Should public librarians plan at all, or just provide what the publishers provide? Is there any room for horizon scanning?

I’d say yes. There is obviously a need to meet current demands, and to be aware of those. Yet by focusing exclusively on now we will sell then short. If people did not take chances, follow new trends and so forth nothing would change. If Tim Coates had said ‘nah, coffee shops in book shops? people don’t want that, they want books, it’s obvious’ he wouldn’t have made the impact he apparently has on how we buy books.

No-one would say that librarians qua librarians should be determing what is published. But they should be preparing for how people access what is published, and also looking at how demand changes around them.


One Response to Planning

  1. Miriam Palfrey says:

    I think that we must think ahead.

    Disregarding the issue of electronic reference tools (which, with online access can now provide far more relevant information in an easily searchable format) access to mutli-media has become such an integral part of the lives of many people today that it would be foolish to assume that when today’s 30-40 year olds reach retirement that they will be satisfied just with large-print novels and books-on-tape (just as I imagine they will have different reading tastes to today’s older users)and we need to at least consider ways of providing for any alternatives they might require.

    Not only that, having more online facilities available from our websites increases our accessability to many people. The internet has changed the way people interact, buy groceries, watch TV and it has also changed their expectations of what should be available and how (ask the average Waterstones employee hom many times a day someone says “But I can get it much cheaper/faster/bigger/better/newer on Amazon!”.

    Obviously we can’t be on the cutting edge, we need to carefully allocate resources and as I have probably mentioned before we have to consider the sustainability of anything we provide, but we should certainly be aware of everything that is avaiable and we ought to consider how we might inncorporate new technologies into our current service.

    It’s not just IT which requires forward thinking. If we didn’t order books pre-publication in anticipation of our users wanting them then we’d be providing a pretty sorry library service.

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