Three Library Predictions for 2012

After covering the lessons learned in 2011, I want to look ahead to 2012. In considering current trends and trying to read the library tea leaves, I opted for just a few predictions for the upcoming year. In addition, I’ve rated them in the likelihood they are to occur.

#1: Here Come The Embargoes!

Publishers and other content creators are looking for ways to push people towards their revenue streams (namely, to buy the book or movie). In their estimations, the only way to do this is to have later release dates for books and movies for libraries. Penguin Group has removed its newest content from the digital library shelves (with the idea of adding them back in at a later date) and Warner Brothers is delaying releases to libraries for four weeks. Given the relatively minor ripples of reaction to these moves compared to the HarperCollin’s limited 26 checkouts shitstorm, my hunch is that publishers will move towards holding back digital editions for a few weeks in order to (in their thinking) push people towards buying the book. None of the Big Six publishers have pursued a limited checkouts idea and that move is coming up on its one year anniversary. But, in holding back content for a few weeks, it will skirt the issue. Sure, libraries will get it a little later than everyone else, but they’ll still get it.

(Of course, far be it from me to point out that one of the things that really moves sales is a quality product (when it comes to movies) or getting people to talk about authors and their latest releases (when it comes to books). I guess we can use our free marketing and shelf space for other things.)

Likeihood: 80%

#2: A Shift to Community over Collection

While some of this is based on content being under siege from the previous prediction, I feel that it will be an impetus to revamp the form and function of the library. While it will not be the bookless library of the Cushing Academy, the shift of a physical reference collection to digital combined, the expansion of digital collections (think backlist), and pressures to demonstrate greater value to the community will take the libraries being constructed now and those being renovated to eliminate shelf space in favor of other space use. Digital creation labs, community use rooms, or even just an expansion of seating and reading areas are just a few ways that the library will be finding new uses for their current spaces.

To repeat myself, I don’t think libraries will be eliminating the physical collection. I do believe that the expansion of ereaders (one in six people and growing) compared with already existing space considerations will put less physical objects on our shelves. In doing so, it will means that there will be more space for other activities and purposes.

Likelihood: 50%

#3: Overdrive gets competition

I’m mildly shocked that they didn’t get direct competition last year, but I think this year could see a viable competitor to Overdrive. Although, given the beating Overdrive took with the HarperCollins business and Amazon just about eating their lunch when it came to the Kindle lending program, I’m not too sure how eager anyone would want to be to step into the ring. However, if they can provide greater assurances for content security to the Big Six than Overdrive, than it eat Overdrive alive.

This is, of course, if publishers don’t withdraw into their intellectual property fortresses and stop library lending altogether.

Likelihood: 25%

In looking in my crystal ball this year, I didn’t have anything that really stood out. I think some things will stay the same (library association members running for office will offer platitudes how awesome libraries are and how they’d love to be their president without contrasting themselves with their opponents, people complaining about ALA and lack of jobs, and a whole lot of time will be wasted in committees, workgroups, and task forces while social politics trumps their efforts). It’s this lack of other trends that makes for few predictions when composing a list for this year.

In taking a quick look as to how I did last year, I made seven predictions. I’d say I got one right (there are more paywalls to content. Thanks NYT!) and the rest were just “I’m sure it sounded good at the time, but what the hell was I thinking?” Otherwise, I recall something I read earlier last year about how predictions of pundits tend to be worse than average. It seems their ideology tends to get in the way. In keeping this in mind, I’m going to get out of the way.

Any predictions you’d like to share for 2012?

7 Library Predictions for 2011

In no particular order, here are my predictions for 2011.

  • More public and school libraries will close. Academic libraries will be scaled back.

For the first sentence, it’s a money/political will issue. For the second sentence, it is colleges and universities attempting to cut costs. I’d like to start off on a happier note, but I’m afraid I cannot.

  • There will be more paywalls to content.

As business tries to capitalize on the web, there will be more incentive to either demand a subscription or pay a la carte for content (either by the article, the issue, or a combination of both). Libraries will be forced retune their budgets in order to continue content delivery.

  • There will be an ereader company that will work with libraries.

Perhaps more of a product of wishful thinking, but I’d like to imagine that one of these companies figures out that there is money in this end of the government sector. I realize there is a matter of working with publishers on this one, but getting the devices on board is a key element.

  • There will be a copyright reckoning.

The DMCA is in dire need of updating. With the rise of ebooks, there is an excellent chance to makes changes that move the pendulum back from licensing and towards ownership. There is a lot at stake here.

  • There will be a philosophical shakeup in the profession.

Personally, I think the shakeup would be in how librarians treat each other. Part of the reason I wrote the Big Tent Librarianship article is that there are times when I don’t feel that profession is moving as one big team. It’s factional and fractious at a time when it really needs to come together. So, that’s my hope.

  • The libraries that start new construction this year will be based more around spaces and services rather than the collection itself.

I believe in the mindset that there will be a move to digital for the things that make sense, keeping physical material where needed or desired by patrons, and the rest will be able making a place for people to convene. The Great Good Place will be about the community space and not about the collection space.

  • Despite everything, it will still be a good year to be a librarian.

It may be the optimist in me, but the technology will continue to get better. People will still call upon the profession for assistance of all kinds. Communication and cooperation will mean that more information will be available to the average person than any other time in history. The continued sluggish economy will mean that internet access will be an essential part of our services. There will be bright spots to the profession.

Here’s to a better 2011!