Academic libraries of the future

Introduction

The Libraries of the Future project was established to help those running academic libraries to plan for the future.

The project produced three scenarios which represent possible futures for higher education in the UK: the Wild West the Beehive, and the Walled Garden. These are not meant as predictions but as tools for academic libraries to use to review and hone their organisational strategies.  They provide an opportunity to consider how libraries can adapt to the major social, economic and technological changes in the environment for higher education which will be taking place in coming decades.

The project produced a series of resources available to all academic libraries, including a guide to the scenarios themselves and information on how to use them.

The project sponsors have also commissioned a series of case studies which will be published in Spring 2012. Views and comments on the project and associated resources are welcome and can be found here.

About the Project

The issue facing academic and research libraries today is what should their role be in the changing academic and technological landscape. Scenario planning allows such challenges to be addressed. It is a way of systematically dealing with uncertainty to inform long-term strategic decisions. The Academic Libraries of the Future project developed three scenarios which describe possible futures for teaching and research libraries in the UK. They take the economic, social and other pressures faced by the world today and create futures in which Higher Education (HE) and libraries have evolved in different directions. The scenarios are designed to help HE institutions and other organisations look at the challenges faced with a fresh focus and help them formulate strategies to ensure the sector continues to be a leading global force.

The scenarios are based on the contributions from a wide range of stakeholders at workshops held during 2010 and 2011 – librarians, institutional managers, funders, service providers, publishers and government. This site describes the scenarios and how to use them for strategic planning in your institution or across the library sector.

The terms ‘library’ and ‘librarian’ are used throughout. This is not intended to imply that libraries or librarians as we know them will continue to exist; rather these are a convenient shorthand for an organisation or individual that carries out all or any aspects of information/knowledge management, curation and preservation and information literacy training. Similarly, ‘librarianship’ is a convenient shorthand for all aspects of the skill sets required to be a good ‘librarian’. There can be no assumption that a library, librarians or librarianship will exist in the long-term in the same forms as today.

The scenarios were developed by the Academic Libraries of the Future (LotF) project which ran from September 2009 - November 2011. The project was sponsored by the British Library, JISC, the Research Information Network (RIN), Research Libraries UK (RLUK) and the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL).