Space, use and university libraries – the future?

The chapters in this book have reflected various developments, trends, issues, and opportunities relating to university academic libraries’ physical space up until 2012. This chapter will attempt to give an insight into what will shape university libraries and their physical space in the future. Whilst predicting the future is difficult, the importance of having at least some idea of future trends has been pointed out by several authors (Stahl 1987, Caldwell 2006): it allows head librarians and managers to plan their buildings accordingly. There is also a somewhat woolly idea of what ‘the future’ means in many predictions. Whilst some of the literature predicting the future suggests a specific date or period of time by which their suggestions could become reality (Line 1993, Raitt 1993), many are unclear whether ‘the future’ means five years, 15 years, or 50 years (Orne 1977, Kapp 1987). This has begun to change with projects such as the recent JISC Libraries of the Future Project (JISC 2009), which looks at trends over the next ten years, and the 2010 report from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) which is interested in developments over the next fifteen years (Staley and Malenfant 2010). Nevertheless, what is missing from the literature is an in-depth look at how physical space may be used in the future.