Hello. I’m Laurie Putnam, and I’ll be your host here at Next Libraries. This site is a place to share thoughts about libraries—what they are today, what they could be tomorrow, and the world of things that influence their evolution.

I spend a lot of time reading and thinking about libraries. I’m intrigued by the different roles libraries and librarians can and do and might play in their communities, the remarkable things they do now and the places they might go next. Over time I’ve talked with lots of interesting people with ideas about libraries, and I’ve crowded my computer and my LibraryFutures bookmarks with links and notes that I might someday use in a class I teach or an article I write. In the meantime, I’d like to share some of the things I’m learning with you.

Every day my worklife takes me into different worlds. If I had four feet, I’d say I keep one foot in the library world and one in the corporate world, one in the nonprofit world and one in education. I like to think it keeps me well balanced. At least it keeps me on my toes. Always, whatever the environment, my focus is on improving communication, helping people and organizations connect with their communities and tell their stories. In an average season, I might guide MLIS students through the writing and publishing process, consult with a software company on its marketing communications strategy, help a search engine company with librarian outreach, and create an annual report for a university library or a nonprofit research center.

One of the benefits of this apparent chaos is that I get to see libraries from many different angles, from the inside out and the outside in, and I’d like to bring some of those unusual and intriguing perspectives to our conversation here. Let’s see what we find if we step away from our everyday view for a while. As John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid tell us, “The way forward is paradoxically to look not ahead, but to look around.”*

This site is for today’s and tomorrow’s librarians and information professionals. It’s for educators and publishers, for readers and writers and researchers, for library users and funders and trustees and advocates. It’s for all of us who can make a difference in the future of libraries, helping them continue to evolve and remain relevant in their communities. If it works, you might find yourself thinking, “What if…,” or, “Maybe we could…,” or, “Let’s try…” I hope you will.

Let’s look around. Maybe we’ll come up with better ideas together. We might discover more questions than answers, but hey, it’ll be fun.


P.S.  What’s with the hand at the top of the page?**

The original hand on the left, drifting into the digital, is an image of an ancient cave painting in Patagonia. Those old stencilled hands in the Cueva de las Manos capture a point in our history, as libraries can, and they also capture a sense of our humanity. Libraries are really about people, not ink on paper or bytes in electronic gadgets. Looking ahead, I believe our next libraries will be, more than ever, high-touch places, physical and virtual places where people can gather, share, learn, and create.

Libraries are about ideas and conversations and humanity. They’re about us.

* John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, 2000. The Social Life of Information. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, p. 8.

** Photocomposition: Kboyink.