Federal Librarian Fall 2009

Leadership in Uncertain Times:

Federal Librarians Envision Use of Physical Space Through 2020

Below is the Executive Summary for the FLICC Special Project on Planning for Library Spaces. This report examined the future of federal library spaces from three sources. The report was a project of the Libraries and Emerging Technologies Working Group.

Executive Summary

This paper is the product of three complementary activities: a survey of librarians with interest in the future of federal library spaces; a literature review on each of the areas the survey explores; and the collective experiences of the authors of the paper as individuals facing the same challenges as their colleagues across the U.S. federal government. The result is an extensive review of issues facing federal librarians as they plan for the provision of services and collections within their own agency or department. Some of the most striking results presented in this paper include:

A majority of respondents are not directly responsible for planning for their future physical space requirements.

  • While the use of physical space will change, most respondents project that the amount of space allotted to the library will remain the same for the foreseeable future.
  • Most respondents do not feel that they will go virtual (with no physical collections) in the foreseeable future.
  • Respondents are maintaining two expensive systems, physical and virtual library services, to meet the functional needs of librarians and information needs of users.
  • Technology is changing the relationship the library has with its customers, but it is not diminishing the need for services provided by the library.

Taking all input into consideration, the overall sense of the committee is that government agencies and departments continue to need physical library services and collections. The paradigm shift toward digital libraries has been slower in government libraries, but it is definitely occurring. The value of the physical library—and its physical collections—may vary based on the dispersion of staff (via telework, etc.,) the availability of electronic resources in the subject areas of interest; user demand for virtual services, the commitment the organization makes to information technology and training, and the integration of resources into the work of the organization. However, federal libraries as physical spaces are not going away wholesale. The changes will take time, require considerable fiscal investment, and to be successful, will take the guidance and foresight of librarians and their managers to understand how to serve the mission of their organizations.

The link to the full report is:

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