I recently bought (pre-ordered) a copy of Reinventing Collapse : The Soviet Example and American Prospects by Dmitry Orlov. Orlov is a Peak Oiler and his writing on the subject is easily distinguishable from his contemporaries because he spent a lot of time in the Soviet Union during its collapse from Socialist Superpower to Just Another Asian Country With Nukes and a Funny Alphabet. In other words, he’s seen the mighty fall and it wasn’t pretty. His work can be seen at his Club Orlov blog and if you have time, I’d suggest giving it a good look.
There’s a section in the second half of the book when Orlov describes the concept of “collapse proofing” one’s life. It’s less a physical level of preparation than a mental exercise. A lot of the practice has to do with re-examining one’s attitudes and expectations toward our jobs and ourselves as guardians of knowledge and providers of help to those seeking it out. Collapse-proofing one’s life might force one to ask questions like “How would I make money if I were fired?”, “Do I have enough in the bank to last for a while if I had no other income?”, and “What current monthly expenses do I now have that I could excise to make my money last longer?”
It might be wise–purely as a thought experiment, of course–to think about going through the same exercise regarding our libraries. As I’ve already written, we would need to think about a future where digital resources (I include hardware as well as software here) are progressively less easily available and more difficult to maintain. With that in mind collapse-proofing our libraries might include the following assumptions:
The printed page will once again be king. This includes paper, microform, and microfiche but not digitized files or PDFs.
Card catalogs will make a comeback.
Public libraries, by and large, will fail. Private libraries
will be making new contributions to specialized collections.
Those public libraries that do survive will slowly but
surely take on the role of community centers, and will thrive primarily on
for pleasure will make a comeback, as will reading for practical skill learning
(how to grow, fix, and build things.)
Collections having to do with late19th and early 20th
century technology will become particularly sought after.
Surviving libraries will be primary resources for educators
(teachers, tutors, homeschooling parents etc.)
Given these eventualities, how to we modify our job responsibilities and/or restructure our libraries to to deal with them?
Obviously, none of this is written in stone (it’s too hard to shelve), and no-one knows exactly what the future holds. And chances are excellent that this is not, in fact, the end of the world–although it is probably going to be a different, less convenient, less wealthy country for the foreseeable future.
In the mean time, take Douglas Adams’s advise and Don’t Panic.