2018 is barely a day old and already shaping up to be a pivotal year for libraries. Funding for academic and public libraries has never been more precarious, but support and patronship of libraries, by Millennials in particular, is robust and growing. The promise of the Information Age has hit a rough patch in the form of weaponized fake news, but librarians are finding new and innovative ways to provide information literacy skills to their users. Here are a few of the things we’ll be keeping an eye on in 2018:
- Fake News is still a thing, and the worst may be yet to come. Even the definition of the term “Fake News” has become contentious, as it is now the easiest rebuttal for a news story someone disagrees with. However, the underlying problem remains the same, as does the solution. Americans have never been great at evaluating sources for accuracy and bias, and we’ll have to get a lot better if we want to maintain any semblance of a shared reality. On the horizon, artificial intelligence programs called Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) will soon make it easier than ever to falsify photos and videos, adding a new layer to the difficulties in discerning fact from fiction.
- Libraries in the middle of the political fray. Public and academic libraries alike have seen renewed interest from a public that is looking to get more involved in the political process. Last fall, we hosted a webinar about teaching social justice issues with librarians from Yale and Fresno State. And to top it all off, funding for libraries, which has never exactly been set in stone, has been even more of a political football this past year. What role will librarians play in campus debates over safe spaces and freedom of speech issues? What will happen in the fight for net neutrality? These will all be interesting to see play out in the coming year.
- Digitization taking giant leaps forward. Public libraries in particular have always been friends to the genealogy community, and as new technology allows for greater digitization of records (and search capabilities), this hobby might reach new levels of popularity. At the same time, many records from the 60’s through the 90’s exist now in the form of decaying videos, and will need to be made electronic soon if they’re going to survive much longer.
- The First Year Experience and beyond (and before). As more colleges and universities invest in FYE programs to help students begin their academic career on the right foot, librarians are being tasked with finding new ways to engage with incoming students. Join us for a webinar with the winners of the First Year Experience Innovation awards next month—details to follow! Meanwhile, some particularly proactive institutions aren’t satisfied with waiting for students to arrive on campus. For example, we partnered with Arkansas State University to help them offer IL tools and instruction to local high schools to help improve their own retention rates and more.
BONUS: Libraries in pop culture: The Public—starring everyone from Jena Malone to Alec Baldwin to Gabrielle Union to Emilio Estevez—is coming to theaters early this year. Batgirl is due to begin shooting soon with a release date for next year. TNT’s The Librarians is midway through its fourth season. Where else will librarians pop up next?