What is the role of libraries in today’s world? Vital or irrelevant? These were the questions OCLC’s Roy Tennant attempted to answer. His major theme was that to survive in the digital library landscape, libraries must solve the problems their users have (and, I would presume, those who provide funding even if they’re not library users, although Roy didn’t specifically say so). He identified the main objectives of academic libraries in the digital world as preserving the parts of the web not in the Wayback machine and of public libraries as building community and providing access to materials that are a bit out of the ordinary. And what about special libraries? I thought Roy kind of blew off that group when he said they concentrate on ROI (return on investment). Instead of saying how special libraries could determine their ROI, he said “that’s your homework.” I’m guessing he doesn’t have an answer and I’m not completely surprised, since each special library would have to find an ROI metric compatible with its parent organization’s mission and goals.
He warned against having libraries too associated with books. We must look forward and become “a central parat of the new ecology.” Are libraries in imminent danger? It’s possible, but Roy warned us not to panic. Still, his conclusion that those who dislike change will dislike irrelevance even more indicated that librarians need to alter some of what they do so that they stay relevant might indeed lead to panic in some libraries.
Marydee Ojala, Editor, ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals