Marian, Madame Librarian

My son is currently performing in the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis production of the Meredith Wilson musical The Music Man, and Nick and I are working tech for the show. Today, we did two school shows; several schools brought students in on busses to see the show. As the curtain opened on the library scene for the song, “Marian the Librarian,” it occurred to me that although the musical was written in the 1950s, and set in 1912, the set would be instantly recognizable to the kids in the audience as a library. The shelves with books, the checkout desk, the tables for reading: all these things look pretty much like a library today, with only the notable absence of computers and videos as the primary difference. (Although the sets were created by modern people, who may have brought 2009/2010 sensibility to their creation, presumably they were created with an eye towards authenticity.)

That then started me thinking, will kids 20 years from now be able to recognize it as a library as easily? What will a library look like 20 years from now? Will it even have shelves of books? (I personally think it will, although if current trends are any indication, the section of the library devoted to shelves of books may shrink).

Will it have a checkout desk? It actually may not. My library already has self-checkout, and my grocery store allows me to pick up a scanner at the entry and scan and bag my groceries as I move through the store. It’s not hard to imagine that in 20 years, or even much less, libraries will have some kind of auto-checkout that will take place when you walk out the door, using RFID codes in the books and in your library card.

Will the library of the future have tables and chairs for sitting? I think it probably will. I like to think that the library of the future will still be a gathering place and a study place and a research place, and maybe even a reading place, all of which are activities that encourage the use of tables and chairs.

What about you? What do you think the library of the future will look like?