Now and Next: What a Post-COVID World May Bring for Libraries

“Around the world, library and information workers are doing their best, both personally and professionally, to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as some libraries are – cautiously – beginning to loosen restrictions, others are seeing them come into place.

Naturally, the focus is on the short term – how to keep staff, patrons safe, how to keep offering services as best possible, how to manage uncertainty. For many, it will seem difficult to think even beyond the coming days.

At the same time, it is already clear that this is a historic moment, with unprecedented steps being taken by governments, businesses and individuals. These are having a huge impact on the present, but what about the future? To what extent will what we are experiencing today not just ‘be’ history, but rather ‘make’ it?

This blog aims to identify ten developments we’re seeing today, and explore what they may mean in terms of trends shaping the future of libraries. It is not – and cannot be – exhaustive, and certainly can be improved. We welcome your ideas.


1) Restrictions on movement have dramatically changed our lives – will we get back to normal?

2) Many of our activities have ‘pivoted’ to online – will they stay there? 

3) Governments are investing billions into economies – how will they take it back?

4) Education has been disrupted and delayed – can we limit the scarring effects?

5) Testing, tracking and emergency powers are helping to fight the pandemic – but will governments be able to let go?

6) It has become clear that laws and practices were not ready – will we learn the lessons?

7) Weaknesses and incompleteness in our digital infrastructure have become clear – will we fix them?

8) The need for global information sharing is obvious – will we make it permanent?

9) Pollution is down and air quality up – will we learn to live greener lives?

10) The value of culture in well-being is clear – will we continue to invest in making it a reality? “