By Susanne Funk and Sandra Song, Frankfurt Book Fair
This year’s German Librarians’ Day conference (Deutscher Bibliothekartag) was held from May 22 to 25, 2012 in Hamburg and drew over 4,700 attendees, making it the meeting place for the library world. One thing was particularly clear at the 101st German Librarians’ Day: the digital revolution has already taken place in libraries, particularly in academic, technical and special libraries.
The event’s outstanding program highlighted just how well libraries are positioned to meet the challenges of the 21st century and what role the “knowledge manager” of tomorrow will play for knowledge transfer within our society. Presentations focused on topics ranging from digitization strategies to e-science to the promotion of reading and children’s libraries.
In particular, policy demands emerged from this year’s Librarians’ Day to make copyright law more amenable to research and education, and to continue to provide funding for library infrastructure. Libraries provide access to information and knowledge, the bedrock of today’s economy and society. More than ever, librarians need a high degree of competency to ensure reliable access to information and knowledge, particularly as digitization reaches even higher levels, increasingly dominating the realm of knowledge.
Librarians also called upon publishers to help ensure access and update business models by reinventing Open Access for today’s libraries and researchers. This would require innovation from publishers but would also improve the existing versions of Open Access, which are considered out of date.
The event also addressed the need to fund advanced training for librarians to further develop information literacy and competency in the field of electronic media, particularly within the public library system. This training includes mobile applications and the reorganization of libraries to ensure their survival as social meeting places, even in the digital age.
Sinnika Sipilä, the future president of IFLA (the International Federation of Library Associations) emphasized this social role of libraries in particular, affirming that they should continue to provide access to and democratize knowledge and information in the future. Inclusion, in her opinion, is a keyword that will continue to be evoked in the debate about the role of libraries. In the age of information overload, experts capable of organizing and filtering information are increasingly needed to help guide others through the onslaught of options. Sipilä believes that this offers librarians a chance to continue to develop their role in the digital era.
Last but not least, the idea of “the end of reading” in the 21st century invited much debate. In the future, information will be conveyed increasingly through media other than readable text. As a result, reading is likely to become more fragmented as it conforms to practices used in other media. This will also present a challenge for libraries. What – and how – should libraries acquire and convey in order to ensure that they meet these new demands?
The heated discussions over these four days were not without their share of self-criticism – and it became very clear that libraries play their role in concert with the industry – and require exchange with other industry sectors.
This ongoing dialogue will continue on an international level with the IFLA World Congress in August in Helsinki, Finland.