Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: New Library World, Volume 116, Issue 1/2
Welcome to the first double issue of 2015. The emphasis is on looking forward, and the challenges associated with facing the future, given the many environmental factors affecting library and information services at the present time, as described in various ways by all the contributors to volume 116 1/2. But librarians have always been good at anticipating future developments and, indeed, shaping them. Joacim Hansson and Bharat Mehra, amongst others contributing to issues 1/2, provide evidence of this ability in their discussion papers about the future of librarianship in general and, in Mehra’s case, public libraries in particular.
Both Hansson and Mehra offer analytical and conceptual frameworks within which future library provision can be planned, assessed, developed and evaluated. Through the adoption of the twin concepts of documentality and legitimacy, Hansson reaches the conclusion – not surprising in view of the trends identified – that the raison d’être of libraries is moving away – almost irrevocably – from the development of collections towards the fulfilment of user need. In addition, given that libraries’ user bases are becoming ever more diverse, Mehra draws on his experience in the USA to present a “progressive manifesto” for public libraries to help them embrace diversity in a more holistic way than has perhaps been the case in the past.
But if libraries have to change – and are changing – then the same is true of those leading, managing and operating them. Evgenia Vassilakaki and Valentini Moniarou-Papaconstantinou review the roles information professionals have adopted over the past10 years – roles that are likely to become increasingly common in the future – through an analysis of peer-reviewed papers in key journals. No fewer than six different key role descriptions are identified, only two of which utilize the word “librarian”. One of the most interesting points raised by the study is arguably the way in which user perceptions are changing the information professional’s role along with the fact that library-type services are increasingly delivered as a result of collaborative approaches between numerous providers. Above all, it is librarians’ engagement in the learning process that offers the most exciting opportunities for future meaningful development of the profession of librarianship.
In recent years, academic institutions have taken their corporate social responsibilities very seriously, not least in relation both to engagement with business and the enhanced employability of their students. Joachim Schöpfel, Julien Roche and Gilles Hubert consider the concepts of co-working in learning spaces in French institutions as a means of enhancing their ability to transfer knowledge and skills outside the confines of the academic environment. The authors stress the need to develop library services which support students not only in their study and learning but also with regard to their future roles in society and their ability to harness technology to best effect.
Espen Stranger-Johannessen, Marlene Asselin and Ray Doirin complement the earlier papers by providing “an ecological framework for library development” with special reference to African community libraries. As elsewhere in this double issue, the emphasis is on a critical examination and evaluation of services provided to “move beyond” outputs and outcomes to consider how the larger socio-political and issues and challenges can best be addressed, especially through collaboration between community librarians, local communities and researchers.
Technology development and application is a constant theme in these papers, and, more generally, in issues of New Library World. Abdoulaye Kaba’s case study of Al Ain University in the United Arab Emirates suggests that in many parts of the world, the embracing of Open Access (OA) by academic staff is still in its infancy and that, in particular, there remains much to be done – not least by librarians – to ensure that the benefits of OA are fully appreciated and enjoyed by users.
The double issue is completed with a viewpoint article by Bruce Massis, in which he describes and evaluates programmes in which supplementary and beneficial access to, and instruction in the effective use of, library resources is given to college students in the USA.
These, then, are the topics, issues, themes and challenges that face us all, as evinced by the provenance of the papers published here. We really are living in a “new library world” of collaborative co-working delivery of services to meet users’ needs, enabled by enhanced technology. While the role of “the librarian” may be changing, the responsibilities associated with the scenarios described here provide opportunities rather than pose threats, provided that we embrace the changes in the ways discussed and proposed here.
David Michael Baker