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Create a new perception of our profession.

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This summary article (Wiley.com) written by Lluis Anglada, Director of the Department of Libraries, Information and Documentation of the Consortium of University Services of Catalonia (CSUC), of his paper, Are Libraries Sustainable In World Of Free, Networked, Digital Information? gives us the straight goods about the future of libraries and a formula (yes, a mathematical formula!) to help us find our way into our future as viable libraries.

Screenshot AmstrdmPLAre Libraries Sustainable In World Of Free, Networked, Digital Information? and available open access here  talks "...about the sustainability of libraries in a world where information is increasingly digital, networked, and free, based on a speech he gave at the 22nd Bobcatsss conference in Barcelona, January 21-24 2014."

He proposes that "the same stages and library events have taken place in all countries and in all library types, but not at the same time. Therefore, the different phases that libraries passed through to become automated are similar in each country, but they occurred in different years (Anglada , 2006)." And "a division of the recent history of libraries  (can be organised) into three major phases over the past 50 years."

Mechanization, a period characterized by the construction of new buildings and mechanization of processes; Automation, in which networks of libraries were created, OPAC was introduced and union catalogues were created; and Digitization, in which electronic journals and books appeared and documents stored in libraries have been digitized (Buckland, 1992)

Here is a portion of his discourse on the third phase:

"During the Digitization phase, however, despite librarians’ ability to adapt (both in terms of their Perceptions of librariesown roles and how the library space is used), the speed of change has been so great that dysfunctions (defined as the difference between expectations and realities) have continued to increase. For example, duplication in catalogs as a result of one book being catalogued more than once; the ‘Googlization’ of information, while library catalogues – once so innovative – have failed to keep up with; and the failure of libraries to sufficiently adapt their services to meet users’ changing expectations. As a result, applying the formula to the Digitized library shows a clear downward trend in terms of its sustainability."

It continues:

"Basically, libraries are suffering from the fact that the public perception of them remains attached to the printed book, which – with the advent of the Internet and digitization of information – is no longer valued as much as it was. Among other things, this has led to the steady decline in library budgets – both in real terms and as a proportion of the overall university budget. Some classic library services are also experiencing significant declines – loan transactions, reference inquiries, and displacement of the starting point for literature searches from the library catalogue to and A&I service or the internet, for example."

and concludes:

"We need to establish a new stereotype of ‘library’ in people’s minds, one that is not based on physical elements – buildings and books – but on the role of providing support and assistance in the difficult process of using information and transforming it into knowledge.

The creation of this new perception must be performed by the current generation of young librarians – “those who are inheriting renovated libraries but also a mental image that is associated with becoming less powerful for society. This is the challenge and responsibility for young librarians: to create a new perception of our profession.”