The future is bright and confusing all at the same time. Libraries are scrambling to deal with economic limitations and an ever-accelerating technologically driven world. Every decision made needs to be evaluated and weighted against the mission of the library. That mission will in some way focus on service to the community and providing access to information. As libraries advance, they will be required to do so in line with those ideals. In addition to maintaining these standards, libraries do not want to become irrelevant because they waited to see, how technology would change, instead of acting (Law 15). Action must be taken, but the decision is how and to what extent technology should change the methods and services of the library. A key part of the future of all libraries is the use of digital technology within the reference area.
Mitchell et al. reports that “Web services, broadly writ, will no longer be add-ons or peripheral services” (255). This is all well and good, but how does one choose a service, from the boundless available via the Internet and/or software world, that is both effective and efficient, in the future, so that patrons receive quality service. A librarian must look at both the present patronage and the future users, many of whom will grow up without a clue as to what life was like before the Internet.
There is a deep divide within the ranks of the present patrons of current libraries. While many contemporary users are technologically advanced enough to swiftly search Google for a subject or access library resources remotely, there is still a large segment of users that use the library because they do not possess a computers or the Internet. This digital divide must impact the role that libraries and by extension, librarians play. A library, in good conscience, cannot exclude either of these groups.
Meeting the needs of all the users requires librarians to balance their objectives. For those simply seeking resources, the librarians must be ready to help them in finding the desired information and, possibly more importantly, help those users learn how to find the resources on their own. Independent thinkers are a credit to a library/community. For those patrons who come to the library to employ the technological tools available, libraries must provide the means to help these individuals; this requires purchasing equipment that is useable and useful.
Because libraries are attempting to bridge the digital divide, librarians must be physically present, much as they have for the past centuries, as well as maintain a presence in the virtual world. A library no longer serves only those individuals that live locally, many global citizens also seek information using “local” libraries. These international users will become more prominent as technology removes the physical boundaries of the international society.
The future users of libraries will come with many expectations....