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Magazines > Computers in Libraries > December 2012

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Vol. 32 No. 10 — December 2012
Taking Stock Before I Go
by Janet L. Balas

Taking Stock, the theme of this month’s issue, is quite appropriate both for a year-end issue and for me as I write my last column for Computers in Libraries magazine. At year’s end, we take a look back to see how far we have come while also looking ahead. My column debuted in the November 1987 issue of Small Computers in Libraries and discussed the commercial networks of the day: CompuServe, GEnie, and The Source. Through that first year, I wrote about these resources and others, including ALANET from ALA. The column appeared under the heading Telecommunications and received its current name, Online Treasures, in April 1995.

While it is a cliché to say that there have been many changes in libraries over the 25 years I have been writing this column, it is nonetheless true. I wrote my first column on an Apple IIc with a 300 baud modem. I am writing this column on my MacBook Air on a Wi-Fi network connected to the internet through fiber. My charge when I began my current job at the Monroeville Public Library was to bring automation to the library through the implementation of an ILS that used dumb terminals connected to a minicomputer. Now I am rolling out iPads for use by the public and exploring makerspaces in the library.

Pleasant as it is to reminisce, it is more exciting to look ahead, contemplating the possibilities of innovative services that librarians will be able to bring to library users. I have never felt comfortable predicting the future and would not consider myself a futurist. I have learned through researching for this column that futurists actually do not try to predict the future, but, in the words of Garry Golden from a talk at the Denver Public Library (, futurists try to “expand the notions of what could happen.”

As we try to anticipate the changes that will continue to come for librarians, let’s take stock of the insights of a few such futurists.

The Atlas of New Librarianship

R. David Lankes’ website encourages librarians to promote knowledge creation.

Many librarians will recognize the title of this book by R. David Lankes, director of the Information Institute of Syracuse and associate professor in Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies. In this book, Lankes describes his vision of librarianship that is no longer based on books but on knowledge, suggesting that libraries have a new mission: “to improve society through facilitating knowledge creation in their communities.”

R. David Lankes’ Website — This site is a companion to the book offering additional materials, extensions, and navigation tools to update the book’s content. There are also online videos, links, and activities to allow librarians to learn more and to offer their input in this participatory space.


Virtual Dave … Real Blog — This is Lankes’ own blog, featuring his thoughts and ideas with links to presentations, publications, and information on his projects and research.


Lankes on Vimeo— Videos of presentations by Lankes can be found in his channel on Vimeo. When I visited the site, there were 94 videos, with the most recent uploaded only a week earlier.


Book Buzz | ‘York County Libraries Hosts Futurist Garry Golden’

While Garry Golden does not devote his work solely to libraries and librarianship, he frequently speaks to librarians about how future trends might affect libraries across the nation. This article from the Book Buzz blog of the York Daily Record summarizes his September 2012 talk to York County Libraries, where he presented the idea that the trend in education to emphasize the individual learner will have a major impact on libraries. Learners will be looking to librarians to guide their learning by curating and filtering content.


The MNLFI website provides various visions of library futures.


Minnesota Libraries Futures Initiative: Envisioning the Library in 2025

This group, referred to as MNLFI, was formed in 2010 to provide a focused conversation on the future of libraries. Twenty-four Library Futurists were selected from 83 applicants, all between the ages of 25 and 35, the age range determined as “unique in its experience of the economic and political changes occurring during their young adulthood.” In May 2012, the project proposed by these futurists was approved by the MNLFI steering committee and was formally launched. The website with accompanying workshops and toolkits was launched in September 2012.


Janet L. Balas is library information systems specialist at Monroeville (Pa.) Public Library. Her email addresses are and She has written this column for Computers in Libraries magazine for 25 years.
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