal boasts, and inspirational sentiments. Comments, as most do, range from the positive and affirming to the negative and critical, but many of the platforms actively discourage negativity.
Anonymous content has become popular with users and fodder for news organizations, with several apps develop­ing relationships with news outlets.
Several recent stories have brought to light the limited anonymity these applications actually provide—still track­ing user location and connecting to app store accounts, phone numbers, and password chains—making true ano­nymity a near impossibility.
If anonymity encourages deeper discussion and per­sonal revelation, it may actually help build community. Even if anonymity flourishes, people will still need places to formalize relationships, engage in open dialogue, and seek reputable information—spaces and services that libraries and librarians can provide.

Collective impact

In the face of limited resources and combating social is­sues (hunger, poverty, education), organizations are adopting common agendas to address issues within their communities.
John Kania and Mark Kramer introduced the collective impact model, defining it as “the commitment of a group of important actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social prob­lem.” Projects utilizing the model experience large-scale so­cial change, from im­p r o v e d cross-sector coordination as opposed to traditional models that leverage isolated in­tervention by individual organizations.
While crafting enhanced solutions, projects using a collective impact model might also provide better experi­ences for individuals affected by these complex social issues, allowing them to simplify navigation over a coor­dinated network of agencies and programs.
Libraries and librarians might become highly valued and critical partners in collective-impact responses to community issues.
But as funders and governments seek more coordi­nated responses to social issues, libraries and librarians may need to strategically align their services and pri­orities with community-wide responses. Participation in collective-impact projects may require increased time and commitment, developing shared interests and strat­egies, managing across staffs and priorities, persuading stakeholders and boards, evaluating a diverse range of activities, resolving disputes, and sharing successes as well as failures.

Fast casual

Fast casual—a popular and growing concept in restaurants positioned between fast food and casual dining—incor­porates counter service, customized menus, freshly prepared and higher quality foods, and upscale and invit­ing dining spaces.
Even as fast casual restaurants lure diners with more natural, local, and organic menu options, they also inte­grate technology, with customer loyalty apps, online or mobile ordering, and mobile payments. This has helped increase their appeal to millennials who are more influ­enced by digital engagement, convenience, authenticity, and emphasis on quality than traditional advertisement.
In other hospitality sectors, fast casual has advanced the growth of living-room-like flexible spaces (multiple and varied seating arrangements, easy-to-find power outlets) that accommodate social and business needs, cater to upscale tastes, and are tech­nologically savvy.
The growth of fast casual is reflective of the ever-changing consumer values, including desires for more aspirational experiences, active and shared spaces, and upscale and tech­nologically connected fea­tures.


Resilience includes preparation for and rapid recovery from physical, social, and economic di­sasters, including natural disasters, terrorist at­tacks, or economic collapse. In the wake of several recent natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina (2005) and Hurricane Sandy (2012), the discus­sion about community resilience has accelerated. A 2012 report from the National Research Council stated, “De­veloping a culture of resilience would bolster support for preparedness and response and would also enable better anticipation of disasters and their conse­quences, enhancing the ability to recover more quickly and strongly. Resilient com­munities would plan and build in ways that would reduce disaster losses, rather than waiting for a disaster to occur and paying for it afterward.”
The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative has worked with cities around the world to develop a road map to resilience, including estab­lishing a chief resilience officer, strategy develop­ment; access to private, pub­lic, and NGO partners that can help develop solutions; and membership in a network of like-minded cities.
As city, state, and federal governments adopt resilience as a strategy, libraries may likewise need to align facilities, services, and programs. Resilience re­quires community involve­ment—encouraging individuals to make preparatory and preventive decisions and providing resources and in­formation prior to, during, and after incidents.


Robots are moving from industrial and factory settings into everyday work, educational, research, and living spaces. These collaborative robots (or CoBots) will be able to perform repetitive tasks and work alongside humans. 
The declining cost of sensors and computing power that allow robots to react quickly and intelligently will help robots become safer and take on greater roles alongside humans. Robots may increasingly be introduced as couri­ers and messengers that can operate in programmable environments. Navigation and abilities may be improved by the increasing connectivity of devices and things (the internet of things) that will equip objects with computing and radio devices detectable and distinguishable for mo­bile robots.
Several libraries have utilized robots to help with ma­terials’ retrieval and sorting. Still other libraries have seen robots and robotics as a next wave for technology access and training, even lending robots to help users experience what might soon be a regular part of their futures.