As our textbook states “The history of libraries is a story of technology”, from the way manuscripts were created by scribes to printing presses, organization and indexing to personal computers and accessible systems for staff and patrons the technology in libraries is the basis for growth in the field. Allowing for flexible environments based on the current technology needs of users (wifi, electronic periodicals, pcs, etc.) allows libraries to continue to stay relevant even when people say “books are dying”. This focus on adaptability and staying on the edge of emerging technology while focusing on user needs is the basis of many leaders in the field.
Ranganathan is considered the father of library science in India and formulated the five laws of library science. These five laws, written in the 1930’s are seemingly simple, but they are still relevant to this day. Many of the laws consider the growing technology of the library and focus on the user.
-This link provides a quick recap of the rules.
Focusing on user needs, how to easily access these materials and how to grow a library with technology that makes things simpler, not more difficult for the user are the primary goals of library staff. Focusing on the future and what technology to implement versus what technology to avoid is an important aspect to look at among the rules. The rules warn against obtaining popular technology that actually takes more staff time and wastes patron time because it is so complicated or difficult to learn. Utilizing technology and automation in smart ways that save staff time in turn helps save patron time. This type of automation can be seen successfully helping users with automation in circulation functions and the acquisitions department where the workflow informs how quickly (or not) the patron can access an item. Acquisitions greatly benefits from technology advances that reduces workflow redundancies and duplicate work. The ILS that communicates well with vendors can get materials approved, ordered, shipped, cataloged and on the shelf much more quickly allowing access for patrons more quickly than ever before.
Accessibility is a huge issue for libraries, as the Digital Public Library YouTube video states the financial investment required to acquire access to online periodicals is growing rapidly at about 4x the rate of inflation. Libraries must get creative with budgeting and fundraising to help bridge the gap to allow access for patrons to these materials. Acquisitions needs to look at redundancies in access across databases and data from systems to determine what users are actually accessing and using. Staff must help educate patrons on how to access materials and if they have remote access marketing must highlight this. The Digital Public Library is an online collective that creates an open, all access library for all with 100% digital materials. Resources like this one help promote the relevancy of the library in a digital and Google age.
Libraries currently offer users what Google and the internet cannot, people to help, access to a computer and wifi and trained search strategies. What happens when the services and resources available digitally match this? The textbook discusses the Googlezon phenomenon where Amazon and Google team together to form a conglomerate that focuses on individualized news, information and events just for you.
Science fiction or library science fact? I agree with this model in a user focused information model. Buy what users want and actually use. I personally think users will always have a need for assistance. Does this have to be in person assistance? Probably not. As users become more and more comfortable with computers there are so many ways to connect with users without actually having to see them in person. Assisting with the access and retrieval of resources whether these materials are owned by the library or part of an open database or website will be something librarians will continue to be part of. With the rapid increase of information and a flood of free resources available to anyone with a computer and internet connection comes complications in searching for relevant information. A Google search may return hundreds of thousands of results, but are these what the user is looking for, do these give the user relevant information, are the sources accurate? These are skills librarians hold in their tool belt that can be difficult for an algorithm to recreate.
Focusing on purchases of technology and collections that match the user base and help keep the organization relevant in the community will continue to grow libraries. The five rules of library science by Ranganathan, while written over 80 years ago, still rings true today and can help us keep our focus on what matters: the patrons we serve (in person or virtually).