We’re all living through very convulsive times, with rapidly changing influences and trends impacting every aspect of our lives. The world of public libraries is no different.
These trends and external forces are not all negative however, some provide fantastic opportunities to improve the service that is offered to patrons of libraries and their communities. Below are some of the issues and trends facing the world of public libraries.
Budgets are always tight; everyone needs to deliver more and spend less – and sadly it doesn’t look like this will change any time. The growing economic hardship faced by many families could be a driving force for library memberships as more people are relying on a cost-effective way to educate and entertain themselves. This doesn’t necessarily help when library budgets are being slashed but it really does emphasize the importance that libraries play in their communities, and why they must be protected.
It’s not all doom and gloom however, whilst nothing can truly replace librarians and their skills technology can help with some of the heavy lifting. Embracing technology that allows for more efficient management of collections, along with enhanced team working, allows library management to use a reduced or otherwise overworked staff more effectively reducing the risk of burnout.
Social change can be a struggle, as our views on what is and is not acceptable can change over time as we adapt. As keystones of their community, and often a reflection of those community values, it is extremely important for libraries to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to serving the needs of their patrons.
For many the recent years have forced self-reflection on our history and how it impacts the world we live in today, and how it has affected certain communities more so than others. To this end there has been a growing focus on ensuring a diverse and reflective collection is presented at libraries to encourage greater understanding and growth for all members of the community. Furthermore, the importance in honest representation cannot be overstated. It’s extremely important for everyone, particularly young children who are growing and developing, to see themselves represented in media and in a variety of roles.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has had a huge and lasting impact on our society, how we learn play and work have all changed. Many offices who encouraged staff to work from home at the height of the pandemic have adopted this a long-term strategy – realizing the money that can be saved on downsizing offices and giving staff a more positive work life balance. However, not everyone who works from ‘home’ has a dedicated workspace, and some libraries are capitalizing on this change in society. Work pods or even shared social workspaces are cropping up in public libraries as a solution to our changing commercial world. Once again libraries are keystones in our community.
With the rising price of energy many families are looking for wallet friendly ways to keep warm and get out of house so they don’t have to run the costs of heating it. Some libraries have discussed becoming ‘warm refuges’ for those who need it in the coming months. Libraries in Greenwich, London, have already spent £28,000 on new seating and other furniture so people can use their warm areas.
Long gone are the days where libraries are simply a repository of books, and the written word. Now you can rent anything from a jackhammer to a DLSR camera (or even a ghost hunting kit!). This opens the world up to those who may need a certain item for a task, or are interested in trying out a new hobby, but don’t have the financial means to commit to it at first.
The need to be more environmentally responsible has been an ongoing call for many years and has only grown more important. Indeed, the entire theme of last year’s COP26 conference was sustainability. This impacts libraries and their patrons as well.
We must all learn to do more with less resources, ensuring a minimal amount of waste is created and that when it is unavoidable it is done so in the most environmentally friendly way. Again, the use of technology can assist with this. The growing prevalence of eBooks and audiobooks helps reduce the sheer amount of paper that is required, and if these are powered by the growing number of renewable power sources then all the better.
Smart use of technology can also reduce inefficiencies in the ordering, delivering, and storing process, again reducing waste and the impact on the environment. If you can predict trends and get ahead of them without committing resources to unusable media, then you will end up with significantly less wasted space within the library itself (as well as fewer deliveries and pickups by fossil fuel reliant vehicles).
What trends do you feel are going to impact the library world, and how do we make the most of them for ourselves and for our communities?
If you’re interested in learning how the intelligent application of technology can help streamline your collection management, saving you time, money and improving performance then please contact us. We also offer technical solutions to help you ensure you are serving all members of your community fairly, through our diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) tools.