5 Trends to Watch in 2010 – Bookless Libraries

by | Dec 25, 2009 | Future Scenarios

.Thomas Frey Futurist Speaker booklets libraries

Many people regarded the September 2009 headline, “Cushing Academy Goes Bookless” as more of a curiosity than a serious trend. The way Cushing Headmaster James Tracy put it, “Instead of a traditional library with 20,000 books, we’re building a virtual library where students will have access to millions of books.”

But underlying this blip on the radar screen lies a groundswell of innovation that promises a revolution in books. The book industry along with authors, publishers, and the online giants: Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Yahoo are still arguing over the rights conveyed to each member of the value chain. Consumers, however, are simply looking for faster, cheaper, quicker way to access books and information.

Beyond the issues of digital rights an entire new industry is emerging around interface devices with electronic book readers gaining tremendous market share. Amazon’s Kindle broke the ice in 2006 and is now joined by Sony, LG, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and others. 2009 saw the price of bookreaders drop by 50% to under $200. 2010 will see a similar plummet with some being offered for under $100. In less than 5 years bookreaders will cost less than $20 and become ubiquitous. The result will be a very chaotic downward spiral for the ink-on-paper publishing world.

Books have long created an impressive backdrop for library activities, but those days are numbered.

In spite of the dwindling interest in books as a physical object, books themselves will flourish. The demand for well-produced literary works will continue to grow, but will transition in style and form as technology creates new ways for people to interact with authors and experts in the field.

Despite the objections of book lovers, the days of wandering through the stacks are coming to an end.

As the popularity of books in the printed form begins to dwindle, libraries will be faced with rethinking their role and the way they interact with their user constituency. Their purpose will still revolve around being a point of access for information, but will evolve into a center of culture, a media archive for the community, and a place where great ideas can spring to life.

Even with expanded services through the web, their greatest value will lie in their sense of place. They will remain a place where questions get answered but will also become a gathering place for people to meet people and teams are able to plan, network, and interact with the information before them.

Future libraries will become fluid structures for causing positive human collisions. Next generation tools and equipment will be a source of intellectual spontaneity, giving people the ability to produce audio, video, graphic, and other sensory works as a way to breathe life into their thinking.

The ultimate “library of the future” will be the home for highly relevant informational experiences, where great ideas are born, and people have access to the tools and facilities to act on their ideas.


  • In less than 20 years, the majority of libraries will no longer have traditional printed books in them.
  • Since digital libraries have a much smaller labor component, the demand for traditionally trained librarians will drop over the next 20 years to less than half of what it is today.


Along with the transformation of libraries will come a great opportunity to help them reinvent themselves. The technology component will continue to increase and support for the technology will create many new openings.

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5 Trends to Watch in 2010 – Bookless Libraries

by | Dec 25, 2009 | Future Scenarios

I was thoroughly intrigued when I found out the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado was offering a degree in asteroid mining.

Yes, the idea of extracting water, oxygen, minerals, and metals from an asteroid sounds like science fiction to most people, but it’s not that far away.  In fact, Colorado School of Mines’ newly launched “Space Resources” program will help people get in on the ground floor.

After thinking about the proactive nature of this approach, it became abundantly clear how backward thinking most colleges have become.

When colleges decide on a new degree program, they must first recruit instructors, create a new curriculum, and attract students. As a result, the talent churned out of these newly minted programs is the product of a 6-7 year pipeline.

For this reason, anticipatory-thinking institutions really need to be setting their sights on what business and industries will need 7-10 years from now.

The Risk-Averse Nature of Education

When Harvard professor Clayton M. Christensen released his best-selling book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, his core message that disruptive change is the path to success, was only partially embraced by higher education.

While many were experimenting with MOOCs and smart whiteboards, changes in the subject matter of their courses still evolved at the traditional pace of discovery.

This is not to say colleges are not innovative. Rather, the demands of today’s emerging tech environment are forcing business and industries to shift into an entirely new gear. And that most definitely includes our academic institutions.

From a management perspective, it’s far easier to oversee a contained system where all variables are constrained. But during times of change, we tend to give far more power to the “unleashers,” who are determined to test the status quo and release ideas and trial balloons to see what works.

For this reason, managers and creatives often find themselves on opposing sides, and the winners of these warring factions often determine what we as consumers see as the resulting ripples of change.

