How soon is now? Current developments and future possibilities for libraries and librarians: a library technician's view

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This article was downloaded by: [Van Pelt and Opie Library]On: 19 October 2014, At: 23:03Publisher: RoutledgeInforma Ltd Registered in England and Wales Registered Number: 1072954 Registeredoffice: Mortimer House, 37-41 Mortimer Street, London W1T 3JH, UKThe Australian Library JournalPublication details, including instructions for authors andsubscription information:http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ualj20How soon is now? Current developmentsand future possibilities for libraries andlibrarians: a library technician's viewJustin Hydeaa Justine Hyde is employed as Library Technician with Clayton UtzSolicitors, Sydney office and is currently undertaking a Bachelorof Applied Science (Information) part-time at the University ofTechnology, Sydney. She believes that the embracing of technologywill reap great rewards for librarians and totally rejects theassertion that libraries face a grim future.Published online: 28 Oct 2013.To cite this article: Justin Hyde (1997) How soon is now? Current developments and futurepossibilities for libraries and librarians: a library technician's view, The Australian Library Journal,46:2, 181-185, DOI: 10.1080/00049670.1997.10755798To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00049670.1997.10755798PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR ARTICLETaylor & Francis makes every effort to ensure the accuracy of all the information (theContent) contained in the publications on our platform. However, Taylor & Francis,our agents, and our licensors make no representations or warranties whatsoever as tothe accuracy, completeness, or suitability for any purpose of the Content. Any opinionsand views expressed in this publication are the opinions and views of the authors,and are not the views of or endorsed by Taylor & Francis. The accuracy of the Contentshould not be relied upon and should be independently verified with primary sourcesof information. Taylor and Francis shall not be liable for any losses, actions, claims,proceedings, demands, costs, expenses, damages, and other liabilities whatsoever orhowsoever caused arising directly or indirectly in connection with, in relation to or arisingout of the use of the Content.This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Anysubstantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing,systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. Terms &Conditions of access and use can be found at http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/loi/ualj20http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showCitFormats?doi=10.1080/00049670.1997.10755798http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00049670.1997.10755798http://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionshttp://www.tandfonline.com/page/terms-and-conditionsHow soon is now? Current developments and future p~ibilities for libraries and librarians: a library technicians view Justin Hyde As Australia pushes forth into the 'information age', libraries and librarians are faced with the prospect of increasing technology, a trend towards extreme budget-consciousness and an increasing degree of self-funding. Where will this leave the library of the future? There are many opposing views of what lies ahead for libraries and librarians but they will certainly be confronted with the concept of the 'information economy', perhaps adopting a user-pays approach to service in addition to the issues of resource-sharing and outsourcing. Technology brings with it the challenges of learning new skills especially in acquisition and collection development; it also invokes the concept of virtual versus actual library environments. Can libraries survive these fundamental changes to their operation? Will they cease to exist or like the phoenix rise to new heights in the face of these challenges? This brief paper attempts an overview of opposing opinions on current developments for libraries in an attempt to profile the library of the future; it will also consider the repercussions for professional bodies associated with the profession. Manuscript received April 1996 I r 1s IMPORrANT for librarians in Australia to predict future trends and directions in their practice for a number of reasons; not least of these is to be able to provide advice to governments regarding policies appropriate to the library of the future (Cetron et al 1994 p48). Another is to allow the profession and its professional associations to adopt suitable professional development programs and to advise univer-sities on curricula (p51). The future physical environment of libraries is a much debated topic. Some writers suggest that the librarian of the future will be 'working within user organi-THE AUSTRALIAN LIBRARY ]OURNAL MAY 1997 181 Downloaded by [Van Pelt and Opie Library] at 23:03 19 October 2014 Some writers suggest that the librarian of the future will be 'working within user organisations rather than libraries'. 