One of the scariest challenges we face as librarians is staying relevant. As information goes increasingly digital, the industry has had to rethink what a librarian does and what role the library fills. No longer a repository of knowledge, the library doesn’t even need a physical building to serve patrons, or so we’ve learned from Digital Public Library of America. And librarians are no longer just here to shelve books and shush patrons (though, some have argued for the comeback of the “shhh”).
The truth remains: Librarians and libraries need to evolve. But what are we going to evolve into? That’s the question. We’ve already seen the power of collaboration between librarians and technology with the DPLA, but that’s not the only example of librarians redefining the role of library. The next example I’ve found is at the British Library. From partnering with Google to digitize their books, to working with Brightsolid to digitize out-of-print newspapers, the British is working speedily to bring the institution into the digital age.
As Roly Keating, CEO of the British Library, told The Guardian, “The British Library sits at the intersection of many different industries. New ways of thinking are sparked by different industries coming together, by people from a broadcast background seeing the opportunity in digitised historic artefacts or people from a business background finding deep sources of information.”
The future of libraries lies in collaboration, and not just with our fellow librarians. Keeping libraries relevant will mean serving patrons in new and innovative ways. And we can only innovate when we breathe new life into the industry by working with leaders in other industries.