Libraries: the Future is Now

Libraries: the Future is Now

by Natalie Bright

Friends of the Cornette Library, WTA&M University, Fall Luncheon featured Gillian McCombs as the keynote speaker. McCombs is Dean and Director of Central University Libraries at Southern Methodist Unviersity in Dallas, soon to be home of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, making Texasthe only state with three presidential libraries.

Card Catalogs

She reminded us about libraries of old. Who remembers the card catalog, with hand-written reference notes on actual index cards? Times have certainly changed and as McCombs points out, “Librarians are doing so much more than saying Shh.”

“Librarians have always believed in open access, and Google certainly unlocked the store,” McCombs says. With an estimated 4.7 billion searches in any given day, we’re a part of a democratization of information. Everybody can contribute as writers and bloggers, and information is readily available. We have the unvalidated Wikipedia, book reviews on Amazon, and we see newspapers struggling to find the best method to deliver their content ‘now’.

The Physical Place

The question asked today is do we need physical libraries?  McCombs believes we do now more than ever. Even with information at our fingertips, students and communities still choose the library. “Think of the library as place,” says McCombs.  ” For most people, #1 place is home, #2 is work, and the library meets the need as #3. A place to go outside of work or home, similar to the coffee houses or pubs.” Cafes and gourmet coffee shops are appearing in libraries all across the country offering internet access and sponsoring community events making them an essential part of neighborhoods.

It’s a New Day

Southern Methodist University library offers mobile apps for students. Have a question? You don’t have to go downstairs and find the librarian. You can send a text.

SMU is also making great strides to digitize special collections making rare documents available on a world wide level. A few to mention is The Bridwell LibraryPerkins School of Theology, provides online digital resources related to theology and religious studies. Highlights include images of rare books, Bibles, manuscript codices and fragments. The Underwood Law Library, part of the Dedman School of Law, featuring an online archive of litigation pertaining to the desegregation of Dallas schools.

McCombs reminded us that kids today have not lived in a world without digital access, and to meet their needs many libraries will be conducting continual assessments of who they serve. I for one, am anxious to see how our libraries will evolve for the future.