Offering Pilot Programs

When Facebook bought Oculus Rift in March 2014 for $2 billion, the job boards went crazy, as there was an instant uptick in the demand for VR designers, engineers, and experience creators. But no one was teaching VR, and certainly not the Oculus Rift version of it.

Colleges have a long history of being blindsided by new technologies:

  • When eBay launched, no one was teaching ecommerce strategies
  • When Myspace launched, no one was teaching social networking
  • When Google launched, no one was teaching online search engine strategies
  • When Uber launched, no one was teaching sharing economy business models
  • When Apple first opened their App Store, no one was teaching smart phone app design
  • When Amazon first allowed online storefronts, no one was teaching the Amazon business model
  • When YouTube first offered ways to monetize videos, no one was teaching it

Since most academic institutions are only willing to put their name on programs with long-term viability, the endorsement of half-baked agendas does not come easy. However, that is exactly what needs to be done.

Colleges can no longer afford to remain comfortably behind the curve.

52 Future College Degrees

As a way of priming your thinking on this matter, here are 52 future degrees that forward-thinking colleges could start offering today:

  1. Space Exploration – space tourism planning and management
  2. Space Exploration – planetary colony design and operation
  3.  Space Exploration – next generation space infrastructure
  4. Space Exploration – advanced cosmology and non-earth human habitats
  5. Bioengineering with CRISPR – policy and procedural strategies
  6. Bioengineering with CRISPR – advanced genetic engineering systems
  7. Bioengineering with CRISPR – operational implementations and system engineering
  8. Bioengineering with CRISPR – ethical regulation and oversight
  9. Smart City – autonomous traffic integration
  10. Smart City – mixed reality modeling
  11. Smart City – autonomous construction integration
  12. Smart City – next generation municipal planning and strategy
  13. Autonomous Agriculture – robotic systems
  14. Autonomous Agriculture – drone systems
  15. Autonomous Agriculture – supply chain management
  16. Autonomous Agriculture – systems theory and integration
  17. Swarmbot – design, theory, and management
  18. Swarmbot – system engineering and oversight
  19. Swarmbot – municipal system design
  20. Swarmbot – law enforcement and advanced criminology systems
  21. Cryptocurrency – digital coin economics
  22. Cryptocurrency – crypto-banking system design
  23. Cryptocurrency – regulatory systems and oversight
  24. Cryptocurrency – forensic accounting strategies
  25. Blockchain – design, systems, and applications
  26. Blockchain – blockchain for biological systems
  27. Blockchain – large-scale integration structures
  28. Blockchain – municipal system design strategies
  29. Global Systems – system planning, architecture, and design
  30. Global Systems – large-scale integration strategies
  31. Global Systems – operational systems checks and balance
  32. Global Systems – governmental systems in a borderless digital world
  33. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle - drone film making
  34. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – command center operations
  35. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – municipal modeling and planning systems
  36. Unmanned Aerial Vehicle – emergency response systems
  37. Mixed Reality - experiential retail
  38. Mixed Reality – three-dimensional storytelling
  39. Mixed Reality – game design
  40. Mixed Reality – therapeutic systems and design
  41. Advanced Reproductive Systems – designer baby strategies, planning, and ethics
  42. Advanced Reproductive Systems – surrogate parenting policy and approaches
  43. Advanced Reproductive Systems – organic nano structures
  44. Advanced Reproductive Systems – clone engineering and advanced processes
  45. Artificial Intelligence – data management in an AI environment
  46. Artificial Intelligence – advanced human-AI integration
  47. Artificial Intelligence – streaming AI data services
  48. Artificial Intelligence – advanced marketing with AI
  49. Quantum Computing – data strategies in a quantum-connected world
  50. Quantum Computing – quantum-level encryption and security
  51. Quantum Computing – quantum computing implementation strategies
  52. Quantum Computing – AI-quantum system integration

Final Thought

More so than any time in history, we have a clear view of next generation technologies. Naturally, we’re still a long way from 100% clarity, but for most of the technologies listed above, the shifting tectonic plates of change can be felt around the world.

Without taking decisive action, colleges run the risk of being circumvented by new types of training systems that can meet market demands in a fraction of the time it takes traditional academia to react.

The ideas I’ve listed are a tiny fraction of what’s possible when it comes to emerging tech degrees. Should colleges stick their neck out like Colorado School of Mines and offer degrees that may not be immediately useful? Adding to that question, how many college degrees are immediately useful today?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

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