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Library Trends Analysis

Page history last edited by PBworks 18 years, 1 month ago



An examination of library literature of all types – scholarly journals, trade magazines, databases, articles, news, conference reports, studies, RSS feeds, blogs and interviews – reveals myriad developments. Public, academic, and special libraries continue to communicate ideas, developments, and findings related to their sector. What is consistent in the literature, however, is the discussion of the Internet and its impact on the library.


Studies, like OCLC’s Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, have shown beyond a doubt that library patrons are


• searching online for information;

• beginning virtually all searches with commercial search engines;

• rarely using library web sites;

• associating libraries almost exclusively with books; and

• expecting free information that is easy and quick to obtain.


Well-financed Internet companies are entering realms traditionally served by libraries. Google and Yahoo, the most well-known search engines, are offering new services at an astonishing rate. Both are rapidly digitizing books on a massive scale, unparalleled in the library realm, and plan to make their digital book collections full or partially searchable. Amazon.com has announced its pay-per-page service, and now uses tagging, whereby consumers assign subject terms to resources. Such tagging applications, called “Folksonomies,” represent a populist approach to cataloging. Web 2.0 and new social publishing services are the rage. Wikis, blogs, RSS, photo sharing, and personal profiles are just a few of the most popular applications. Yahoo Answers is a new reference service where users ask and answer each other’s questions online.


Such services are or can be expected to siphon more patrons from libraries that don’t make themselves relevant in today’s Web-driven, instant information-access environment. OCLC’s Perceptions reveals that, although people are going to the library, most have not increased or have actually decreased their usage. The Association of Research Libraries documents a decline in university library visits (Kyrillidou and Young). At the same time, college students represent the most active and sophisticated library users (Perceptions 1-4). Public libraries, on the other hand, have shown an upward trend in the number of visits to their facilities from 1.2 billion in 2001 to 1.3 billion in 2003, the latest year such statistics are available (Chute et al; United States Dept. of Education). In library literature, however, the Internet is largely viewed as a force drawing users away from the library.


The library response to the skyrocketing array of new Internet services and applications is variegated. Some articles discuss libraries’ inability to compete with the Internet. A growing body of literature is promoting change. One notable concept, Library 2.0 represents a movement by a vocal group of librarians to promote the use of Web 2.0 services and technologies within the library framework. Another major trend, often written about in the academic library sector, is to recreate the library as a place from a book-oriented collection house to an information commons containing multimedia labs, collaborative work spaces, and entertainment facilities. Innovative online services are being developed to make library web pages, online reference services, and OPACs more modern in their design and capabilities. Pioneering libraries are incorporating blogs, wikis, gaming, IM and other technologies into their repertoire. The profession is beginning to demand more technical skills from new librarians.


Documenting, and lamenting, the impact of the Internet is not a new topic in library literature. The cry, however, has been ratcheted up several notches, and the discussion of Web 2.0, in particular, is immense. Many librarians are concerned about the very future of the library as a place and librarianship as a profession. Response to this dilemma runs the gamut. Libraries are changing at a disparate rate. Each type of library –- indeed, each individual library -– must react differently to meet the needs of its unique user base within the confines of its budgetary realities. Read further to find out the size and scope of today’s library infrastructure; the impact of the Internet on libraries; and the attempts by libraries to develop new services that will allow them to evolve or become extinct.


(Note: For more information on government libraries and information centers, please see Government Trends Analysis).



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