There are many concerns lately in the communities related to libraries about what the future holds both for the institutions themselves and their guardians. As the digital revolution settles down into the status quo, the digital natives are putting pressure upon the old institutions to speed up their game and to catch up with the enter-twining between digital environment and the physical one. Having immediate access to data and information is not only desirable, but a necessity for everyday life. So although the librarian job seems to be one of the less stressful jobs, according to Forbes, it seems to be in the same time one that is on the brink of extinction.
Digital libraries are more often than not an attempt made by librarians to catchup and adapt to the needs of the new generations. Most of them are trying to replicate into bits the organization and the structure of the stone libraries, thus trying to offer as much as possible of the library experience via online. Unfortunately, most of the time this skeuomorphism falls a bit short of the intended purpose. If someone searches for a book online, they are not necessarily expecting to find a copy of the printed volume, instead most of the time they are interested in having the information readable on whatever screen they are using, either a phone, tablet, computer or e-ink reader. So even though from a librarian’s perspective the book should keep its integrity and relation to the original, sometimes having an adaptive version of the text is more versatile.
If we take the case of how a book should be formatted for the digital environment, yet still retain usability for academic research, one good example could be the OpenEdition publishing house. If we are trying to access one of the open access books, for example Why Do We Quote?, The Culture and History of Quotation by Ruth Finnegan , we’re going to see that the book can be read online, chapter by chapter. One very good example of adaptation to the digital medium is the quote on the paragraph number, trying to escape entirely the need to use the page number as reference. The software that is used by those from the OpenEdition, Lodel is open source. Although the latest version of the software was released in 2010, after experimenting a bit with it, some might find it suitable for offering the public books in a modern format, provided there are no legal issues.
What could librarians do apart from experimenting with a publishing platform? They could try to prevent the grim fate of the dinosaurs and reinvent themselves. One of the most obvious paths is becoming an information broker or a digital curator. A plethora of good resources related to digital curation are available online. One of the best place to start is the Digital Scholarship page curated by Charles Bailey, which “provides information and commentary about digital copyright, digital curation, digital repository, open access, scholarly communication, and other digital information issues.” But if somebody wants a more formal way of starting to learn about digital curation in the proximate future, the University College London has an online course dedicated to those that are making the first steps towards this new domain. The course will start May 5th and will continue until late June. It is available here: https://extendstore.ucl.ac.uk/product?catalog=UCLXIDC
Whatever the future holds for library and librarians, it is never a bad idea to update the skills and competences. To sum up, here are the list of resources to get you started:
OpenEdition Publishing House
Digital Scolarship Bibliographies by Charles Bailey
Digital Curation Course University College London