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Appendix D

Appendix D: Fresno County Public Library's Reference Goals for 2020: Excerpts

Goal
The goal of reference services in 2020 will remain the same as it is today -- to connect people of all ages with accurate, appropriate information and materials to meet their individual needs in timely fashion. But with superior new tools, especially online, we will provide convenience and packaging of information to meet individual needs. Multiple avenues of delivering service will be treated and regarded by staff as equally legitimate methods of service delivery. Information services will, to a large extent, be delivered without respect to place or time of day and less attention to geographic boundaries.

Customers
As the children of today, who are accustomed to internet use, grow to be adults, it is clear that virtually all Fresno County residents will be users of the Internet in 2020. The Internet and wireless communications will be so seamlessly integrated into people's lives that they will use portable and home devices to do such things as control their appliances, monitor medication taking routines, participate in public voting on sports moves in real time, and guide them around unfamiliar cities. ("Future of the Web", World and I, April 2002 and "Living in a Wireless World" Newsweek Dec. 10, 2001). It is likely that although nearly everyone will use the Internet, the level of skill and success in using it for information will vary tremendously.

County residents will be able to access the Internet wherever they are and choose services which are delivered to them on their terms and which are convenient to them. Their access to vendors of products and services has already expanded literally from the neighborhood to the world. These choices include direct competitors to libraries as suppliers of information services. Commercial free and for fee "ask an expert" websites are proliferating on the Internet -- for example, expertcentral.com, allexperts.com, and AnswerPoint.com. Many information seekers are already choosing the convenience of such services even if these cost money and don't stress quality, authority, or even cite their sources.

Through electronic means, the Library even more than ever will be able to achieve equity of service to all residents regardless of their geographical location in the County. The same electronic information services can just as conveniently be delivered to Firebaugh as metropolitan. Electronic delivery of information should be accompanied by physical delivery of materials in non-electronic formats directly to homes and offices.

At the same time library users want virtual services any time anywhere, they will also want comfortable and appealing places--facilities for research, study, and meeting. These purposes of the library will remain connected to the building as a community center, study hall, repository for the preservation of local history, etc

New Services
Reference services of the future will be offered in Spanish as well as English, and via multiple avenues to meet needs of different kinds of users: real time-chat; e-mail; phone including phone dialed from computers; mail; and in person. Real time chat and e-mail enable the librarian to send links to a remote user (or even one in the same building) or literally send web pages to his/her own computer to guide a search or provide an answer.

Many experts agree that that ready reference -- short answers to factual questions -- is diminishing because people can do so much themselves on the Internet, even if they do so poorly or inefficiently. The fact that library reference statistics almost everywhere have declined (though not in Fresno) for several years lends support to this view. Patrons already have the option of doing more for themselves than ever before. More patrons will choose to help themselves to the extent that technology enables them. Many others will be overwhelmed by the vast array of choices they face. As a result, reference librarians will spend more of their time and effort in uncovering people's information needs instead of answering specific questions. They will instruct and guide patrons through research processes and help them sift through the overwhelming amount and complexity of information and non-information available.

Librarians will increasingly expand value-added services which package and tailor information to individual needs and actually create information. FAQ's or pathfinders to address commonly recurring questions can be created and posted on web pages for access by anyone anywhere. For example, the business librarian could assemble a list of online resources, print materials, and referrals that is generic enough to help all people trying to start a business in Fresno County. It would be a small step to go further and add some specifics on opening a limousine business for a patron with this specific need. Similarly, we could take the lead in compiling various kinds of community calendars or launch a book alert service to notify subscribing residents about new titles added to the library collection on a specific subject, i.e., investing.

The area of local history and genealogy promises to provide librarians with some of the best opportunities for making valuable contributions to the preservation and dissemination of information. Local histories, photos, etc. not widely held everywhere will be candidates for digitization and integration into a well-developed local presence on the Internet. Such resources are of interest to both local residents and distant users.

Virtual Collections
All sources which contain information subject to frequent change will be offered exclusively in electronic and not print form -- i.e., directories, almanacs, handbooks, statistical compilations, stock prices guides, etc.

