The coming transfiguration of academic libraries: meeting the challenge of changing society, changing education and changing needs
Much thinking about and planning of academic libraries seems to assume that they are more or less separate entities, which will gradually change and develop in reaction to changes in higher education and developments in Information Technology (IT). However, they exist only to serve the needs of society and individuals, and their future cannot be planned except in a much wider context. The fundamental questions are first how societies will develop, nationally and internationally, and then how higher education information needs - both institutional and individual - will change; for all systems should be built around people - even today we do not know nearly enough about them. It is most likely that these changes will be radical. Only when these questions have been answered can it be determined what information resources are needed to serve new institutions, and how these can be organized and provided, with the help of IT: Libraries cannot change unless their parent institutions change, and resistance from various quarters can be expected. Change will necessarily be largely incremental, and it will be difficult, demanding inspirational leadership and flexible staff; but experience shows that it can be achieved.