We'll have no workspace in the library that does not have easy access to the campus network and the web-some using wireless technologies.
And what will our librarians be doing?
You may not yet have noticed it, but the whole image of librarians is undergoing quite a transformation. Yes, we certainly still live with the burden of Marian the Librarian. But these days our stock as a career choice is actually on the rise. We're kind of a "with it" profession. We're even developing ghastly new titles for ourselves: my least favorite of these being the folks who call themselves "cybrarians."
The reason we are coming into vogue, though, is a substantive one. Our skills in selecting, organizing, retrieving, and archiving information are much needed in this web world we inhabit. Librarians assist library users in assessing information, judging its authority, and retrieving academically credible resources in all formats.
In the past decade, libraries have been eager implementers of technology, but until recently most of that technology was used to transform the way we did our work within the library.
Now the effects of technology are being felt more in the way our faculty teaches, the way our students approach their work, the way our society communicates, the way we define our common culture-inside and outside of Reed. To the extent that those developments change Reed's approach to education, they will, in turn, change how the library functions and how it evolves.
In 2010, we will look different. And we'll work differently. And our library staff will need very different skills from the ones we learned in library school.
But my guess is that you'll still recognize us. We'll still be open on Friday and Saturday nights, and we'll still have students discussing Homer in the lobby, and you'll still find students asleep at their desks.
Or. . . maybe none of what I've told you will come true because there's something over the horizon that we haven't even imagined-some technological meteor that we cannot predict.
E.L. Doctorow, who wrote Ragtime, uses that horizon image in talking about his writing. He describes writing as being like driving in a car at night. You can't really see all the way down the road to your destination, but you have lights that show you the road right in front of you, and eventually you get to where you're going.
You can apply the image to our planning for the library. We don't really know what that 2010 stretch of road will look like. What becomes all the more important is the vehicle we're driving and who is in the car. This is where it's a big advantage to be at Reed. Reed knows what kind of a car it's driving, and the people in the car are absolutely the ones you want to have with you when you're deciding which turn to take.
Victoria Hanawalt has been college librarian at Reed since 1987.