182 How soon is now? sations rather than libraries' (Ochai 1984 cited in Drabenstott 1993 pl 49); another similar suggestion is that the location of the librarys collection will be irrelevant to the place of practice of the librarian as the collection will be available via electronic means (Horny 1987 cited in Drabenstott 1993 p 150). An opposing view, that librar-ies of the future will contain printed materials which 'do not necessarily require online access' is expressed ( Cetron p48); this view would suggest that the librarian of the future would remain in close physical proximity to the information she needs to access (Alcock 1996 p7). This is pertinent to professional associations in their capacity to monitor professional standards within librarianship. Iflibrarians are not working within a physical library and are instead self-employed, operating from home in a virtual environment, it will be difficult for a professional body to impose such requirements as the holding of tertiary qualifications or to enforce codes of conduct. The likelihood of a library being entirely 'bookless' is slim, according to the literature reviewed for this paper. However there is a huge disparity in predictions of the ratio of co-existence between print and electronic media in the library of the future. Messing suggests that although 'there is no theoretical reason why the li-brary can not contain only non-print [that is virtual) media' books will continue to be the prevalent item within a librarys collection (1992 p232). Other writers such as Crook put forward the view that although large institutional libraries whose role it is to 'preserve the documentary heritage' will continue to be repositories of large amounts of print material, other smaller special libraries are likely to rely exclu-sively on electronic media to meet the needs of their clients (1994 p37). The role of the librarian is brought into question as new technology is intro-duced into the library. Alcock suggests that as a profession, librarians have consist-ently been early adopters of new technology. She proposes that librarians in Aus-tralia already see themselves as 'information professionals' and that their role will continue to develop away from the traditional image of librarians into one of'infor-mation consultants' (Alcock 1996 p8). Cetron and colleagues (p49) have a differ-ent view of the future role of the librarian; they see the librarian narrowing and specialising rather than diversifying her skills. The suggestion is made that librar-ians will provide strategic information to corporations according to their specialisa-tion and they predict that because of the growth in databases, librarians will need to focus on particular subject areas in order to be effective at their jobs (Cetron p50). They also state that the 'information specialists' of tomorrow will design as well as search databases; that professional associations will be affected by this subject speciali-sation and they predict that membership of special libraries sections of professional associations could increase 'by a factor of five' (p5 l). Financial restructuring and the expanding application of a free market economy to the library of the future are controversial topics. Suggestions that funding cuts will lead to economic rationalism within libraries, with the adoption of a user-pays approach to service are both postulated and disputed by librarians and information professionals (Kirby 1992 pl 74). The suggestion that users should be made to pay for the information they require both in public and commercial library contexts raises the issue of access. According to Lynden (cited in Lee 1994 pl9) 'the essence MAY 1997 THE AUSTRALIAN LIBRARY JOURNAL Downloaded by [Van Pelt and Opie Library] at 23:03 19 October 2014 How soon is now? of librarianship is access, that is, making information and knowledge available to the user'. Lyndens opinion would suggest that making information a commodity and having the user buy it would be putting the commercial interests of the librarys 'owners' or administrators before those of the users, to whom librarians supposedly owe their primary allegiance. Or do they owe it to their superiors? Kirby states that ALI.A5 view of the situation is that access to information is a social justice issue and that Australia must have policies reinforcing the concept of equity of access (p 176). In order for Australia to have such policies, professional bodies must state their position and continue to lobby for such policies; they must take into consideration all of their members' sometimes conflicting circumstances and opinions in both the public and private sectors when making these decisions. Other options open to libraries to combat increasing costs and decreased fund-ing include outsourcing and supplementing their budgets with fees received via document delivery services (Lynden 1994 p24). Lynden predicts that in the future libraries will be outsourcing 'some of their major functions' such as cataloguing and current awareness services. He suggests that this will improve and expedite the functions formerly carried out by library staff. Nicholson (1994 p92) expresses a similar view; however, she also suggests that outsourcing may have negative effects, some of which include job loss, the security of information and an erosion of qual-ity service. Document delivery is another problematic area for libraries of the future; not only might it generate additional revenue for libraries but it also relies on increased access to other often remote collections. If this resource sharing is reciprocal, then according to Steele it allows 'other users/libraries ... to rely on these ... virtual librar-ies' (1992 p346). A problem with this is that libraries may forsake their own collec-tion development