(TNS) — "A library is a library ... until it isn't," futurist Thomas Frey told an audience of library supporters Tuesday night at Cape Fear Community College's Humanities and Fine Arts Center.
Frey, a former IBM engineer who is now executive director of the Colorado-based DaVinci Institute, outlined ways libraries may evolve in the future.
Some 2 billion jobs will disappear by 2030, Frey predicted, as software and apps disrupt traditional businesses. The emerging "sharing economy" will create more enterprises like Uber and Airbnb, with independent operatives linked by apps.
More workers, he suggested, will be freelancers, temps, independent contractors and self-employed entrepreneurs "co-working" in collaborative spaces very different from the traditional office.
Individuals will be surrounded by thousands of sensors; your coffeemaker, Frey said (not entirely joking), will be smarter than you are. Soon, he said, 3-D printers will work with more than just plastic and resin; individuals will be able to design and custom-fit their own clothes and shoes. Medical 3-D printers can already build prosthetic limbs and soon may be able to "print" skin grafts for burn victims.
Tens of thousands of drones will be everywhere, Frey predicted, not just flying in the air but running on roads or navigating waterways. Besides the Amazon box-deliverer, drones could spray herbicides for farmers, inspect power lines and fight fires. Google and Facebook have already invested in potential high-altitude solar-powered drones, capable of flying for years, to spread WiFi access around the globe.
And what does this mean for libraries? Frey suggested that future libraries might lend out more than just books. In Canada, there is already demand for libraries to loan out emergency generators, PA systems and wheelchairs. At the University of South Florida's library, students can check out drones.
Frey outlined a number of possibilities: library gyms, mini-theaters and interactive learning centers, "borrow-an-expert" programs and regular panels where experts tackle technical issues. Libraries could interface with "mini-colleges," which would focus on immersive, short-term courses to train workers in newly needed skills. What eventually develops, he said, would depend on local wants and needs.
Frey's program was part of an going planning series by the New Hanover County Public Library, funded by a $42,625 grant through the federal Library Services and Technology Act. Library director Harry Tuchmayer said ideas from the series will be used to help plan the new Myrtle Grove library.
The library is already looking at some of Frey's ideas, Tuchmayer said, such as the concept of "makers' rooms," where groups can gather for creative projects.
©2015 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.), Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.