I know it is not fashionable to worry these days. I should look to the future, see the opportunities, don´t worry, be happy, etc. But I DO worry.
Instead of the top tech trends that ALA and LITA does, I am going to name my top worries for public libraries.
1. Irrelevancy. A lot of libraries are great, they connect to their communities and do innovative stuff with technology and services. BUT a larger number of libraries does not! I worry that the network that libraries are will wither and die, and then the great and remarkable libraries will be few, and possibly dissapear because the concept of the library will become irrelevant to most communities. It will probably happen faster here in Europe, especially here in Norway, where years of low funding and neglect has taken its toll on both libraries and librarians.
2. Technological bypass. As technology develops the services that libraries provide are provided better by others. If e-books take off and there is an e-book reader that really makes e-book reading as pleasurable as p-book reading today, will libraries be part of that solution? I doubt it, especially when we look at the Kindle vs. libraries discussion going on in the US today. And it is not only books and reading, but reference (never a great selling point where norwegian libraries are concerned), outreach, literacy and “the third place” that we use as selling points for libraries, that others do better than us. If this trend continues, where does that leave libraries?
3. Identity crisis. When librarians in Norway discuss libraries, few, if any, take one step back and look at libraries from the outside. Most librarians subscribe to the philosophical school of “Libraries R´Us” and stop there. There is a great effort to protect libraries as reservations for the preservation of librarians more than a service to the community. This change of mission, from service to the preservation of the institution is probably common in many types of organisations, but it worries me that libraries have become the reason for librarians and vice versa.
4. Whining librarians, YES I am aware that I am rapidly heading in that direction, but so what? Librarians in norway complain a lot! They tend to look at anything new as a threat to the stability of their world (and they are probably right), and I should just shut up since I am one of the people threatening that stabilty, and at the same time wining about the threats I see.
Time to put on Monty Python!