Scott Frey, Reference Librarian, at the Western State College of Law, Fullerton, California, has written a nice Delorean free article that takes a look at the future of law libraries from the perspective of law librarian’s opinions from the past. It’s called, “A History of the Future of Law Libraries: Lessons in Forecasting from Law Librarians” Predictions of the Past,’ and was published in the June issue of AALL Spectrum.
Frey drops us back a hundred years ago to 1915 and then moves up to the present day citing a number of interesting predictions from law librarians along the way.
I particularly like these predictions that Frey uncovered:
The 1917 AALL president Luther E. Hewitt envisioned this new technology: “Special tables will be invented on which books can be arranged in temporary classifications for special study.” Which, as Frey notes, was possibly “a glimmer of Vannevar Bush’s ‘memex’” outlined in his 1945 Atlantic Monthly article, “As We May Think.
George S. Goddard, the State Librarian, Connecticut State Library, wrote in 1930 about collaboration through interlibrary loans. Frey speculates that although Goddard “…wasn’t exactly talking about e-books, he was saying that technology could eventually provide any book to anyone practically anywhere at any time, which is something we’re getting closer to now.”
My favourite prediction though is this very prescient view from 1959, by legal scholar, Layman E. Allen, from his article directed at law librarians, “Logic, Law and Dreams”:
“In brief outline this dream was about a library user who had complete access to the total corpus of all written information from within the walls of his own office. By a device similar to a telephone this user could dial into any spot in a master repository of all written information and what was available at that spot would appear on a viewing screen in his office. If he wished to have a permanent copy for his personal use of something that appeared on the screen, there was another button to push, and the copy would be produced and delivered to his desk almost instantly.”
Frey offers his own views on the future of the law library emphasizing function over form and concluding that “law librarians have continually added roles to their repertoire—we find, create, organize, use, and show how to use legal and non-law resources, and we implement and troubleshoot technology too!”
Learn more about how the present was viewed from the past in Frey’s complete article.