Jose-Marie Griffith spoke at a research forum today about Leadership in Context, specifically in connection with library and information science professions and institutions. She covered material on economics, education, and ethics for library leaders.
According to her research there is an increase in the use of libraries during economic recessions. Recent studies in Florida and elsewhere estimate the return-on-investment in libraries as 6 to 1, six dollars of gain for every dollar invested. Recent trends also show that public libraries are becoming the information hubs for communities, leading to increases in circulation, technology usage, and the number of visitors. There are also historical data that demonstrate increases in library usage during previous recessions at the start of the 1990s and 2000s. Libraries are part of a “highly interconnected web of information providers.”
During the last decade 46.4% of the library workforce has retired. But the number of accredited students has been relatively constant over the same period of time. If current trends continue there may be significant shortfalls in the number of accredited librarians in future years. Other fields, such as information technology, draw from the same field of students as libraries.
Ethical decisions are becoming more and more critical given recent growth of technology. Boundaries between private and public are blurring, anonymous judgments in attack journalism and elsewhere. Griffith called it a ruder, cruder, and lewder age, which she has observed in the behavior of incoming freshmen students. Libraries are trusted by many members of the public and need to work hard to maintain that trust into the future.
The priorities for the future of libraries are trust, constant dialog, maintain principles without being overwhelmed by circumstances, be cautious about extremes or race to judgment.
Overall I was impressed by the optimistic picture of the future presented by Dr. Griffiths. There are a lot of challenges for libraries and librarians in the future. But libraries have a lot of trust and opportunities for improving the future.