Libraries have many roles in relation to education and learning, but some need to be invented or reinvented. Libraries need a “push” component – they need to proactively advertise and market their services as opposed to just waiting for people to visit.
MOOCs and blended learning approaches would benefit from the skills of librarianship in order to optimize, tag, reference and label the material for the retrieval of discrete components (e.g. tagging 15 minutes segments of online video lecturers). Otherwise academia will be creating the online equivalent of the “Indiana Jones warehouse” (a vast fictional warehouse used by the US government to store thousands of top secret crates for safekeeping in the film Raiders of the Lost Ark). Traditional 19th century approaches to knowledge segmented information into disciplinary silos. The reality of the digital age is that more cross-sectional approaches are both valuable and necessary.
Professionalised information management skills are generally invisible – librarians don’t know how to promote/articulate the value of these skills, teachers often ignore them, and students tend to assume that they know better. There is a significant gap in this area and these skills are not sufficiently understood or respected within academia and government. Ultimately one of the reasons that universities, schools and libraries are still useful is that are they only actors capable of scaling up educational access on a national basis.
Some learners in developing countries may be prepared to walk four hours to a centre where they can download access MOOCs – but that activity in isolation will not effectively or rapidly disseminate knowledge and skills across an entire nation or population. A long term sustainable approach to this is essential. Learning from the experience of others and mentoring programmes in the context of the digital age will become increasingly important.
It was predicted that there will be substantial future demand for intermediaries who provide context and added assistance, direction and value as complementary services to users of online courses. Students and learners will need to access these services somewhere – and that somewhere could be the library, but it would require new marketing approaches. One potential obstacle is the number of shy, uncharismatic librarians in public libraries.