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Libraries in the digital future

The debate about the future of the libraries is a trending topic at the Book Fair. With the triumph of digitalisation, more and more voices say this heralds the decline of the institutional library. Is the library dying out? The attendance figures in 2016 strongly contest this theory: in the over 9,000 public libraries in Germany, over 120 million visits were tallied. As cultural and educational institutions, the German libraries are alive and well like never before. Nevertheless, they will change in the coming years and will certainly lose their importance as a place to borrow and gather books.

The pressure of digitalisation

“The library in its present form has come under pressure from digitalisation,” says Stephan Holländer, Commissioner for Continuing Education at the Swiss Library Information Centre. “The public sector and the local community are increasingly questioning the purpose and value of the library’s existence due to technological development and changes.” Holländer therefore considers it inevitable that libraries will change. “Public libraries must evolve into non-commercial meeting places,” he says. “Scientific libraries are becoming places that provide users with workplaces when needed with Wi-Fi access, and create access to digital sources from anywhere.”

Libraries will become “maker” spaces

One can see especially in Scandinavia what sort of transformation process libraries have already undergone – the most prominent example for the “Library of the Future” is definitely Dokk1 in Aarhus, Denmark. Libraries will soon have to wear many hats, whether as urban “maker” spaces in the centre of the city or a place of communication and participation. The debate about these future developments will be carried out in October at Frankfurt Book Fair.

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“The future of the library is hybrid”

“The future of the library is like the present – hybrid. In terms of the media and especially the services provided,” says Tom Becker, Professor for Media Management and Media Information in Libraries at the Technical University, Cologne and Member of Board of the Federal Association of Information Library (BIB). Becker foresees that the job of the librarian will change dramatically. In the future, librarians will not only convey reading and digital competency, but be community builders and research data managers. “As a physical place, the library remains a meeting point that ensures participation and offers opportunities: to hang out, get informed, talk, network and make,” says Becker.