by Carla Powers
MLA 2013 Conference Report
“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”
Minitex Director Valerie Horton began her MLA conference
presentation titled “Future Focused – Trends Impacting Library Services: The
Minitex Perspective” with the above quote from Niels Bohr.  Her presentation explored how libraries are
positioned on a spectrum in three different areas, and how that position may
change in the years to come.  It was
interspersed with information about how the services provided by Minitex are
helping Minnesota libraries keep up with changing patron demands.
Physical <—> 

While the use of library e-books still continues to grow by
leaps and bounds, recent studies have shown that e-book purchasing by
individuals has passed its phase of explosive growth.  Valerie predicts that e-books will end up
finding their niche as just another format offered by libraries, in addition to
– not instead of – printed books.  She
explored the idea that books have become commodities – easily available and
relatively cheap to buy.  She suggested
that libraries can differentiate themselves from all of the other sources of
books by collecting rare and unique materials of local interest, and enhancing
the library’s role in the community in other ways.
Collection Library  <—> Creation

Traditionally libraries have been all about
collections, primarily collections of books. 
There is still a need for libraries to select and organize materials and
make them available to the community. 
However, nowadays people have a strong desire not just to consume
content but also to create content of their own (think self-publishing,
remixes, mashups, YouTube).  Creation in
libraries is taking the form of 3D printers, print-on-demand machines, YouMedia
labs, digitization projects and local history/local government collections.
Individual  Library  <—> Community

OCLC’s 2010 “Perceptions of Libraries” report showed that
while 21 percent of people believe the library has increased in value for
themselves, 31 percent feel the library has increased in value for their
community.  Many studies have shown that
regardless of whether people regularly use their library, most of them consider
the public library to be an important community
asset.  Some libraries have begun further
enhancing their value to the community by offering services and programs
outside of the library building, and “embedding” librarians in areas where they
can maximize their role as local research experts.
The more things change, the more they stay the same.

However, while the formats and services provided by
libraries may be changing, core library values are not.  Libraries continue to be dedicated to
service, patron privacy, and intellectual freedom.  Valerie pointed out that library services are
local services that must be shaped by the needs and values of the community,
and building a relationship with the community is key.  The library story is a local story,
and that’s one trend that is not expected to change.