The Real Paul Jones

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Future of Library Collections?

On March 13, I’m speaking at the Librarians’ Association at UNC-Chapel Hill conference here. The conference theme is “Beyond the 5 year plan: The academic library in 2025” I’ve drawn the library collections of the future straw (see preliminary description below). 2025 is definitely in the future! I’m open for suggestions as to what will be collected and how they’ll be held.

My initial take is that relationships between objects in a collection will be as important as the objects, whatever format, themselves. Algorithms and code for accessing datasets and related objects, which have never really been considered as part of a library collection, will be an important and necessary part of the future library. Without them, the datasets and objects that libraries will be holding for medicine and science soon and for other disciplines in time cannot be understood or used.

Library Collections of the Future
A look at both the kinds of materials that libraries will collect and the formats in which they’ll be held. We can safely assume that books and journals will still be around, but what will they contain? Will they include text alone, or regularly feature audio and visual elements? Will libraries continue to own most of the materials they collect, or will they increasingly have to rely on subscriptions and other continuing costs? How will libraries provide access to traditional books and archival materials?

Speakers: Paul Jones, founder and director of, and Clinical Associate Professor, School of Information and Library Science, UNC-Chapel Hill; Greg Raschke, Interim Associate Director for Collection Management Organization & Preservation, North Carolina State University.


  1. You may want to ask your students, since they might be the ones building it! I hope you’ll post the notes from your talk afterward.

  2. So now we have this new term, Wikipedian…one who maintains the global shared encyclopedia. Is the idea of the Wikipedian an early indication of the future role of the librarian?

    With the criticisms around Wikipedia’s accuracy at times, will society eventually need some sort of professional information caste? There is also this ongoing concern for archiving…how do you preserve huge amounts of digital data in face of changing media and file formats? How is information indexed and classified? How is it found again? How do we take all of our existing media, put it all into digital form, and provide it to the connected world?

    A public library is different from a library at a research university too…could research libraries become the institutional memory and access point for the novel information produced at an institution? In that case, what does a public library do?

  3. Paul

    12/12/2005 at 8:40 am

    Not that new a term, Wikipedians have been self-identifying by that name for a while now. See also “You now you are a Wikipedian if …”

    We have a professional information caste; we call them “librarians” and less often “encyclopedians” The last were/are the heroes of the Foundation Trilogy as compilers of the Encyclopedia Galactica. Or you might prefer the parody turned real HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”.

    For the moment, I’m thinking and talking about academic libraries and their future collections. A little bit of boundary helps me out. I do think that data preservation and access (see post above) problems and solutions contain the big issues for the next 20 years.

    Public libraries are in an interesting state. They are busier than ever before. People are demanding growth and more access. Being able to access information on the Internet seems to have increased public library use. Book clubs, internet access, reference, and collections of multimedia (books on tape, children’s, etc) are large growth areas at the moment.

    An aside, today I have two board meetings — one of the Academic Board of the Library for the UNC Academic Libraries; one for the Chapel Hill Public Library Board of Trustees.

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