in favour of investing in the technology needed to facilitate docu-ment delivery services. Simpson recognises that in order to overcome the problem of inadequate collection development, there must exist further coordination of 'ac-quisitions among groups of libraries to insure ... the broadest possible range of col-lection resources' (cited in Lee 1994, pl02). It may be that libraries will require a central facility such as the Distributed National Collection (DNC) to oversee this problem of collection development. Decreased funding is seen by many as a problem for the library of the future. However, Cetron et al (1994) suggest the opposite [at least in respect to special libraries) by expressing the view that because information is becoming necessary for commercial success, companies will channel more money and time into 'find-ing and managing' it (p49). As can be seen by this brief overview of the challenges and opportunities facing tomorrow's libraries, it is difficult to draw neat and precise conclusions. It is obvi-ous however, that the library of the future will be shaped by new technologies and economic considerations. The role of the librarian will be more politicised in the face of issues such as access, equity, collection development and information commoditisation; her working environment may change from the physical to the virtual and she will need to master electronic information in order to keep pace and provide the best possible information choices to her clients. The professional asso-THE AUSTRALIAN LIBRARY JOURNAL MAY 1997 183 Downloaded by [Van Pelt and Opie Library] at 23:03 19 October 2014 184 How soon is now? ciations will also need to be adaptable and open to the changes which libraries will undergo. It is important to remember however, that despite the predicted revolu-tion, the function of the library always has been and will always be information provision regardless of its form or method of delivery. References Alcock C (1996), 'Libraries on the information superhighway: the Australian expe-rience' in Proceedings of the 18th Annual Pacific Telecommunications Confer-ence, Honolulu, 14-18 January. Broadband Services Expert Group (1994) Networking Australia's Future: Final Report of the Broadband Services Expert Group December 1994. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra. Cetron Mand 0 Davies (1994), Mastering Information in the New Century. Special Libraries Association, Washington. Cooper S (1995), Taking it to the limit: Empowering the End-User, http://online.anu.edu. Crook A ( 1994), Technology futures: opportunities and threats in Public libraries: Trading in Futures, Proceedings of the 1st National Public Libraries Conference, Melbourne, 1-3 February. Davies A (1995), 'Vision for the broad picture', Sydney Morning Herald, 4 February p42. Drabenstott K (1993), Analytical Review of the Library of the Future. Council on Li-brary Resources, Washington. Gloster A (1996), Multimedia and asynchronous learning: the delivery of educa-tion and training, utilizing the digital library in Proceedings of the 18th Annual Pacific Telecommunications Conference, Honolulu, 14-18January. Heron Linda (1995), Superhighway or Traffic jam? The Dilemma Facing Libraries in the Information Age, http://online.anu.edu Houghton], M Pucar &: C Knox (1996), Mapping the Information Industries: Staff Information Paper [Productivity Commission] Australian Government Publish-ing Service, Canberra. Kirby Bev (1992), The library at the end of the world' in Libraries: The Heart of the Matter, Proceedings of the ALIA Biennial Conference. Klobasj (1995), But Is It Useful? What Users Can Tell Us About the Future of Informa-tion on Demand, http://online.anu.edu Lee, Sul (ed) (1994), Access, Ownership and Resource Sharing. The Haworth Press Incorporated, Binghamton. Michalko, James (1992), 'Disappointing delusions and exciting realities' in Librar-ies: The Heart of the Matter, Proceedings of the ALIA Biennial Conference. Nicholson F (1994), 'Outsourcing: International developments and issues for li-brarians' in Public Libraries: Trading in Futures, Proceedings of the 1st National Public Libraries Conference, Melbourne, 1-3 February. O'Brien G (1995), 'Medium not the message for librarian' Sydney Morning Herald, 10 March p6. MAY 1997 THE AUSTRALIAN LIBRARY )OURNAL Downloaded by [Van Pelt and Opie Library] at 23:03 19 October 2014 How soon is now? Steele C (1992), 'Electronic access services: the impact of changes in information provi-sion' in Libraries: The Heart of the Matter; Proceedings of the ALIA Biennial Conference. Steele C (1992), The paperless office, the bookless library and other computing myths' in Ubraries: The Heart of the Matter; Proceedings of the ALIA Biennial Conference. Wainwright E (1989), 'Future information services in Australia: After the library summit and CSIRO' in Information Online 89, Proceedings of the Fourth Australa-sian Online Information Conference and Exhibition, Sydney, 17-19 January. Justine Hyde is employed as Library Technician with Clayton Utz Solicitors, Sydney office and is currently undertaking a Bachelor of Applied Science (Information) part-time at the University of Technology, Sydney. She believes that the embracing of technology will reap great rewards for librarians and totally rejects the assertion that libraries face a grim future. THE AUSTRALIAN LIBRARY JOURNAL MAY 1997 185 Downloaded by [Van Pelt and Opie Library] at 23:03 19 October 2014