In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Introduction:What Have the Romans Librarians Ever Done for Us?
  • Antony Bryant (bio)

In 2013 IFLA released the succinct and evocative document Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide? Insights from the IFLA Trend Report. It was part of a strategy that was intended to encompass "more than a single document—it is a selection of resources to help you understand where libraries fit into a changing society" (IFLA 2013).

The trend report identified "five top level trends which will play a key role in shaping our future information ecosystem":

  1. 1. New Technologies will both expand and limit who has access to information.

  2. 2. Online Education will democratise and disrupt global learning.

  3. 3. The boundaries of privacy and data protection will be redefined.

  4. 4. Hyper-connected societies will listen to and empower new voices and groups.

  5. 5. The global information environment will be transformed by new technologies.

I have used the report as part of my Information Management (IM) Masters module Managing Information in the Digital and Global Economy (MIDGE) for several years, requiring students to select one of these trends as the basis for a report discussing aspects of contemporary IM. The topic chosen most often by my students is online education (trend 2), closely followed by privacy and data protection (trend 3); but the one on empowerment (trend 4) has proved to be the basis for many of the most stimulating discussions, with many students expressing initial surprise that librarians might be associated with such topics. Obviously their view of librarians is somewhat outmoded and in all likelihood based on Hollywood caricatures such as the Rachel Weisz figure in The Mummy—well at least at the outset of that film.1 [End Page 91]

Trend 4 concerns empowerment of "new voices and groups" in hyperconnected societies, and, for this issue of Library Trends, I was particularly keen to encourage contributions that developed this theme by addressing ways in which what the report termed "our future information system" does or does not recognize, incorporate, and empower new voices and groups. As such, the Call for Papers made mention of submissions with a focus on Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and specific topics such as

  • • the sense in which certain groups or forms of internet presence are "listened to," and whether this goes any further toward actual empowerment;

  • • the extent to which certain groups are ignored, discounted, or worse;

  • • empowerment and disempowerment—the upsides and the downsides of empowerment;

  • • the struggles for control and openness across the internet;

  • • the internet as a site for struggles around class, race, gender, and sexuality; and

  • • issues for libraries and archives.

The four papers that now comprise this issue encompass many of these aspects, each deriving from specific studies that include university libraries, cell phone use in rural Africa, the social protest movement around the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the evolution of the information literacy curriculum in an American community college. Together they provide the basis for consideration of empowerment, hyperconnectedness, and the ways in which libraries, librarians, and librarianship are both adapting to and influencing a globalized, mobile, networked society.

The paper by Jie Huang and Jinchi Guo stems from their research into the use of WeChat in a number of Chinese university libraries. WeChat exemplifies the ways in which sociopolitical forces effect our supposedly globalized—i.e., universal—networks. WeChat now has around 900 million users, but outside China it remains almost unknown.2 In many respects it offers facilities superior to those of Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. The study looks at how WeChat is being used by Chinese universities as part of the government-led strategy to develop universities in China meriting the label "world-leading"; striving to offer "international excellence" in services for students and researchers. Taking up a range of earlier studies, the authors look at how organizations such as university libraries have learned to utilize this key social media platform; essentially offering a case study in the maturing of the ways in which university libraries have developed their skills in seeking to harness social media in this context; adopting and adapting their use of WeChat, with a concomitant impact on their own practices. In part the authors...


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pp. 91-100
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