Library 2121 – the next century of the Turku University Library
To celebrate the library’s centenary, the library staff planned and organised a future-peering panel discussion. Due to digitalisation and Open Science, the nature of the library profession and academic publishing is changing rapidly, which stimulates debate both in (virtual) coffee rooms as well as in the offices of library directors. In the Library 2121 panel discussion the participants, researcher and doctoral student Saija Inkeroinen from the University of Turku, Chair of the TYY Executive Board Aliisa Wahlsten, Senior Lecturer and Service Manager Ritva Hyttinen from the Turku University of Applied Sciences, Information Specialist Pia Backman from the Åbo Akademi University Library and Information Specialist Tanja Vienonen from the Turku University Library spiced up future discussions with their new ideas and perspectives on the library’s future.
The core of the library profession, to systematically collect and preserve existing information, is lasting, said Library Director Ulla Nygrén in her opening speech. One of the tasks of the Turku University Library is the preservation of Finnish cultural materials for future research. In addition, the library must provide high-quality and internationally competitive scientific resources to satisfy to the research and teaching needs of the academic community. In her speech, Nygrén described how digitalisation has significantly impacted the work of the library staff and has brought new responsibilities to the library, including Open-Science-related services.
The current pandemic has demonstrated that changes may occur unexpectedly and quickly. Almost overnight the library transferred nearly all of its services online, e.g. library trainings and advice services. In her opening speech, Nygrén emphasised that in every circumstance the library’s duty is to promote research and its results by making them visible and accessible to all.
What will library/student/research work be like in a 100 years’ time in relation to scientific knowledge?
In their opening speeches, the participants acknowledged that a period of 100 years is a huge amount of time in technological development. They envisaged more humane technologies, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence for information processing. Moreover, the meaning of information specialists and the library will probably be even more relevant in finding and evaluating information and information sources as well as in publishing research findings.
It was hoped that the library would serve as a communal space where you can meet with other students or staff, but it would also be a provider of quiet study spaces for the next 100 years as well. Besides specific premises, the library could extend its services wider online.
It will also be important for the library to reflect what the main patron groups and their information needs are. In addition, in future working life it will be important to be able to collaborate with professionals across all academic fields.
What would the world be like after 100 years, if libraries did not exist?
The panelists reminded us that while in our modern western society libraries play a vital role, even today there are societies without any libraries.
Focusing on resources, the panelists envisaged open and freely accessible materials. Despite increasing digitalisation and online access libraries will continue to need staff and their expertise also in the future. All panelists agreed that it is difficult to think of a world without libraries, or at least without researched information. Long live the library!
What will the meaning of physical space in the libraries be in the future?
The panelists also looked at the library’s role in providing access to information and gathering information. They all agreed that library spaces are important: students need places to study, socialise and to do group work.
The panelists were asked how the pandemic will impact our future behaviour. During remote work and study, social interaction and spontaneous conversations are often absent and many people miss physical encounters. Could the library somehow facilitate social connections even after Covid-19?
What kind of resources will future academic libraries offer? What could be our library’s snow shoe?
According to the panelists there should be more interaction between academic and public libraries. For example, both academic and public libraries could combat misinformation by helping people find reliable information resources. The participants wondered whether libraries could support students more e.g. by organising international language evenings, book sales, or book clubs.
One possible future scenario explored by the participants was to offer freely accessible library resources to all. Academic libraries’ vast e-resource collections were regarded important for all research. In addition, Information specialists could be more involved in research work. They already have an important role in supporting researchers carry out systematic reviews, but they might for example assist researchers in developing their scientific methods.
Are there any missing library services?
At the end of the panel the talk moved to consider new forms of library services. The panelists came up with for example a friend service to connect people with similar interests, giving recommendations for new resources to patrons, and research collaboration with information specialists that could potentially enhance research quality.
The panelists also pondered whether some less frequently used or expendable services could make way for new services. Finally, they suggested that there could be more collaboration between university libraries in providing library services all around the country.