Wehner, in his 2017 presentation at the Public Libraries Western Australia conference, centers on a quote from Nutter, the Director of North Carolina State University Libraries: “[I hope the library is] known as a place of excellence, and a place of passion, and ideas and vision. You can’t be in this building and not think that something is happening” (NCState, 2013, 7:40). Wehner notes that Nutter does not mention books or physical resources as a fundamental need for the library, and suggests instead that the content provision and sense of community is required to take libraries in to the future.
Digital technology is inescapable in today’s society, but that society is ageing to the point where the average age of a library borrower is 51, the demographic least likely to engage with a library is aged between 20-50, and life expectancy is currently at 80 year old (Wehner, 2017). This leaves thirty or so years until libraries become obsolete due to lack of necessity, or the patrons will otherwise be more knowledgeable in the digital medium than librarians, as younger generations have only ever know a world where technology is available anywhere and anytime (Wehner, 2017). The future, then, Wehner (2017) warns, needs to foster community growth through any medium available; 3D printers, VR goggles, coding clubs… and these are only for the immediate future, as new and better technologies are constantly evolving and libraries would be remiss not to be forerunners in the championing of any new technology.
Furthermore, information professionals should recognise and adapt to the changing way content is consumed. Free, or perceived low-cost streaming services are ‘winning the war’ (Wehner, 2017) in this regard, because individuals are able to consume from where they are rather than having to go to an external physical space such as a library. Wehner (2017) notes that this is the ‘new content paradigm’: more content, more cheaply, more quickly, whenever needed. Information professionals, as “curators, connectors, facilitators and teachers” (Wehner, 2017) should meet their patrons and design the interface of libraries of the future to be consumer focused. Consumers will not be visiting the library for content in the not-too-distant-future, but Wehner (2017) reminds us that books are just one of the many tools a library, and information professionals, have to offer, and that those tools help to create community, making the need for libraries something that surpasses generational change.
NCState. (2013, April 11). The Hunt Library story [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzL8MHbBtiY
Wehner, C. (2017, September 18). The future of the public library: from dusty tomes to disruptive technologies [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://bluetrainenterprises.com.au/blog/2017/09/18/future-public-library-disruptive-technologies/