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The future of library work and digitalization

The future of library work will change dramatically, yet the 2700-year history of libraries will continue. Subsequently, librarians will need to learn new skills, increase teamwork and cooperation, optimize creativity, and stimulate innovation as library leadership and administration, technologies employed, and internal structure become more flexible.

The transition from analogue to digital has begun. The economy and society, research and education, culture and politics, and our personal and professional lives are undergoing digital transformations. We went from exploration to implementation in a short amount of time. This blog aims to examine the influence of digital transformation on the future of library work.

It is not only libraries. For some years, digital transformation has been a hot issue in the corporate world. However, before the pandemic heightened the urgency of the adoption process, many organizations—both corporations and libraries—hesitated to embrace digital transformation for fear of disrupting the status quo. Smaller projects and minor changes occurred, but the abrupt shift to remote working forced acceptance of pervasive digital transformation in the form of:

  • Videoconferencing, 
  • E-learning, 
  • Streaming services, 
  • Long-distance collaboration, 
  • Telemedicine, 
  • And a slew of other electronic/digital products and services.

Digitalization: Drivers and Enablers

Definitions of digital transformation differ depending on their objective and the background of the definer. We might infer that digital transformation entails doing things differently—creating a new business model with the help of current information and computer technology. Moreover, It uses existing information to transform the organization’s culture, management strategy, technological mix, and operational structure. It also prioritizes the client in all choices and activities.

Enablers

For a long time, digital transformation has been underway. Several advancements paved the way for its appearance:

person holding tablet with data displayed on screen
  • Significant rise in IT processing power
  • Introduction of Automation and robots to improve communication speed.
  • The appearance of augmented, virtual, and mixed-reality technologies
  • Machine learning and AI
  • Analytics for Large Data
  • Effective visualizations

Drivers

Most human development is greeted with opposition at first. However, the impetus to move toward and employ digital transformation has been quite strong, and it has encompassed the following aspects:

  • Heightened competition
  • Financial stress
  • Expectations of users
  • A “new normal” (a result of the COVID-19 epidemic) 

It is important to remember that the presence and usage of sophisticated and powerful IT technologies are insufficient to cause substantial change. Organizations require committed management, a clear vision, and foresighted leadership. Furthermore, updated business models that employ new IT solutions exploit existing knowledge and fundamentally transform the character of organizations—their culture, management strategies, technical mixes, and operational setups—are also required. All of this is focused on seeking new income streams, developing new goods, and developing new services.

The future of library work

Identifying the drivers and facilitators of digital transformation as they affect enterprises raises two significant concerns: Is digital change influencing the future of libraries? If so, how so?

For many centuries, libraries were distinguished by their physical location, collections of books and records, certain types of catalogues, and library staff assisting visitors in finding information and knowledge. The emergence of computers has undoubtedly called into question practically every aspect of the traditional library model. Some of the most recent developments include online libraries replacing physical locations, millions of electronic files becoming available, the development of new retrieval methods, and the physical absence of library workers serving users.

For instance, a survey of future library scenarios reveals that different people have different ideas about what this would look like.

Minimalists

Minimalists think libraries are already well-developed and mechanized and can meet the future with few alterations. In other words, libraries will remain as they are.

Moderates

Moderates argue for large-scale change through incremental, progressive augmentation, but libraries would still be recognized as what is now called a modern library.

Radicals

They anticipate significant change and transformation. Libraries will be scarcely identifiable, although they will still be considered libraries. In other words, they will be highly automated collections of electronic texts handled by sophisticated, AI-based programmes that provide text comprehension and interpretation, idea aggregation, intelligent debate, and detailed presentation of existing notions.

Extremists

This small group believes that libraries, as we know them, will vanish in the future. Instead, there will be intelligent machines with enormous quantum computing power, which will be able to: 

  1. Contain all of the information ever recorded,
  2. Deal with knowledge qubits,
  3. Generate new ideas that will provide inventive answers. 

Although it looks to be science fiction, numerous components of this futuristic system already exist or are in the works.

Digitalization and the Future of Library Work

In terms of the future, we can only speculate on what future iterations of AI-powered virtual assistants may offer us. Consequently, what impact will future iterations of Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and Baidu Duer have on our lives?

Agility in operation

Operational agility is the capacity of an organization to flex and adapt its operations, technology, and information to continually changing business requirements brought about by digital transformation, market dynamics, competitive challenges, and business turbulence. It is the next degree of company resilience. Organizations that have operations that are adaptable enough to change are better positioned to continue continuous business operations while protecting their employees, customers, business, and information flows.

Unquestionably, libraries must organize for agility by identifying opportunities and dangers, focusing on multidisciplinary cooperation, planning regular development work, and encouraging innovation.

Customer-centricity

One of the essential traits of librarians has always been their excellent relationships with their clients and their commitment to providing high-quality customer service. The focus of digital transformation is on consumers, which offers library professionals a significant edge in fulfilling the demands of the future library and a new work environment.

A recurring theme emerges when we consider the future of libraries. It is not about information retrieval and document management but about offering excellent customer service to ensure the library’s long-term viability and confidence in the institution. The primary needs are:

Female customer paying with credit card for cup of coffee
  • High-quality communication and listening skills.
  • Patron-focused venues.
  • Customer service methods and personalization.
  • Customer satisfaction monitoring.
  • Appropriate metrics.

The objective is to deliver an extraordinary experience while also establishing long-term partnerships.

Workforce Competencies

The growth of technology nearly always outpaces traditional workplace arrangements, and digital transformation is no exception. Lines of command, tight hierarchy, lack of agility, slow decision-making processes, lack of flexibility, complicated structures, and legacy human resource solutions are a few difficulties that firms undertaking change must cope with.

Information managers and library workers will feel the influence. The shift is expected to be broad and will need the following skills:

  • Technical knowledge or digital literacy
  • Complete dedication
  • Overcoming information and cognitive overload
  • Adaptability and adaptability
  • Personal growth and lifelong microlearning
  • Social and emotional intelligence
  • Cultural and other differences
  • A multidisciplinary approach
  • Remote work and mobile forces
  • Understanding the generational divide
  • Advanced digital ethics

According to a recent World Economic Forum research, technological augmentation of existing employees may free humans from the majority of data processing and information search chores. In other words, any employment primarily focused on information retrieval, search, and delivery, such as many library roles, is in direct danger.

Conclusion

The world as we know it will undergo extraordinary change due to the digital revolution.

The future of library work will change dramatically, yet the 2700-year history of libraries will continue. Subsequently, librarians will need to learn new skills, increase teamwork and cooperation, optimize creativity, and stimulate innovation as library leadership and administration, technologies employed, and internal structure become more flexible. Libraries are here to stay because:

“Without libraries, what do we have? We have no past and no future.”

  Ray Bradbury

                                                                                         

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