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Factors affecting the future of libraries

John Martyn (Polytechnic of Central London)

Aslib Proceedings

ISSN: 0001-253X

Article publication date: 1 September 1991



As some of you may know, I was involved in the British Library Information UK 2000 project, the report of which has recently been published. This project was basically a forecasting study, using a quasi‐Delphi approach to work up forecasts of developments of one sort and another which are likely to affect the library and information world during the next decade. I am not going to describe Information UK 2000 in any detail, because of course you will all have read the report itself, or will be reading it very shortly, although I shall be using some of its findings. I only mention it now for two reasons; the minor reason is to add an appearance of authority to what I am going to be saying, by indicating that I have been thinking and reading about the possible future for long enough to have developed some views; and the major reason is to justify the tentative nature of my title this evening. Anyone who spends time in a serious attempt to form a picture of the likely future sooner or later develops a strong tendency to qualify any possible conclusion almost out of sight, because of a growing awareness of the extent to which unforeseen events can knock any prediction off course. Unpredictable events are precisely that, the unforeseen is not foreseen, and all one can do is work on a basis of “If things keep on the way they are going….” Between starting the project and publishing the report we had the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe, the unification of Germany, economic recession and rising unemployment, the fall of Mrs Thatcher, the Gulf war, the introduction of the community charge and, a bit nearer home, two changes of Minister for Arts and Libraries. I would have liked to call this talk, “Some factors which may or may not influence the future of library and information departments to a greater or lesser extent, assuming nothing very dramatic happens in the meantime”, but I thought it might be taken as evidence of a certain indecisiveness, so I decided to back off a bit and keep it simple.


Martyn, J. (1991), "Factors affecting the future of libraries", Aslib Proceedings, Vol. 43 No. 9, pp. 277-285.




Copyright © 1991, MCB UP Limited

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