I probably don’t need to tell you this, but I will anyway. I am writing this on the first day of school in my hometown of Toronto—the day after Labor Day. My wife, Stephanie, has headed off to school today to meet her fourth-grade class of 25 young boys. We always discuss her class and her philosophies before the start of each new school year. I love one philosophy the best—every day is a new day and every year is a new start. For fourth-grade boys, this is so important, as they tend to act out occasionally, especially with 25 boys where the majority is on some sort of IEP, medication, or other class management issue.
I can tell Stephanie’s already starting to love them, even before meeting them. After reviewing their paperwork and learning about each kid from the official records and last year’s teacher’s notes, she shared with me that these fourth-grades were mostly born in 2002 and 2003. I don’t know why but every year this surprises me. Kids entering kindergarten today will be graduating high school in 2020, and most will enter higher education and graduate by 2025. I believe that in this time horizon these kids will see and adapt to more change in the spaces inherent to the library value proposition than any other generation in history. It behooves us to prepare for them and consider their needs well in advance. It makes it so much more real and engaging when I see their faces in the first day photos Stephanie takes.
What will the world be like in 2025? The library in 2025 will be everywhere. This has been the inexorable destination since the first Internet Big Bang. For my wife’s students, the noninternet world is only history, and they’ve known it. Of course, the library in 2025 is quite a different thing from the librarian, and there lies the crux of the quandary. Libraries will change a lot, and education (and teaching) will change even more. The librarian will be somewhere—both virtual and physical. Let’s look first at the changes evident in the 2025 information ecology, wrought over the past very few decades.
By 2025 the importance of the physical plant and the role of most school libraries will have changed radically. From the beginning of the internet we saw core strategies of libraries in the physical world under threat (and opportunity). Physical strategies alone, in the absence of a virtual presence, have become quaint since they failed to adapt to changes in user expectations and the demands and experiences of educational strategies and trends. The consumer web experience was predominating the environment in the first decade of this century and aligning learning strategies with strong needs for critical thinking. Credulity was a challenge in the face of this juggernaut.
By 2025, digitization of collections has stretched the concept of “the collection” from an inventory of great content aligned with organizational, research, or learning goals to one where on-demand access to everything dominates and the challenge is developing advanced information fluency skills. Format expectations have moved from physical books, magazines, CDs, and DVDs to a hybrid environment where a matrix of choices abounds but digital content is the dominant format. New communication modes—from email through texting to elearning and social collaboration software—have stretched the boundaries of what it means to teach, answer, and relate to learners … and for learners to relate to each other. Devices have moved from being space-dependent—desktop computers, home phones, movie screens, televisions, radios—to an environment where the learner can be infinitely, confusingly, and riskily personally available through integrated, individual, pocket-sized smartphones and tablets that are aware of their location and tuned to their individual needs as opposed to the standardized institutional needs of the host organization. Users’ devices know when their owners are on campus, at home, or at the mall, and the devices adjust themselves accordingly. Library physical spaces are rarely dominated by collections anymore but fulfill the role of program spaces for research, collaboration, creation, and training. Consider these changes that are key parts of the 2025 landscape:
Collections: In 2025 we are well beyond the debates about physical and digital collections ...
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