This article compares three sources of information about academic libraries to consider what the future could hold and the skills needed to deliver effective services within that future. The starting point is the contents of New Review of Academic Librarianship (formerly British Journal of Academic Librarianship) from 1986, which are examined thematically and used to conduct focus groups with academic librarians from those in first posts to international library leaders. Recent major trend spotting reports and articles are also examined and compared. Thus, a retrospective analysis of published literature plus the current concerns of working librarians and future trend spotting reports are brought together to see whether any trends for the future emerge. The skills needed to develop relevant services in these new contexts are identified and there is some consideration of how new roles could affect existing library teams. Gaps in the journal coverage and areas for possible future articles are identified.