The Continuing Need for Librarians in a Digital Age
We tend to think of libraries as collections of books, but the libraries of today are much more than that. While the books will still be there, the prevalence of digital media will only continue to grow. Archival material will be digitized, newer technologies will be available for use, and how patrons access and interact with information will evolve as well. And as gatekeepers to that information, librarians will also evolve in their roles to help their patrons navigate through the digital age. How exactly are libraries adapting and in what ways are their librarians ushering in this change?
Technology has changed the way that we consume media. While new technologies are changing many of our habits, reading and otherwise, our need for shared spaces in our communities to find information and connect with others won’t change any time soon. Surviving and thriving in the digital age means that public libraries need to be brave and innovative.
Barbara Stripling, previous president of the American Library Association, argues that libraries and librarians will reboot for the digital age. “She believes that libraries and librarians can use their expertise to become digital guides, helping people to refine their questions, identify authoritative sources, and learn how to find the best answers on their own. Sort of an even more advanced advanced search.”
Libraries must offer more than books. The traditional library of books, reference materials, and quiet reading spaces doesn’t need to change, but libraries do need to be proactive in adapting to the new ways in which their patrons consume media. Some libraries offer their patrons access to new technologies like 3D printers, while others have released innovate apps that combine library catalogue data, library staff book reviews from goodreads.com, and client behavior patterns to deliver customized book recommendations in an Amazon-style service.
With such an overwhelming amount of information and technology available, barriers to access it are similar to those that exist between economic classes – there are informational haves and have nots. Libraries and their librarians are best positioned to mitigate this gap, but only if they make a significant effort to keep themselves relevant by computerizing services and developing new technologies. They must also recognize that “the computer age is not fundamentally about computerization. The computer age is about the change in management mindset enabled by computerization.”
The Master of Management in Library and Information Science degree program at the University of Southern California empowers students with the skills necessary to develop as leaders in this new digital age of librarianship.