For the past eight months I've given the same presentation eight times. It's called "Starting Now to Imagine the Public Library in 100 Years". I started it with the BC Library Conference 2011 and have been invited to present it to library Directors, library managers, Board Trustees, among others. I won't give away the whole thing, yet, because I'm presenting it one more time at the Canadian Library Conference 2012 in Ottawa.
But I can tell you that I lead the participants through a couple of exercises to try and put ourselves in a headspace to imagine the distant future and think about what our libraries would do for our communities then. At almost every one of these presentations someone declares that we will still have books because "people will always want books". Every time the say that I think, "oh dear, I haven't done my job well enough here".
I'm trying to get participants to put themselves in the mindset of the people in their community. In the distant future. It clearly doesn't work on some people. They can't seem to get their heads around it: We like books. Some of our patrons like books now. I just don't think we can count on any more than a tiny specialist minority of our citizens wanting books two generations from now. Why would they? Books exist because they are a convenient method to encapture printed text and two-dimensional still media, no? There's better ways of storing and displaying that stuff now. It's just that those ways aren't evenly distributed (to steal a line from William Gibson). They will be pretty soon. We have to get over our fixation and out of the books-are-our-comfort zone . Really soon.
Okay, that's enough ranting. And next time I give this presentation, I'll try to do better.