Charleston Future Lab

by | Nov 7, 2017 | 0 comments


A new feature of the Charleston Library Conference, the Future Lab was a successful gathering of about 30 invited experts from our industry who discussed new trends and technologies impacting the future of the library. Katina Strauch, Conference Founder and Organizer, promoted the concept of the Future Lab, which was modeled on similar sessions at other conferences. In her invitation to the participants, she outlined the goals of the Future Lab:

“So much has changed in the past two decades. Librarianship and publishing are vibrant and essential professions. We are evolving, growing, maturing and expanding! But with change also comes uncertainty. Changes in scholarly communications abound with the potential to change libraries. The president of ALA predicted that in ten years companies will market to consumers rather than to libraries. Libraries have traditionally supported scholarly communications, including publishers and vendors, so changes in libraries circle back again. We are at a crucial crossroads for these industries. Many of us are trying to figure out the way forward. Is it time to rethink/reprogram/redo the education, training and development of professionals in our industries.”

In advance of the session, participants were asked to submit three of their insights on the future of libraries and scholarly information, which were used to guide the discussion.

The Future Lab was moderated by Heather Staines, Direcctor of Partnerships at, and Mark Sandler, Principal of Novel Solutions, a consulting organization.

Heather Staines

Heather Staines

Mark Sandler

Mark Sandler

At the Future Lab, each attendee was asked to discuss their advance insights, which resulted in the following list:

Important game-changing trends and technologies impacting the future of the library:

  • Curator of research input and output
  • OA sustainability (threat and opportunity)
  • Collections as data sets
  • Interoperability
  • Libraries spread thin–moving in many different directions
  • Discovery more important than collections; investing in people and infrastructure that makes it possible to discover content in collections
  • Librarian identity
  • Research informs praxis
  • Align libraries to institutional mission
  • Everything for everybody everywhere
  • Discovery is not an add-on; it is at the core of our business;. After discovery not much else matters.
  • The value proposition of the library
  • Preserve innovators’ knowledge
  • The library’s role is a scholarly workflow
  • Text as data and he future of reading
  • What will publishing look like in 10 years? What services can publishers provide?
  • From resource management to knowledge management
  • Tension between what individuals want and what institutions want
  • Immediacy
  • Local language and niches
  • Cooperation
  • Look at our value proposition and don’t move into many non-related areas (coffee shops, etc.).
  • How we access content and how it is discovered
  • Tension between privacy, access, control, and security of content
  • Publishers supporting researchers
  • Interoperability of content
  • Balance
  • Management of identities
  • Machine processes
  • Relevance to the community
  • STM publishing — OA is coming fast
  • Marketing opportunities for libraries
  • Data links and access
  • Research behaviors of Millennials and Next Gen users
  • Restructuring the library? or the Office of Research?
  • How libraries can redefine themselves and become perceived as services that provide value
  • Information literacy and how to use complex systems
  • Concept searching vs. keyword searching
  • New roles and relationships: shifting library functions–“blurred lines”
  • Save the time of the reader
  • Students learn how to deal with ambiguity and complexity–a role for the library
  • Provide clarity to users
  • Have empathy with users
  • MLS and training
  • Transformation of long-form content
  • Faculty and researchers’ expectations when they come to campus
  • Metrics and standards (ROI and interoperability)

This list was categorized into the following one-word summary of the topics covered, and attendees were asked to vote on the ones they considered most important:

  • Discovery
  • Services
  • Identity
  • ROI
  • Content
  • Roles
  • Workflow
  • AI–machines
  • Interoperability
  • Training
  • Reader/researcher/empathy
  • Communities
  • Timeframes

Group discussions

Finally, the audience broke into several groups for further discussion on the following topics:


  • The mindset that libraries need for the present day.


  • Concern when authorities think the library isn’t relevant because of all the OA content.
  • Why are we talking about our own little world when big things are happening that libraries could be helping with?
  • Are we protecting our own little fiefdoms, like when we want more money for discovery?


  • There is a lot of infatuation with STM. There is a large area to fill with how we manage humanities which use books a lot. The economics of books are not working.
  • It would be a mistake to ignore the gaming industry which is far larger than the video industry. There must be an environment for a highly intensive learning environment.


  • Discovery is a more outward-facing concept, but in reality, it’s about accessing content outside the institution.
  • Patrons need to be able to find anything no matter where it is. We need to become more attuned to that.
  • Discovery is about creating an infrastructure that will enable a search engine to find material better than it does now.

Mark Sandler created these Wordle tag clouds from the advance submissions from the participants. This one is a depiction of all the submissions:

Tag Cloud--All

Then Mark prepared these tag clouds from the submissions of just the librarians and just the publishers.

Tag Cloud-Librarians

Word Cloud--Publishers

Finally, here is another tag cloud created by Professor Lisa Hinchliffe from the University of Illinois. She removed all the librarian- and publisher-specific words and then created this cloud, which presents a different view of the attributes of the two audiences.

Tag Cloud--Lisa



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