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10 Experts Talk Library Positivity
Posted On November 6, 2018
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Brendan Gallagher

Brendan GallagherCEO of ByWater Solutions (

What’s something that has re-energized you or kept you excited about librarians/libraries in the past year?

We have seen many libraries and librarians really engage on the idea and aspect that libraries are the centers of communities; changing the ideas and procedures for integration into the community. We see libraries as the center, and each institution or aspect of the community should be using the library to help carry out their missions.

How do you see librarianship/libraries evolving in the next few years?

We have seen so many wonderful data changes that are on the cusp of being accepted into the library world. No longer will librarians be tied to a desk or tied into a single aspect of being a librarian. As we move forward, each librarian will have the chance to apply and make changes that they see as being the best for the integration of the idea of libraries as community centers. Librarians will have the respect and freedom for extending the programming and involvement of libraries in their communities. We have been offering Koha Klassmates ( for a couple of years now—which gives librarians in graduate programs a free chance to use an ILS so that they are already familiar with how to use it, so that they can concentrate on the change that we all want to see.

What makes you feel hopeful about the future of libraries?

Just meeting a lot of new librarians in the workforce. Everyone that I have met has been overly enthusiastic about what we as librarians do. (I have an M.L.S. and remember that same enthusiasm that I had when I entered.) Also meeting lots of new library directors that are changing and challenging structures and procedures of libraries. The future holds putting the user first and eliminating processes or procedures that create barriers in access to users (for both the digital and physical worlds). We at ByWater Solutions feel that open source as a model really fits well with the future of libraries, since with open access, data, and software, you can control the change that you want to see in the future.

Paul Gazzolo

Paul GazzoloSVP and general manager at Gale, a Cengage company (

What’s something that has re-energized you or kept you excited about librarians/libraries in the past year?

The crescendo of support for public libraries. There was a remarkable moment in the media this summer when a magazine columnist questioned the value of public libraries to taxpayers. The backlash was swift as library patrons and advocates vocalized support for their community benefit and social impact. It was exciting to see public libraries not only fervently defended for their legacy, but as diverse, multistoried community resources.

How do you see librarianship/libraries evolving in the next few years?

That evolution will focus on a few key areas that relate to local economic impact: workforce development, entrepreneurship, and community engagement. Virtually every public library supports job seekers. Looking ahead, patrons in lower-paying jobs will come to libraries to upskill with career technical education to increase earning power in a changing employment landscape. Entrepreneurship will continue to be a growth driver for local economies as libraries open business incubators with tools and skilled resources that increase the odds of success for a new business. But most significant will be the need for data-driven engagement with community members and patrons. Mailings and announcements in local papers will give way to targeted bulletins and social media communications.

What makes you feel hopeful about the future of libraries?

Libraries are champions of a free society, leveling the economic playing field with access to information and lifelong learning opportunities. Most encouraging is the creative leadership in libraries of all sizes.

Jessica Hilburn

Jessica Hilburnhistorian and head of reference at Benson Memorial Library in Pennsylvania (

What’s something that has re-energized you or kept you excited about librarians/libraries in the past year?

I have been energized by the flood of interest in local history and genealogy in the library setting. People both inside and outside my patron base have clamored for information about the history of our town and their own familial pasts this year as a result of Ancestry ( being provided for free at the library and a research request service I offer that is also free of charge. It is important to make history a living presence in the lives of our patrons so that they can use it to inform their choices and futures. Through the library’s NWPA Stories blog (, we have uncovered the history of many buildings, sites, events, and people in our collective past. This shared learning has brought us closer together. Research I’ve performed at Benson Memorial Library this year has even helped reunite adoptees with their birth parents. In a political and social climate rife with divisiveness (for very valid reasons), it is incredibly energizing to see how the power of a shared memory or emotional tie to the past can unite us again.

How do you see librarianship/libraries evolving in the next few years?

While I can only speak from a rural public library standpoint, I see libraries expanding the services and programs they offer regarding information literacy and community services. Being able to tell truth from propaganda, helping people take advantage of the ever-growing repository of electronic sources, and providing services to help people in all spheres of social service are essential functions of the modern library. We must embrace technology and the way it makes our jobs both harder and easier. By mastering new tools, we can help the public use them effectively. I often hear librarians and library workers talking about how we are put into the role of social worker without having any training in that sphere. Whether that issue is corrected by helping library students and employees gain necessary social work training or hiring more social workers in libraries, it is certainly something I think should and will be implemented in the coming years in order to best serve our communities.

What makes you feel hopeful about the future of libraries?

Honestly, what doesn’t? At my library, we have a beautiful distribution of ages, abilities, genders, and identities. By providing services that are useful and either low-cost or free to our patrons, we have made a case for our worth and usefulness that people are rallying behind. For example, the tone-deaf article posted by Forbes arguing that Amazon bookstores should replace libraries was immediately blasted across the internet. The backlash was so intense and the opinions so one-sided against Forbes that the article was removed. I am currently running a book club at the library for the first time in many years, and more than half of my members are young people. Libraries are strong. Resilient. Adaptable. Libraries are a light in the darkness, helping lead a weary world into the future.

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Brandi Scardilli is the editor of NewsBreaks and Information Today.

Email Brandi Scardilli

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