Lest you question whether or not a relationship exists between the library of the future and the future of the book, here’s my two cents, in two words - - inevitable intersections.
As last nights’ moderator and panelists affirmed, in the 21st century, there’s no mistaking the fact that the digital book world is alive and thriving. At the same time, there’s a burgeoning movement of artists and writers making handmade and/or hand-bound books and paper as a response to the digital book world. Today’s artists and writers making handmade and/or hand-bound books and paper as a response to the digital book world - - are indeed, in a bind.
“Wait a minute,” you say. “Halt. Last night’s panel? Say what? I missed it somehow.”
Whoa. Let’s fill in the blanks.
In academic year 2012/2013 UNCW’s Department of Art & Art History, Randall Library, and the Department of Creative Writing’s Publishing Laboratory will launch a “Future of the Book” series. Last night’s panel, “In a Bind” was the first event of this series.
Approximately 50 persons attended the panel; panelists explored the experience of making books and how this experience informs and enriches their relationship to books and reading. When the panel ended, many attendees moved on to attend the opening of an exhibition in UNCW’s Ann Flack Boseman Gallery. The exhibit showcases a wide range of book-making activity at UNCW, including everything from student-designed books from the Publishing Laboratory to one-of-a-kind artist's books. It is dazzling; check it out!
Technology, tastes, customer/consumer/user preferences, customer/consumer/user expectations and behavior, and the bottom line, plain and simple, are, today, converging to impact the future of the book. These same factors are, today, also converging to impact the future of academic libraries. Indeed, our individual and collective futures , whether we are artists and/or writers making handmade and/or hand-bound books and paper, or academic librarians or library staff scrambling, if you will, to anticipate and meet our users’ needs - - our individual and collective futures are less secure than they were in the past.
Are we in a bind? Could be. Possibly so. Make no mistake - - the implications of dual - - screen and paper, book delivery, are vast - - for artists and/or writers, as described above, and library workers combined. Is there a particular strategy that will assure the future of the book or the future of academic libraries? I doubt there is any one particular strategy that will assure our future with any of these constituencies. Whatever it takes to survive, the book arts need visual arts presence, book publishing needs retail presence, and academic libraries need academic presence on our campuses. Gosh, are we back to demonstrating our value?