Visions for 21st Century Public Library

June 22, 2011 at 1:38 pm 2 comments

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

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”was written by OITP Fellow Roger E. Levien, president of Strategy and Innovation Consulting. Get pdf here.

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.
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“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.
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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

The full text of “Confronting the Future: Strategic Visions for the 21stCentury Public Library”is available in pdf here.


Entry filed under: future of libraries, Valdosta State University.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tracy Walker  |  June 30, 2011 at 12:42 am

    The growth of e-book usage is becoming more and more significant in the library in which I work. Because I am in youth services, I am in county schools frequently to promote library services, and for the first time this past year heard a number of comments from elementary and middle grades students about their use of the public library related to e-books. Many mentioned that their family’s public library usage has decreased because of e-books. How this and other competition will continue to impact public libraries in the future is yet to be seen, but I believe we as library professionals must remain cheerleaders for the many services we have to offer – especially those aspects that bring community together.

  • 2. Cameron Asbell  |  July 1, 2011 at 3:56 am

    I work in circulation at a public library and around the beginning of 2011 I saw a huge increase in the number of patrons using e-books. Many received readers for Christmas and brought them in to the library to learn what we had to offer. Unfortunately we had nothing in our collection in a suitable format. We offer access to a limited number via Ga Downloads but we cannot keep up with the demands. I primarily work with reserves and I will get a brand new book down from processing, call the patron who requested it and about 10% of the time I’m told “I got tired of waiting and got it on my Kindle”. Not a huge percentage but it is going to increase in the years to come. We are living in an age of instant gratificantion and now it applies to books. The director of my library has told me everytime I’ve asked about ebooks that she wants to wait for the dust to settle and see which format is the winner but I’m afraid that by the time the dust settles it will be too late.


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