Having set up my Personal Learning Network by subscribing to Google Reader blogs I am becoming more of the current issues that library and information professional are facing. There has been a lot of talk about the changing roles of both public and academic libraries. State funding has been cut in Californian public Libraries and circulation patterns are declining in academic libraries. The Free-range Librarian blogged about how the future role of the academic library is that of a sanctuary. Not as in a place that is eternally quite but somewhere that is steeped in the symbolism associated with libraries – where people feel safe reading, studying and doing research. This trend can be seen in UCD libraries where a very small percentage of the stock is in circulation and most people visit the library to study and write assignment. The future of the public library is seen as taking on the role of the 21st century community centre where people can gather and learn and be creative. So if this is the future of the academic and public library – as sanctuaries and community centres then there will not be a need for librarians and information professionals to work in these places as the job can just as easily be done by a none professionals. Of course the people who work in these future libraries will need to have many skills but they don’t necessarily have to be trained in information services. So what is the future for the trained librarian and information professional?
Well it seems that while the future of library buildings will move away from the traditional role of lending books the future of library services is another matter. With the introduction of e-books and journals a lot of library services have gone online. In fact the NLI virtual library visits now exceed actual visits and most of the information students need in academic libraries can now be found in virtual form. The people who run these online services will still need to have professional qualifications and will need to keep up to date with changing technology.
I’m really only starting to become familiar with the issues the profession faces and am finding subscribing to blogs to be a great way of keeping up to date. I keep hearing that in order for the profession to survive librarians themselves need to clearly express why the services they offer are so important but there are so many different kinds of librarians who work in different kinds of libraries and offer different services that they all seem to be affected by different issues. For an MLIS student like me with limited experience in a few areas of library work I’m not sure if it’s better to focus on a specific area of the information profession to become very knowledgeable about or to try to make my focus as general as possible considering the state of the current jobs market. Hopefully the next few classes and keeping up to date with my PLN will help me to see things more clearly!