Kids & techMy presentation at the Sacramento Public Library’s Staff Training Day was called “Hanging on to the Cutting Edge, or, The Future of Youth Services.” For two hours I discussed, with a group of primarily children’s and teen librarians, what we could look forward to – and what we should watch out for – over the next decade or so in libraries that would affect youth services.

Most of my predictions are pretty basic, but I felt that it was good to gather them together:

1) The amount of pure reference work librarians do will continue to diminish, and reference books will continue to disappear from library shelves, to be replaced by online tools. Kids doing homework will (as they’re already doing) move almost entirely from nonfiction books to online resources.

2) Library Web sites will be used more than ever, particularly to access databases and digital resources such as music, audiobooks and videos.

3) As time goes on, things that circulate in a 3-D (non-digital) format will be limited largely to books – both fiction and nonfiction – for pleasure reading; objects such as CDs and DVDs will be replaced by digital files.

4) PCs will largely vanish, to be replaced by iPhone-like devices that are Internet-capable and include massive amounts of storage; wireless access will be available almost everywhere.

5) Every library staff member should take some kind of child development workshop, to understand better what children need and want from adults. (This recommendation comes from my belief that children’s work will become proportionately a more important facet of library services in general.)

6) Technology is least useful to preschool children, because young children need lots of live, face-to-face contact; the demand for library programming for kids birth – 6 will likely increase.

7) Because successfully manipulating technology requires a high level of literacy, libraries should be stressing pre-literacy skills in programming for young children.

8 ) For school-age children and teens, the library should feature its role as a community gathering place, with programs in which people come together to share skills and play games (example – video game tournaments).

9) Librarians need to stress outreach and partnerships – visiting other community organizations, from schools to Head Starts to health clinics, working together with them on grant-funded projects, and generally reaching out to those who don’t use libraries now.

10) To best serve children (actually, to best serve everyone) online, library Web sites need to emulate Google and feature a single search box that will take each visitor to the information they need, whether it’s the hours or address of each building, an encyclopedia article about Teddy Roosevelt, or a digital anime from the library’s collection.

Just remember – A library is a service, not a building; we provide content (films, stories, or factual information), not DVDs, books, or an encyclopedia volume.

Did I miss the target, or forget anything? Please let me know.

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