The library – home to books and information, including volumes of research by those gone before.
For generations past the library was nothing short of a fountain of knowledge and relevance, but for the emerging generations growing up in an increasingly digitalised age, has the necessity for a library been replaced by touch screens and online search engines?
McCrindle Research Director and Next Gen Expert Claire Madden provides her thoughts on the relevance of the library today and as we move into the future.
AN ERA OF UNPRECEDENTED CHANGEIt is undisputed that today we live in an era of unprecedented change and development. The way we work, communicate and socialise has been greatly influenced by the extraordinary technological advancements we have seen over the past 2 decades. For example, it was only in 1997 that Google was registered as a domain and today there are over 3.5 billion Google searches each day.
The internet has transformed how we access information. In many cases, the data available to us online has replaced the need to locate the same information in books.
It is imperative that in this era of change, organisations, institutions and individuals remain relevant and engaged with the current trends. Education is at the forefront of needing to adapt to change as the emerging generations redefine learning. School students are still being assessed by closed book exams in an open book world but a shift has occurred among learners from needing to memorise things ‘just in case’ to simply accessing information ‘just in time’.
PRINT VS. DIGITAL
We needn’t look far for examples of organisations that have become outdated and irrelevant due to the huge technological shift we have seen characterise the last two decades.
Take Encyclopaedia Britannica, a trusted source that many depended on for their school assignments, whose first print edition was published in 1768. In 2010 it ran its final print edition, having been superseded by Wikipedia, invented just 9 years prior in 2001. Rather than being written by experts, Wikipedia is written by the collaborative community and currently has over 4.6 million pages in English alone. It exists as an astonishing example of the change we have seen in the learning, sharing and distribution of resources, knowledge and information.
Similarly, let’s look at Angus and Robertson, an iconic Australian bookseller, book publisher and book printer. Established in 1884, it went into voluntary administration in 2011 along with competitor Borders, showing the shift from the demand for print to the demand for digital.
If we look at school libraries and education today, some have transitioned into a completely digital and virtual model – libraries with no books at all – a concept we would not have fathomed a decade ago. Libraries are now being reinvented as engaging learning spaces where people can access information from their personal devices. Amazingly, today it is even possible to complete a university degree without stepping foot in a university library.
Libraries are experiencing significant change and librarians are no longer the only people with the keys to access the information. In the past, data was costly and difficult to access but now, students can access every piece of information within a few clicks of a button. Technologies have enabled greater efficiencies – and so, traditional ways of finding information are being surpassed with newer, quicker alternatives. For example, locating a book on library shelves by conducting a Boolean search is being replaced by a Google Docs search which provides the latest information on any device and in any location by the mere click of a button or touch of a screen.
WILL LIBRARIES CEASE TO EXIST ALTOGETHER?
While digital media will increasingly be utilised and adapted because of the efficiencies that it enables, humans are still tactile and kinaesthetic learners. The process of connecting pen to paper, turning pages in a book, and physically interacting with the information we consume is unlikely to be completely replaced by the digital offering.
Claire Madden is a social researcher and next-gen expert. She is the Director of Research at the internationally recognised McCrindle Research. Armed with her research methodologies, business acumen and communication skills, Claire effectively bridges the gap between the emerging generations and the business leaders and educators of today. She is fluent in the social media, youth culture, and engagement styles of these global generations, and a professional in interpreting what this means for educators, managers and marketers.