A perspective by Cathy Wilt, Executive Director of PALINET
As we discussed ideas for a futures conference, it quickly became apparent that if we want to know the future of libraries then we need to look at the future of our world. What will that world look like? How will life as we know it change? How will we communicate? What tools will be available? What needs will our customers have?

We decided to seek out visionaries from all walks of life and bring them together with a small group of colleagues from our field to begin a discussion that will impact libraries well into the next decade. We imagined a morphing of information, inspiration, and imagination that will transform the way we look at our future. With such lofty aspirations, we recognized we also need to build a solid foundation that will serve as a concrete plan with which to move forward.

The result: The Mid-Atlantic Library Futures Conference – a groundbreaking partnership between the NJ, PA, MD, WV, and DE state libraries and PALINET, May 7 and 8, 2007, at the Borgata Hotel in Atlantic City.

An event where speakers will share their vision, small groups will explore ideas through conversations, and EVERYONE will walk away with their plan to navigate through our new possibilities.

I keep saying this is THE conference, because I suspect everything that happens in tomorrow’s libraries will somehow be connected back to an idea, a discussion, or an insight that came about from the combination of people who gather for this. You don’t want to miss this one.


Did you know

According to former Secretary of Education Richard Riley . . .

The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004.

We are currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist . . .

Using technologies that haven’t been invented . . .

In order to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.

Did you know …
It’s estimated that a week’s worth of New York Times contains more information than a person was likely to come across in a lifetime in the 18th century.

This video was created by Karl Fisch, a Colorado teacher, to give his fellow faculty members a sense of the world that their students are entering. Karl Fisch credits one of our keynote speakers, Ray Kurzweil, as a source of inspiration for his video.
The issues raised here are exactly the issues we are grappling with in our libraries nationwide. Is it possible to keep up with the incredibly rapid pace of technological innovations? What job skills will we need to be efficient in the future? Will libraries exist in 20 years? Will we remain relevant? Who will our customers be and what kind of information will they need?

We have assembled a stellar list of presenters to help us begin to imagine various future scenarios. We have carefully selected presenters who are willing to engage in a dialogue with the people attending this conference, because we believe that the conversations that take place and the connections that people make with one another at this conference will coalesce into the transformative force that propels libraries into the future.

Postcards have been sent and messages delivered to listservs all around the country and the response is already fantastic. Roz Pelcyger, Director of the Glen Rock Public Library was one of the first to respond sending this message, “The topic and speakers sound fascinating and the Borgata is an exciting and luxurious hotel- sign me up!” Don’t be shy, let us know you are coming by leaving a comment to this post.


Ray Kurzweil having lunch with President Mikhail Gorbachev on April 12, 2005 at
the Massachusetts Software Council annual meeting (Ray is on the MSC Board of Trustees).
Credit: Courtesy of Kurzweil Technologies, Inc.

“Ray walked on stage, played a composition on an old upright piano, and then whispered to I’ve Got a Secret host Steve Allen “I built my own computer”.

“Well that’s impressive,” Steve Allen replied, “but what does that have to do with the piece you just played?” Ray then whispered the rest of his secret: “The computer composed the piece I just played.” During the yes or no questions, former Miss America Bess Myerson was stumped, but film star Henry Morgan, the second celebrity panelist, guessed Ray’s secret.

This high school project was Ray Kurzweil’s first endeavor in the field of “pattern recognition,” which Ray describes as “that part of the AI field where we teach computers to recognize abstract patterns, a capability that dominates human thinking.


Look closely at the man to the right…. isn’t that Bill Gates listening to Ray? Yes, this photo was taken of Ray when he was invited to speak at Microsoft’s CEO Summit in Seattle on May 20, 2004. The event is Microsoft’s yearly prestigious conference for business leaders from around the world and is known as the CEO Summit, a strictly A-list affair, and most top corporate CEOs relish the opportunity to go and “dialog” with fellow captains of industry. We are really excited that Ray will also be our keynote speaker for our Future’s Conference.

For two days in May, librarians will meet with visionaries from the disciplines of anthropology, architecture, public policy and science to discuss the future of libraries. By looking outside of the library, we seek to explore unique ideas that will make the difference.

Imagine merging information, inspiration and imagination to transform the way we look at our future. And then working together to build a solid foundation that will serve as a concrete plan with which to move forward.

Be a part of this exclusive conclave and share your perspectives on how we can affect the future of libraries.

Register today.

Space is limited.

Registration for Maryland Libraries

Registration for Delaware Libraries

Registration for New Jersey Libraries

Registration for PALINET members

Registration for Pennsylvania Libraries

Registration for West Virgina Libraries

Registration for all other libraries