Futures Thinking for Academic Libraries

Futures Thinking for Academic Libraries: Higher Education in 2025 by Staley and Malenfant tells of 26 possible scenarios that may impact academic libraries in the next 15 years. The scenarios include things like academic culture, demographics, distance education, funding, globalization, infrastructure/facilities, libraries, political climate, publishing industry, societal values, students/learning, and technology. The authors have examined the probability, impact, speed of change, and threat/opportunity potential of each scenario.

Of the 26 scenarios discussed, those with the highest impact and probability are:

  • Breaking the textbook monopoly. Most states will have passed legislation that requires textbook publishers to make textbooks affordable in the future.
  • Bridging the scholar/practitioner divide. Online publications, by scholarly societies in partnership with trade organizations and professional associations, are predicted to be open access and support robust community-based dialogue.
  • Everyone is a “non-traditional” student. The interwoven nature of work/life/school will be accepted in higher education as life spans increase and students are unable to fund tuition in one lump.
  • Increasing threat of cyberterrorism. University and library IT systems will be the targets of hackers, criminals, and rogue states, disrupting operations for days and weeks at a time.
  • The new freshman class will be more tech savvy than ever. With laptops in their hands since the age of 18-months old, students who are privileged socially and economically will be completely fluent in digital media.
  • School is right here with me. Students will “talk” through homework with their handheld devices, which issue alerts when passing a bookstore with material they need. Students locate study team members and hold impromptu meetings without needing study rooms.
  • Classes may have private business sponsorship. At for-profit institutions, education may be very disaggregated and very competitive.

Read the full article and see all that is said.

Read more on the value of academic libraries, by ACRL

Everyone is concerned for the future of libraries, academic, public, private, special. No one feels immune, the vast expansion of the digital era brings the future of the book and the library that houses it into question. Will the library survive the times or be the next steam locomotive?

Published by

Colleen Eggett

Colleen Eggett is the Library Resources Program Manager for the Utah State Library in Salt Lake City UT.