The reference collections of branches will be primarily online, reducing reference materials space used presently by perhaps 80% or more. Online resources are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, making them more available than the physical collections of branches with even the longest hours, and they are available to the vastly larger number of potential users in their homes and offices. The online collections will include both popular and specialized proprietary databases purchased by the Library for its cardholding customers, especially children and youth. These offer comprehensive, yet not unmanageable, amounts of content and continue to be superior to searching the open web we know today which is fraught with commercial content or point of use charges.

A second component of the virtual collections is selected web sites organized into collections which focus on specific user needs, for example, job hunting or visiting Fresno. A third component is archived and indexed answers to frequently asked questions, for example, how to get a renter rebate form or the number of ethnic groups in Fresno. Finally, library-developed training for the public on a variety of information finding skills and subjects can be organized into a collection of interactive online tutorials. These can extend the function of teaching information literacy skills from library computer labs directly to homes.

The Library's web pages take on vastly increased importance in the delivery and marketing of reference collections and services in the future. The portal should highlight and promote professional help available to users (ask a librarian) and other services and collections available to home users, not just describe services which are available to those who come into libraries.

Physical Collections
What will remain in print form? Probably not everything will be digitized within 18 years, most notably retrospective information, including local history resources. Other examples may be currently existing retrospective runs of auto repair manuals, business history manuals, college, hospital, and other historic directories, historic maps, genealogies, books representing social history of their times such as etiquette and cookbooks, and backfiles of government publications, some periodicals, and small community newspapers. These existing historical collections will be retained even though they do not continue to grow in size at today's rates. Local city and telephone directories will continue to be acquired and retained in print form for as long as they are available in print. These kinds of resources constitute headquarters-type collections and are not (except for local history) a significant portion of branch library materials. Therefore, branch library print reference collections are likely to diminish significantly -- possibly by 80%. A small basic collection of print reference material covering less dynamic topics will offer this alternative to users. Branches may for example hold such hard-copy items as a basic print encyclopedia, an encyclopedic survey of world history, a usage/grammar resource, an atlas, and local histories. The mix of print and online could vary by branch depending on the needs of each constituency.

E-books will probably make their biggest impact in what we think of as circulating materials collections today which contain materials designed to be read consecutively and from beginning to end.

Equipment
Big box PC's already look dated and it is predicted that most people will soon access the Internet by other means -- portable digital assistants and other portable wireless communication devices that are interconnected to phones, TV's, global satellite systems, appliances, etc. Voice recognition systems of the future are predicted to allow people to use a hand-held device as a "speak-search-and-read-it-to-me device." (Information Outlook Feb. 2002, p. 22.) Audio-video connections, chat windows, and whiteboards which can be used to display graphic images including web pages will help facilitate digital real-time reference service.

More people will connect to the library's electronic resources and services from where they are than from within the library. But people will still come to the library for resources and ambience not available elsewhere. Within the library, some will bring their own personal devices and access them as the need arises. But the minuscule screens aren't the optimum way to display all data -- for example, digitized photos or demographic tables. There will be a need for flat-screened workstations to access resources. Wireless devices will not have to be concentrated in a single place in the library but distributed as just another support like tables or chairs for users. Flat screens that are paper-thin are predicted to move information to where users are by mounting them on walls, appliances, countertops, even book stacks. Staff as well as patrons will be well served by catalog connections within the stacks instead of at a distant desk. Large wall screens will be expected on computers for meeting and training rooms. So while the amount of space consumed for each device will generally be less than the present, there will be a need for provision in libraries for many more of whatever future devices look like.

Staff & Skills Needed
Reference staff of the future will need to become more diverse ethnically, more fluent in Spanish, more attuned to children's needs, more versatile generally, more aggressive marketers, and even more able to cope with the speed of change. They will have to be comfortable working in and managing a hybrid environment of digital, multi-media, and print information, with tailoring services to individual needs, and with clearly articulating the value of libraries. Reference interviews will uncover not only what is wanted but how it should be delivered. Staff will be less the answerers of specific questions than "sifters of information", "navigators", teachers, and even compilers and authors. As teachers, they will help users evaluate the quality, authority, and biases of authors of information and share both the product and the process of information finding. Probably fewer staff will deliver reference service in person at physical reference or service desks. More will work behind the scenes from various locations locally to globally to provide virtual services, create virtual resources, and serve as the instantly available backup for library staff serving customers who visit library locations. Our outlook will expand from focus on serving a geographically defined local community to participation in even larger statewide, nationwide, and global initiatives.

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