THE FUTURE IS HERE! ARE YOU READY FOR IT?

By Caitlin Williams, Ph.D.

Welcome back to Library Work Life and Happy New Year!

As you make your new year’s resolutions and get yourself organized for the start of your work in 2018, wouldn’t you like some useful and timely information to give you an edge in growing your career? Well, here it is. This article provides information on trends that will enable you to get a head-start on moving forward in your job and your career.

This “trendy info” is available to you through the treasure trove of information that futurists and workplace forecasters compile into the latest trends that they believe will impact work and the workplace in general.  And, in this article, you’ll also find a listing of trends that are impacting the library profession specifically.

The timely information and insight from these sources can help you focus your professional growth throughout this coming year. If you want to know and leverage what’s new and what’s next, it is important to look at key trends so you can adapt, anticipate and grow your career, accordingly.

Forecasting and trend watching is not about crystal balls and guesswork.  Those with expertise in studying the future devote significant time to researching, reviewing, and reflecting on trends that they see shaping up – and they take the data they find and turn it into valuable information for the rest of us.  So, it’s in our best interests to consider the information they share with us and determine what it might mean for our careers going forward.

Given the importance of trends – take a look at the sections that follow to learn more – and then put what you’ve read to use.  When you’re savvy about trends, you begin to develop a “future mindset” that puts you out ahead of the crowd.

The next sections include trends from two different, highly-regarded sources.  As you read through the different trends highlighted here, ask yourself these questions.

  1. So what?  What does this particular trend mean for my field?  For my area of interest or specialization?  For my own career?
  2. Is there a way I can put the information from this trend to use in my day-to-day work?
  3. How can I use this information to more effectively do my work or assist those customers/clients/patrons/students I serve?
  4. Is there a way that the information from this trend can help me imagine and develop new products or services for those I serve?  
  5. How can I capitalize on what I’m learning here to advance my own career (for example: learn a new technology, reach out to a wider group of potential users, try out a newer management or leadership technique)?

The first list of trends comes from a recent article on Forbes.com. It’s written by career and workplace expert and author, Dan Schwabel.  Here are highlights of what he is predicting:  Be sure to read the full article online to see more details and the full list of trends.

  1. Lifelong learning (in some form) will continue to be essential with an increased number of entities (beyond traditional educational institutions) offering courses, credentials and certifications.  Along with traditional degrees, more workers (particularly younger ones) are considering shorter-term courses to pick up new skills.  Additionally, there continues to be a rise in online educational offerings.
  2. Organizations will focus on helping their current employees to ‘upskill’ (bring their skills up to date to meet current needs).  Part of this effort is to retain workers; it also represents a way for employers to reduce the skills gap.
  3. AI (artificial intelligence) will become more prevalent in the workplace, including the use of chatbots to provide help in a variety of ways: answering employee questions, looking up product info, and helping with on-demand customer service.
  4. Financial and mental wellness will become more “top-of-mind” issues for organizations.  With so many employees struggling with financial issues (like paying back student loans), as well as workers dealing with mental health issues (like burnout or depression), more companies are offering employees a range of ways they can help them get through these challenges.
  5. Companies are taking diversity more seriously. Smart organizations, including some cited in the article, are addressing pay gaps; others are creating resource groups to support a range of diversity issues, and others are increasing efforts to promote a more diverse workforce.
  6. The workforce is aging – and more older workers are remaining in the workforce for a variety of reasons – some for financial reasons, some to remain engaged with the work they are doing and with their co-workers.

The second list of trends in this article comes from the American Library Association’s Center for the Future of Libraries.  The Center devotes a number of webpages to describing current trends that are impacting libraries and librarianship.  Their list now includes a collection of thirty trends and it is updated regularly.  You’ll see a list of all 30 here, and I’ve highlighted a handful that are described in more detail here.

Read through the full list of thirty here and take a closer look at the five I’ve detailed here.  Then, be sure to visit the Center’s Trends webpage (http://www.ala.org/tools/future/trends) to read a more thorough description of all thirty trends, including information on how each trend is developing and why it matters to libraries and librarianship.

