Libraries at University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Date of this Version



Stewart, Claire. “Future States of the Research Library.” Research Library Issues, no. 303 (2022): 3–11. https://doi. org/10.29242/rli.303.1.


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


What can be said about the year 2021 that hasn’t already been said? Challenging, unprecedented, extraordinary in almost every way, 2021 even surpassed the previous annus horribilis, 2020. Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to ripple humanity-wide, ceaselessly rebounding off, and cruelly amplifying, almost every kind of inequity and social challenge. A long overdue reckoning with the legacies of racism in the United States did not materialize in any truly transformative way, political discord worsened, and anti-science voices grew to dominate what should have been rational conversations about a coherent and collective response to a profound global health threat. It was within this context that the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) planned its 2021 meetings, which continued as virtual gatherings for a second year. Recognizing the monumentality of the change upon us, the committee of organizers planned the spring and fall 2021 meetings as a series, devoting the spring meeting to hearing from experts, mostly from outside of research libraries, on a set of broad issues, with the fall meeting more specifically focused on the library response and to understanding its evolving context. “The Big Pivot,” as we dubbed the meeting sequence, gave us time and space to grapple with major forces reshaping every aspect of our society, to work to understand them more deeply, and to contextualize their implications for our libraries and institutions. In this issue of Research Library Issues (RLI), we reflect on some of the topics explored in 2021 with a forward look to the conversations and work continuing into 2022.