Preparing for the Worst
by Dick Kaser
As Jan Zastrow points out in her column this month, the future of libraries is not a singular idea. There are various futures that can be theorized. In this issue, we touch on a few scenarios.
Ben Johnson asks about the role of libraries going forward in protecting intellectual freedom and free speech—even hate speech—and discusses the need for librarians to maintain the public record for future generations,
noting that libraries may be the last bastions of open systems and information transparency.
Brendan Howley talks about storytelling and the importance of stories in understanding not just patron needs, but societal needs, community needs, and minority needs. Sure, you can gather data, but it’s storytelling that will most effectively drive your library’s future direction.
Terence Huwe’s column this month focuses on a future in which libraries are the keepers and defenders of special collections, preserving data and documents that others may not care about at any given moment but that could well come to humanity’s rescue at a future date.
Senovia Guevara takes us on a tour of the University of Michigan’s Shapiro Design Lab and reminds us that both today’s libraries and those of the future will involve innovative use of space and evolving user needs.
And wearing her hat as a futurist, Jan Zastrow lays out an alternate future—scary as it may seem—in which there is no electricity to run the computers, no internet, and no digital archives. And yet, in that hypothetical future, there’s still a role for libraries to play in preserving human heritage.
We are restrained by our page count in covering all possible futures. But most everyone who has written for this issue talks about collaboration as the force behind whatever future we find ourselves confronting.
Hoping for the best,
Dick Kaser, Executive Editor