Broader economic trends spawn budget pressures for education and libraries, prompting a plethora of studies on the value and relevance of libraries. Numerous reports on economic decline in libraries and studies with mixed pronouncements on the value of libraries have led to a negative self-image within the library profession. Yet libraries' leadership in connecting learners to knowledge is at the heart of producing many of the key skills sorely needed in robust societies and economies. Librarianship has many untapped opportunities for positioning itself as a prominent strategic partner. This paper outlines current research on the economic and societal context for libraries and higher education and summarizes the interactive exchanges from the 2018 Charleston Conference Lively Session on library-futures strategies presented November 8. Through live polling and discussion, session participants described their libraries as moderately integrated in their overall campuses and broader communities, yet also moderately isolated. Among key challenges, participants highlighted funding, fundamental shifts in scholarly communication, and changes across the higher education landscape. Opportunities for library professionals’ enhanced roles include data visualization and new services, deeper integration in the broader community and scholarly communication, and preservation of the historical record. Unassigned societal problems suited to library professionals include promoting credible information, combating dumbing-down, and expanding research assistance to non-profits and local governments. Ways to champion the profession include deeper project collaborations with students, measuring value-added impact on programs, and jargon-free conversations with non-librarians. Participants’ many open-ended observations included value-added, not bound by legacy, flexibility, leadership, digital and technology, and empathy. This paper provides detailed reporting and interpretation on the anonymous live poll entries.

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Conference Proceeding

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Published in the Proceedings of the 2018 Charleston Library Conference.

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Related Content

2018 Charleston Library Conference presentation "Future and Value: The Library as Strategic Partner".