Future of libraries ‘confronted’ in new ALA Office for Information Technology Policy report

For Immediate Release
Mon, 06/20/2011

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Library Association (ALA) Office for Information Technology Policy’s (OITP) latest policy brief breaks down the formidable challenges in store for libraries during the next few decades. The brief, “Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library” (PDF) was written by OITP Fellow Roger E. Levien, president of Strategy and Innovation Consulting.

The report explores how emerging technologies combined with challenges, such as financial constraints as well as shifts in the nature and needs of library users, require libraries to evolve rapidly and make strategic decisions today that will influence their future for decades to come.

ALA President Roberta Stevens said OITP’s brief clearly lays out why public libraries are in the midst of a true revolution.

“The most recent development – the rapid growth in e-book usage – is another example of the fundamental changes affecting libraries. Such changes present many new opportunities for serving the public as well as challenges in how to best serve them,” Stevens said.

“‘Confronting the Future’ provides a straightforward yet profound way to think about future visions for public libraries.  Anyone who cares about public libraries should read it,” Stevens said.

Public libraries fulfill a key role in providing information services to America’s communities.

“Commercial enterprises have been driving many information innovations, with many benefits derived by the public, but some critical important values – such as information access for all regardless of the ability to pay – are not well addressed by commercial interests,” OITP Director Alan Inouye said.

“This policy brief helps to develop effective strategies for public libraries that preserve these values while leveraging emerging technologies for the benefit of communities,” said Inouye.

Bonnie Tijerina, chair of OITP’s advisory committee, said competition and innovation are paving the way for a revolution in library services, but at this point there is much uncertainty over how libraries should handle matters such as e-books licenses as well as the question of potential products such as the pending Google Book Search.

“The brief also provides creators of new technologies and information services with guidance on how to serve communities through public libraries,” said Tijerina.

The issues raised in the brief will be discussed at an OITP program during the ALA's Annual Conference in New Orleans June 23-28, 2011. The program, “Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library” will be held on Saturday, June 25, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, Room 292. Press interviews with Dr. Levien may be arranged by contacting Jenni Terry at jterry@alawash.org.

The full text of “Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21stCentury Public Library”is available at: http://tinyurl.com/3hldqmo (PDF).