The Value of Big Picture Trends in the Smaller Context

By Vicki Williamson
Dean, University Library, University of Saskatchewan

Library trend summaries and forecasts are becoming more prevalent in our professional literature. Maybe it just seems that way to me because more often I am thinking about the future of our profession and the role of libraries and therefore I am noticing such reports more often. One such report, which I think is one of the best, is Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide? – an IFLA Trend Report. Visit here:

What I like to do with such high levels reports is to take the key elements and think about them in a local (institutional and library specific context) and then extrapolate why and how the various factors might impact on our planning for the future.

The IFLA Trend Report is billed as ‘the global voice of the library and information profession.” It is the result of twelve months’ consultation with experts and stakeholders from a range of disciplines to explore and discuss emerging trends in our new information environment. It is more than a static report because it includes a dynamic and evolving set of online resources for library and information professionals to contribute to.

The IFLA Trend Report identifies five high level trends shaping the global information environment:

  • New technologies will both expand and limit who has access to information
  • Online education will democratise and disrupt global learning
  • The boundaries of privacy and data protection will be redefined
  • Hyper-connected societies will listen to and empower new voices and groups
  • The global information economy will be transformed by new technologies.

As I read and reflected on these trends they helped me to make sense of my local and institutional environment. For example, at the University of Saskatchewan we have come through some very demanding financial and leadership challenges over the last few years. When I reflect on how new technologies (especially social media) fed into and fueled those challenges over the summer months, it somehow helped to put events and players into some perspective. Not being a big user of social media, I had to rely on others to forward me postings, share information and assist me to become more confident in using social media tools. I think others had similar experiences as I heard from another senior colleague that he took the lead and tutoring from his daughter to access and use social media to follow the unfolding events at the university this last summer.

Returning to the IFLA Trend Report, what I really like about this report is that it focusses on the broader environment leaving the reader to place the world of libraries (individually and collectively) into that context and then to think and plan accordingly at both the local, national, and international level. I would encourage you to explore the report and the IFLA website to learn more and then to think about what the trend messages mean for your professional practice and that of your local library.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.

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