I started thinking about what academic libraries could look like next February 29th (or maybe what I hope they will look like) and here is what I came up with:
Books will still be a part of the budget but we will see more agreements like the journal-subscription model for serials: print, online only, or print and online. Libraries will be able to decide if they want the book in print or full-text online or both and will pay vendors a fee for each type of access.
[Update Jan 9, 2009: Had to delete a link to cindiann‘s photo of the Harvard Lamont Library Cafe because the University asked it to be removed from all public accounts…Sad. Anyway, if you have a chance, check it out.]
There will be increasing pressure to have a cafe with Wifi for informal collaboration and research. Libraries will need to come to grips with how they really feel about food. The Commons will be a place to share and mashup the streaming content available from on and off campus (e.g., course videos, presentations, YouTube, etc).
I would like to say (once RDA finally is adopted) that in four years MARC will at least be enhanced by FRBR principles or, even better, MARC will be replaced altogether (*sigh* if only). As it is, this seems optimistic in the extreme.
Although the total number of interlibrary loan requests may not go down, there will be less requests for individual articles as more content is available online. I actually tried to find a citation in Ebsco, Gale and Proquest recently that didn’t have either an HTML or PDF available; it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Requests will increase for items which are not online (old–out-of-print, but still in copyright–books) or, in the case of special collections, may need institutional authentication. ILL will be sending out a sort of temporary login for digitized special collections.
Open source initiatives like LibLime will be a more popular option for libraries because of their timely adoption of user-centric tools for searching and collaborating. The expensive ILS vendors of the past will be marginalized as more libraries turn to ILS overlay systems (Primo, Endeca, etc) or open source options like LibLime for simple, intuitive searching.
While face-to-face interaction will still drop over the next four years, virtual reference will increase. iPhone functionality in most phones by 2012 will make texting a library easier and more comfortable.
Open access journals will still be an issue for some academics but the number of citations to free online articles will continue to increase, despite the ‘experts’ who only see top-tier journals as viable publication outlets. As citations from free articles skyrocket, most scholars will admit (either privately or openly) that open access journals are really making a substantial impact on scholarship.
Of course there are many other aspects of libraries that will evolve over the next four years but these are what I would like to see happen. Maybe some of my thoughts are a bit drastic for just four years. If you think about it though, last February 29th, most people were just starting to glimpse the power of Google; Facebook had just barely been launched; and user-generated content and blogging had just started gaining real traction.