As information evolves, so do libraries.  The professionals who collect, organize, and make that information remain the constant in that change.  Don’t get me wrong, I am most definitely not stating that librarians have not changed.  I am saying that the desire to make sure that information that should be collected, and in some instances maybe should not be, is available.

For some, preserving information created through social media may seem futile or impossible. For the librarians of the future, preserving this information is essential.

In How Young Librarians Are Figuring Out the Field’s Future we get some insights about the librarians who tackle big data and collect the new medium of current movements.  The roles of the information professional continue to expand, change, and alter based upon the needs of users, the perception of what is valued by community, and the capabilities created by technology.

Jarrett Drake tackles ‘born digital’ data with “FRED”.

FRED is “Forensic Recovery of Evidence Device. It looks like a big server with a dozen ports on the front.  Beside the machine, Drake keeps a stack of cables, FireWires and USB cords to upload documents from just about any kind of computer.”

In this same article we learn about a human rights archivist.  Preserving information that is generated by current social movements such as Black Lives Matter is an essential element of the evolving library.

Being the doubter that I am, I need to be convinced that preserving social media content is worth the effort. A few thoughts provide a bit of perspective.

Social media is certainly a rich resource for competitive intelligence and background research about individuals and even corporate brands.  However, collecting “all” social media may not be “best”.  That is where the role of an information professional is essential – curating and collecting the content that has the best value helps minimize the preservation of garbage.

The value of information and the services required to make that information available can be difficult to measure.  Librarians continue to seek ways to demonstrate the value of the intangible assets.

The article discusses how the Cincinnati Public Library took a step back and evaluated whether the library was fulfilling it’s “fiduciary responsibility” to the community.  While I applaud that evaluation, I would argue that the value definition is more complex that surveying the community’s satisfaction.  Alignment with stakeholder goals and initiatives, in the public library environment is essential.  Community satisfaction is an element, but it is does not measure the full value of the institution.  More effort to measure and communicate the importance of  libraries is required than some may realize.

The stories in this article illustrate that the future of libraries is a constant evolution.  The library of the future will not be transformed by revolution.  It will shift, alter and adapt with the needs of the users, the advances of technology, and the value perception of information services.

Constance Ard
March 22, 2016