OCLC Report 2003: Libraries - Issues and Trends
It has become increasingly difficult to characterize and describe the purpose of and the experience of using libraries and other allied organizations. The traditional notions of library, collection, patron and archive have changed and continue to change. The relationships among the information professional, the user and the content have changed and continue to change.
What has not changed is the implicit assumption among most librarians that the order and rationality that libraries represent is necessary and a public good. So there is a persistent and somewhat testy tone to much that is written about the changed information landscape by those in the information community: Why don't they get it that libraries and librarians are useful, relevant and important in the age of Google?
This comprehensive international report has been put together by and for some pretty high-powered people. Just note this list from a UK perspective:
Chris Bailey, Director of Library Services, Glasgow University
Chris Batt, Chief Executive, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries
Tim Berners-Lee, Director, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)
Phillip Blackwell, CEO, Blackwell Ltd., Oxford
David Bradbury, Director of Libraries, Corporation of London
Clive Field, Director, Scholarship and Collections, British Library
The purpose of The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition is the identification and description of issues and trends that are impacting and will impact OCLC, libraries, museums, archives and other allied organizations, positively and negatively.
The report highlights the difficulties facing libraries now that their primary purpose as repositories of information is fading.
Much of the research for the report was done without using traditional, library-based, abstracting and indexing services, except to verify bibliographic data.
Using the Google search engine, it was easy to find what used to be called “gray literature”—statistical data, conference presentations and proceedings—material that used to be quite difficult to identify and locate in a pre-Web world. It is still not easy to find such material using many traditional library catalogs and resources. This difficulty is something you might reflect on as you read the report.
The report looks at Social, Economic and Technological developments before reviewing the role that Libraries might now play in the Research and Learning landscape.
There aren't any real surprises here: microcontent, XML, Open Source, wi-fi, etc
Libraries, museums, historical societies and information industry companies are filled with very bright, dedicated people who sit on committees, attend conferences, deliver papers and, perhaps, now and then, wake up at 3 am wondering, so, what is the future of libraries, of my museum? One trend that was evident in this scan was that for at least ten years, all those bright people have been writing and speaking eloquently about possible futures. Yet, not much has fundamentally changed.
Having read the report, I don't think I'd feel entirely encouraged if I was a Librarian, Shifted or otherwise... As the report observes: "more and more people do not seek out a mediator in their quest for knowledge, and are happy to pursue their information quest unattended by a guide".
Well, that's technology for you.