The Center for the Future of Libraries: A Place to Start

It’s something that we’ve all heard – we can’t predict the future. And that’s probably a good thing. It helps remind us that we are not destined for one single future, but rather that there will be many different futures based on how we work with our communities and with each other.
In the absence of a single blueprint for the library of the future, ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries will focus its work on three key efforts including:
  • identifying emerging trends relevant to libraries and librarianship;
  • promoting futuring and innovation techniques to help librarians shape their future; and
  • building connections with experts and innovative thinkers to help libraries address emerging issues.
That first effort, identifying emerging trends, seems like a very important place to start. Identifying and organizing trends helps us to think about the changes happening in our world and the potential effects they will have on our futures.[1]  We need ready access to trend information so that we can actively plan with our communities, innovate and experiment with and within these “currents” shaping society, and ultimately make our institutions and profession integral to the future that these trends will shape. 
With that in mind, my first undertaking for the Center for the Future of Libraries is the development a “Trend Library” that presents succinct information on trends, including how they are developing, why they matter for libraries, and links to the reports, articles, and resources that can further explain their significance. I’m starting with ten trends (not the top ten, the most important ten, or the coolest ten, just the first ten) and plan to continue to expand their coverage as new information crosses my desk. I also plan to add new entries – hopefully lots of new entries – to provide context to the multitude of trends that shape society, technology, education, the environment, politics, our economy, and our demographics. 
I hope that you will take a few moments to check out these first entries in the Trend Library. There’s still a lot of work to do, and I hope that you will help support this work. Three things I would especially welcome are
  • thoughts on how the current entries can be improved – additional resources to consult and incorporate, more perspectives on how these trends matter for libraries, or even suggestions for formatting;
  • suggestions for additional trends that need coverage ASAP - I’ve got a whiteboard full of trends to cover, but I’m also open to requests; and 
  • examples of how libraries – including your own – are responding to these trends with new programs, services, or partnerships, so that we can show each other and our communities what futures we are developing within our libraries.  
Thanks for joining us at the start of the Center for the Future of Libraries and I look forward to hearing from you!
[1] Futuring: The Exploration of the Future. Edward Cornish. World Future Society: Bethesda (Md.), 2005.