I believe I have mentioned before that technological advances have in fact created the need for librarians specially trained in using the technology effectively find pertinent information from the seemingly insurmountable amount of information and data present in modern society. I still believe this is true for today even as some believe that technology has negated the need for librarians. However, those pessimists might not be quite as wrong as I had previously thought. While technology has created a need for specially trained librarians in contemporary society, it seems possible that the current trends in technological advances points us in the direction of a situation or society that in fact does not need librarians in the sense that we think of today. Even if one argues that librarians will still exist, it seems that the characteristics of the job will have changed so much that a new job title would be warranted.
The current and historical trend in technology, including computer technologies, is to simplify the tasks and even the lives of humans and the current task of many librarians has developed into something similar, albeit more focused. Modern librarians generally make it their job to provide aid to patrons in their search for information, or in other words they strive to simplify the patrons’ searches for information. In most cases librarians are able to accomplish this by utilizing new and powerful computer technologies and databases. Librarians are in a constant search to find technologies that improve both the access to information and the efficiency of searching through that information. As it stands now, the technology is useful but generally still needs to be used by or have input from trained information specialists such as librarians, but this may not always be the case. Projecting these trends into the future highlights the potential dramatic changes that could develop out of those trends. If computer technologies continue to develop so there are very simple to use and simplify human tasks and lives and if librarians continue to seek out and use these increasingly less complicated but more powerful technologies, the need for specially trained librarians and information specialists could eventually dwindle to nothing. As future generations of databases and search tools become more powerful and effective and at the same time less complicated to use, the need for librarians as we understand them today will decrease. Projecting further into the future, as these technologies implement the use of artificial intelligence to aid in information searches, librarians will need to help those patients less and less.
However, as everyone is probably well aware, technology does not completely replace humans, especially when it comes to the maintenance of that technology. Technologies, including computer technologies, are not perfect and eventually break down in some way, which generates the need for specially trained humans to troubleshoot and fix them. In the case of computer technologies, specially trained IT professionals maintain the computer systems under their watch. This is in fact the direction the librarian profession seems to be on. As computer technologies increasingly enable patrons to search for information themselves, librarians increasingly are focused on maintaining and troubleshooting that technology. As they work more and more with the technologies in libraries and less with the patrons, they become something akin to IT professionals trained to maintain the sophisticated information search tools that may exist in future libraries.
Gulp. Looking ahead, I’d better take more Technology courses in LIS school.