Having read all the essays suggested and more, I am not sure I am any closer to an answer than I was before I did the research. These articles are by scholarly, knowledgeable people in the library field. Their breadth of knowledge is so far beyond my small world of school libraries in Los Angeles. I thought I would start even closer to home and talk about two family members' feelings about libraries and the Web. My husband, a lawyer, uses online databases to help with his cases. He searches general topics of law and doesn't find anything. He must know the name or number of a specific case. He prefers to go to the closest law library and talk to the librarian. My daughter who must use the Internet constantly for work (she is a teacher) and who urged me to sign up for Facebook just so I could see the newest photos of my granddaughter, does not like to read and told me that librarians never helped her. (Yes - she means me, too!) She also does not like doing research on the Web and asks me to do it for her. The differences between them are that the first is a reader, loves Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas, and Samuel Beckett, etc. and the second is a talker and a doer. My daughter is changing lives by investing her time in her students. My husband is helping clients. Both are contributing to the world, and both have a totally different outlook towards libraries and the Internet. Perhaps it is generational -- my generation prefers face-to-face interaction (online college classes just seem so unreal). The students we are teaching today are socially connected through the Web -- Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, etc. etc. They think nothing of using Google to find answers, and Wikipedia is okay too. My vision is that students of the future will walk around with Acer or Asus type computers, interacting with people all over the world to find answers, make contributions, create documents, artwork, videos, and more. Teachers will be remotely viewing students' work from the comfort of home, perhaps? Textbooks will all be online, and research will too -- Wikipedia has a student/school version now that they say is more authoritative than the old Wikipedia. Not just anyone can change the entries, and scholars are doing the research. Is this good? Is this real? It doesn't really matter because it is what is happening. So where do libraries fit into all of this? I think of a CSLA colleague who seems to successfully navigate the world of the web while simultaneously reading and recommending books to her students and friends. Her energy and enthusiasm seem boundless and so appealing! She does an excellent job of promoting her library!! An essential skill for all of us to emulate. Did I answer anything in this blog? I don't think so. I still have so many questions about the future of libraries. I still want my paperback book at my bedside to read into the wee hours. But I also like that I can find my mother's favorite books - not long out of print -- on Google books -- St. Elmo by August Jane Evans, written over 100 years ago. She died with it at her side.
I want students to read and to think and to be critical. I don't care if it's a paperback book or the World Wide Web. Life long learners are what we hope to create -- and if Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 + helps to do this, then more power to the Web. But I still think we need the people who can navigate the students towards the best resources, tools, and interactions.