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Reflecting on the Future of Academic and Public Libraries



Academic and public libraries are much different today than they were even 15 years ago. And with even bigger changes on the horizon, what lies in store? In this systematic attempt to speak to academic and public librarians about the future of library services, Hernon and Matthews invite a raft of contributors to step back and envision the type of future library that will generate excitement and enthusiasm among users and stakeholders. Anyone interested in the future of libraries, especially library managers, will be engaged and stimulated as the contributors:

  • Examine the current state of the library, summarizing existing literature on the topic to sketch in historical background
  • Project into the future, using SWOT analysis, environmental scans, and other techniques to posit how library infrastructure (such as staff, collections, technology, and facilities) can adapt in the decades ahead
  • Construct potential scenarios that library leaders can use to forge paths for their own institutions.

The collection of knowledge and practical wisdom in this book will help academic and public libraries find ways to honour their missions while planning for the broader institutional changes already underway.
Readership: Library managers, academic and public librarians, LIS students and academics and anyone interested in the future of libraries.

1. Change—major to minor

  • Fundamental Change
  • Some Important Trends
  • Creating the Library Compass
  • Concluding Thoughts

2. Building a path to the future

  • Environmental Scanning Reports
  • Concluding Thoughts

3. Transforming the future

  • Impetus
  • Identifying Trends
  • Building Scenarios
  • Transformation
  • Concluding Thoughts

4. Related literature

  • Scenario Planning
  • Some Key Writings
  • Use of Scenarios in General
  • Writings Relevant to Academic Libraries
  • Writings Relevant to Public Libraries
  • Concluding Thoughts

5. Future views of academic libraries

  • Higher Education
  • Trends in Academic Libraries
  • Unfamiliarity with Libraries and the Role of Librarians
  • Exploring the Use of Different Scenarios
  • Six Academic Library Scenarios
  • Extending the Scenarios beyond Fifteen Years
  • Concluding Thoughts

6. Perspectives on trends and scenarios: academic libraries

  • Scholarly Communication and Liberal Arts College Libraries - Richard Fyffe
  • Scholarly Communication and the Role of the Liberal Arts College Library - Diane J. Graves
  • Toward Building an Embedded Academic Library: The Case of Shaping Drexel University
  • Libraries Spaces - Danuta A. Nitecki
  • Revisiting the Scenarios through Space Planning - Robert E. Dugan
  • Concluding Thoughts

7. Future views of public libraries

  • Public Library Association Planning Process
  • Scenarios and Public Libraries
  • Out-of-the-Box Thinking
  • Concluding Thoughts

8. Perspectives on trends and scenarios: public libraries

  • Scenario One: The "Status Quo" Library
  • Scenario Two: The Community "Living Room"
  • Scenario Three: The "Electronic" Library
  • Scenario Four: The "Happening Place" Library
  • Comments on the Scenarios

9. Preparing for the future: some final thoughts

  • Leadership
  • Staff Abilities for the Present and Future
  • Currents in Scenario Development
  • Privatizing Libraries
  • Libraries Merely Trying to Keep Up
  • Revisiting Space Planning
  • Issues of Importance to the Broader Organization
  • Concept of Scenarios Revisited
  • Concluding Thoughts

Appendix A: The Use of Scenarios in the Pierce County Library System - Neel Parikh
Appendix B: The Anythink Revolution - Pam Sandlian-Smith

Peter Hernon is a professor at Simmons College, Graduate School of Library and Information Science, Boston, and the principal faculty member for the doctoral program Managerial Leadership in the Information Professions. He received his PhD degree from Indiana University, Bloomington, is the 2008 recipient of the ACRL's Academic/Research Librarian of the Year award, is the coeditor of Library & Information Science Research, and has taught, conducted workshops, and delivered addresses internationally. He is the author or coauthor of fifty-two books, including Assessing Service Quality and Viewing Library Metrics from Different Perspectives.
Joseph R. Matthews is a consultant specializing in strategic planning, assessment, evaluation of library services, customer service, use of performance measures, and the balanced scorecard. He was an instructor at the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. He is author of The Customer-Focused Library, The Evaluation and Measurement of Library Services, Scorecards for Results, Strategic Planning and Management for Managers, and Measuring for Results, and the coauthor (with Peter Hernon) of Listening to the Customer, among other books.

This book is a great resource for library managers and for students of librarianship. The Internet really has changed everything. Google, Google Scholar and Wikipedia have changed peoples expectations about where information can be found along with their ability to find it for themselves. Facebook and Twitter are also self-help and have fundamentally altered the flow of information between people, especially young people. With libraries out of the loop, the survival of our species requires that we change them, restore their relevance and put them back in. This book is a handbook for that task; a hitchhikers guide to our galaxy. As a bonus, there is an 18-page double-column comprehensive index to ensure that the content of Reflecting on the Future will not be lost to the past. Hernon and Matthews have made a major practical and readable contribution to the literature of contemporary librarianship. This is a must-read for contemporary librarians.

Australian Library Journal

I recommend this book for those people who make the decisions in all libraries because advances in automation and the information age are coming to all of us whether we like it or not.


Hernon and Matthews are quick to point out that these scenarios are not exhaustive and may or may not be applicable to one's own library. What is continually emphasised is that failure to consider and prepare for the future of the library will result in library closures. Though focused on academic and public libraries, the argument could easily be adapted for special and school libraries. As such it is almost mandatory reading for any librarian who wants to ensure the survival of her library, be it an academic, public, special or school library.

Australian Academic & Research Libraries

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