Magazine article Online

Library of the Future

Magazine article Online

Library of the Future

Article excerpt

industry insights

By and large, users prefer to use online sources to find their information, while a visit to the physical library is well down the list.

In the fall of 2002 we were deluged with client inquiries about "the library of the future." What would it look like? How would it evolve? What will become leading edge? Our analysts who work with, track, and analyze content deployment functions, including government, academic, and corporate libraries, put their heads together to debate and discuss what was on the horizon. Their views portend interesting change.

The first question that came up is what to do with physical collections and their role in the future. Digital versus print spending has steadily risen, and today digital makes up 52 percent of content purchases. Our research indicates steam behind this trend-with future content purchases estimated to be 58 percent digital.

All decisions about future libraries need to be in the context of what usersyour market-want and need. By and large, users prefer to use online sources to find their information, while a visit to the physical library is well down the list.


People conducting research go online first, and they're increasingly self-sufficient. Further, they are largely satisfied with this arrangement. When asked how they prefer to get information, information seekers express an overwhelming preference to look for it themselves. The next most popular way to get information is through regular updates ("alerts"). These are both mostly non-intermediated activities, although, in some cases, an intermediary may be involved in creating or assisting in the creation of alerts.

Self-seeking of information is not necessarily an online activity, but when examining that preference at a deeper level, those who exhibit this preference strongly favor online media. Over half (51 percent) begin their self-seeking activity on the open Internet, looking for free content there. The next most prevalent preference is to get information from their organization's intranet (35 percent). On the other hand, going to a physical library is only the fifth most common preference, chosen by only 3 percent. It becomes very clear that the information user preference is self-seeking via online tools available at the desktop.

To take this discussion a step further, information users also want their organizations' information resources to be directed at facilitating their own information-seeking rather than providing a physical library. When asked what they see as the most "information roles" for someone in their organizations to be filling, the top choices all have to do with enhancing users' own informationseeking abilities. Almost half (47 percent) say that "making information available at the desktop" is critical, while 32 percent stress "providing training and advice about searching and using information sources" is a key role. Help in locating experts on a particular subject and setting up alerts are the next most requested roles (24 percent and 23 percent, respectively). Managing a physical library ties for the fifth spot (with conducting intermediated research), cited by less than one-fifth (18 percent) of information users. In users' eyes, there are several activities that are more important than maintaining a physical library collection, and those priority activities do not require a physical library.


With regard to information users' preference for media when seeking information, again, the top choices are electronic/digital. Over two-thirds (67 percent) say they prefer to seek and receive information in an electronic format (Internet, intranet, e-mail, other electronic formats) or by telephone (14 percent). Only 10 percent say print is their preferred medium for seeking and receiving information. There is a shift to a print preference when information users are asked how they prefer to use the information once they have found it (over half-51 percent-express this preference), but in Outsells opinion, the desire to use information from the printed page will be satisfied by individuals printing it out from their own computer, rather than relying on the library's print collection. …

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