Since the 1970’s when the library world developed computer-readable metadata to the 1980’s when Tim Berners-Lee created the web at the CERN, the role of a library has evolved with and beyond network technologies in the last 30 years. As a dynamic institution, it will undoubtedly continue to change in the next decades. Its current role can be summed up by 4 C’s:
- Conduit. Computing and network technologies have become essential utilities as basic as wiring and plumbing. Necessary but not sufficient, they are the pipes through which libraries communicate with users and provide them with digital information.
- Content. Libraries scour the vast universe of information for a limited subset and organize it for access to meet their users’ needs. All libraries are indeed local.
- Context. Decontextualized information can quickly atrophy to noise. Libraries help their users evaluate and contextualize information in a framework–critical, academic or personal–relevant to them. A library’s ultimate business is not information but transformative knowledge and learning behavior.
- Community. Libraries provide a site–physical and electronic–in which social and learning communities take place. In the best of worlds, the two are interrelated, for learning is essentially a dialogic process.
For more information on the evolving library, see Library as Place: Rethinking Roles, Rethinking Space.