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Collections of information have existed in one form or another for some 5000 years.
Arguably the first great library, that of Ashurbanipal, in the seventh century B.C.,
would look very much like the library which existed right up to the end of the 20th century,
but in the last 10 years or so,
libraries have faced unprecedented challenges and
unprecedented changes as digital information
and digital environments have encroached on what they do.
This lecture will give an introduction to how
that change is affecting organisations and institutions,
and we'll look at some of the challenges that face them.
My name is Derek Law,
and I've spent my career as a university librarian and a university manager,
as well as facing the reality of the challenges I shall be discussing,
I have also been a regular commentator at conferences and in print,
on how we must adapt to these new realities.
The first thing we need is debate,
although these emerging digital age library services may be important,
even critical in the present era,
there is no consensus on their significance to
the future academic library, or even on whether they
should remain as library functions carried out by librarians.
In addition, at this point,
the discussion of the future of the academic library has been limited to librarians
and hasn't widened - as it should - to involve the larger academic community.
As a consequence, neither academic librarians nor others in the academy,
have a crisp notion of where exactly academic libraries fit
in the emerging 21st century information panoply.
Because of the fundamental role that academic libraries have played in the past century,
it's tremendously difficult to imagine a college or a university without a library.
But considering the extraordinary pace with which knowledge is moving to the web,
it is equally difficult to imagine what
an academic library will be and do in another decade,
but that is precisely what every college and university should undertake to determine.
Given the implications of the outcome,
this is not an agenda that librarians can or should accomplish alone.