Here is the list of thirty:

  1. Aging advances
  2. Anonymity
  3. Badging
  4. Basic Income
  5. Blockchain
  6. Collective Impact
  7. Connected learning
  8. Connected Toys
  9. Creative Placemaking
  10. Data Everywhere
  11. Digital Natives
  12. Drones
  13. Emerging Adulthood
  14. Fanhood
  15. Fast Casual
  16. Flipped Learning
  17. Gamification
  18. Haptic Technology
  19. Income Inequality
  20. Internet of Things
  21. Maker Movement
  22. Privacy Shifting
  23. Resilience
  24. Robots
  25. Sharing Economy
  26. Short Reading
  27. Unplugged
  28. Urbanization
  29. Virtual Economy
  30. Voice Control

And here are highlights on five of the trends.  The information included here comes directly from the ALA Center for the Future of Libraries Trends webpages:

  1. Aging advances: “An aging workforce and population will change the United States and other developed nations, impacting the workplace, government budgets, policy, family life, and more.”
    Why It Matters: “Adults may continue to work past traditional retirement ages. For libraries, this could mean a change in the profile of their users, especially in academic, medical and special libraries, and in the profile of librarians and library professionals.”
  2. Badging: “Badging, and digital badges in particular, offer opportunities to recognize individuals’ accomplishments, skills, qualities, or interests and help set goals, motivate behavior, represent achievements, and communicate success in learning offered in schools, professional settings, or daily life.”
    Why it Matters: “As badging systems continue to recognize learning that happens across a wide environment, including out-of-classroom learning, libraries of all types may be called upon to support the development of badges for learners.” For more information on badging, see: [1] “Open Badges for Lifelong Learning: Exploring an Open Badge Ecosystem to Support Skill Development and Lifelong Learning for Real Results Such as Jobs and Advancement.” [Whitepaper] The Mozilla Foundation and Peer 2 Peer University, in collaboration with The MacArthur Foundation. January 23, 2013. Available from https://wiki.mozilla.org/images/b/b1/OpenBadges-Working-Paper_092011.pdf
  3. Gamification: “Gamification (the application of game elements and digital game design techniques to non-game settings) and game-based learning (game playing that has defined learning outcomes) are seeing greater adoption and recognition in educational and professional settings.”
    Why It Matters: “Gaming offers an important opportunity to develop emerging and traditional forms of literacy. With minimal instructions, players are motivated to seek out information about how games work, including communicating with experts, watching or creating tutorials, or reviewing how-to texts (online or in print).” See this article for more information on gamification: “How Videogames Like Minecraft Actually Help Kids Learn to Read.” Clive Thompson. Wired. October 9, 2014. Available from http://www.wired.com/2014/10/video-game-literacy/
  4. Haptic technology: “Haptic technology, haptic feedback, or simply haptics, is technology that incorporates tactile experience or feedback as part of its user interface, creating a sense of touch through vibrations, motion, or other forces.”
    Why It Matters: “The integration of haptics into media may add a new descriptive feature into information objects, requiring libraries to rethink their systems for describing, classifying, or even retrieving resources.”
  5. Maker Movement: “Do-it-yourselfers, tinkerers, hackers, entrepreneurs, and interested learners are finding opportunities to make what they want and determine their own creative paths. Makers take advantage of the availability of new technology and traditional craft tools, improved communication between community members, and new pathways to the marketplace (sharing economies, e-commerce, crowdsourcing).”
    Why It Matters: “Libraries, traditionally collecting institutions that provide access to materials created by others, may now adopt new functions, providing communities with opportunities to create or co-create content for an individual’s own use, for use by the community, or for inclusion in the library collection.” For more information, see this article: “Future of the Library and Information Science Profession: Collecting Institutions.” Australian Library and Information Association. 2013. Available from https://www.alia.org.au/futureoftheprofession

I hope this information helps you start your new year in the best possible way.  If you regularly review information on trends and emerging issues and opportunities in your field, then you will advance your professional development efforts. For a great opportunity to do just that, check out ALA’s Midwinter Symposium on the Future of Libraries that will be held as part of the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Denver next month (February, 2018).

Here’s to your career satisfaction and growth in 2018!