Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: New Library World, Volume 115, Issue 9/10
It was clear from the special double issue of New Library World looking at Strategic Library Futures (Volume 114, Issues 5/6) that the user is – rightly – at the centre of developments. This position is reinforced in Issues 9/10 by Carl Gustav Johannsen’s article on the way in the segmentation of users can be used to help librarians develop tailored services that will remain relevant and meaningful in a rapidly changing environment. Johannsen enumerates and evaluates the principal methods of segmentation in the context of a major review of Danish public libraries.
It would seem that these various segmentation techniques remain of value when libraries of all types are under threat from a whole range of environmental factors. As Katarina Michnik summarises, the threats are more pronounced than ever, as evinced by her study of public library directors in Sweden. Here again, the emphasis is on the user, in that the main perceived threat to the library service is the tension between the expected service provision and that actually provided. The reduction in available resources at a time of considerable societal and technological change makes the library director’s job harder than ever. The legitimacy of the library in the public’s eyes is in danger of being irretrievably reduced.
And yet the technological advances that make it possible to store and retrieve information digitally continue to offer libraries exciting and significant opportunities to develop new services. But looked at internationally, these developments are taking hold unevenly. This is evident from Ahmed, Alreyaee and Rahman’s study of electronic repositories of theses and dissertations in a number of Asian countries. The situational mapping shows clearly that there are significant variances not only across the area covered but also by subject discipline. The policies that underpin these repositories also differ noticeably. There remains a considerable need for awareness raising and concerted action in this important area of digital library development, at least in Asian academic institutions if not more broadly.
The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 was a landmark event that symbolised the reintegration of former Soviet bloc countries into the Western world. Twenty-five years later, it is interesting, then, to look at the attitudes and approaches of library staff in one country that used to lie behind the Iron Curtain. Kont and Jantsen investigate the satisfaction of library staff working in university libraries in Estonia. While it is obvious that much has changed, there remain challenges in the management and development of human capital there.
Mobile technologies are arguably the greatest drivers of change the world over, and libraries are not immune from this particular push. Kumar’s case study of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi, indicates the significant potential for mobile approaches for education in Third World countries. But the problem remains the mismatch between user expectation and the library’s ability to deliver what is required, especially where infrastructure – in all its aspects – lags behind current an future requirements.
It is in this context that Massis rightly stresses the need for librarians not only to have digital skills (including copyright knowledge) but also a deep understanding of how people use the technology. As Kinsley and Hill point out, in the final article before Massis’ column, the need for sophisticated, tailored library instruction becomes more necessary than ever as a result.
Issues 9/10 conclude with a number of pertinent book reviews. An editorial and publishing decision has been taken not to include reviews in future, given the opportunity for reviews to be produced and disseminated more rapidly by other means in this digital world.
David Michael Baker