'Magic happens where there is knowledge'

The third biennial Axiell Library Symposium sought to identify the opportunities for public library services and to discuss how future libraries should be shaped.

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Public library services are under enormous strain.  Not only are budgets being squeezed but in some cases libraries are being asked to justify their very existence.  Library services are being cut, and campaigns such as Voices for the Library are attempting to demonstrate their true value against a background of increased competition for reduced public money.

But it's not all bad news.  The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is bucking this trend.  Judith St John, Head of the Borough's highly successful Idea Store, explained that they are expanding.  The new Store currently being built is another new initiative, bringing together a range of council services as well as library, information and adult education.  In this 'deprived' borough, there is a recognition that public library services really can make a difference to the local communities they serve.   The Idea Store is a catalyst for change, creativity and community cohesion.

Allen Weiner of technology research firm Gartner brought his own positive vision to the audience.  Introducing himself as a 'dreamer' he presented his ideas for the future library, picking up on current initiatives and new technologies and identifying future opportunities.

Supporting new behaviours

Libraries need to understand, and plan services to meet, the ways that people are looking for and consuming information.  Users are mobile and information is no longer contained within a physical space.  Libraries need to think about how they can support this 'information foraging' behaviour. 

This also means that libraries must understand and offer:

Next generation, cutting edge technology

People will be walking into libraries with their own technologies, and libraries need to be able and willing to support that.  In the US, Gareth Cuddy of e-book provider e-pub Direct told us, 82% of public libraries are already offering e-books.  This huge demand is patron led - and with e-book penetration, experience shows us that Europe follows the US with a 12-18 month delay.

Technology can support new information behaviours.  Special attention should be paid to areas in which there are leading edge opportunities, including epub3, cross platform tablets and open branded clouds.   

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