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When was the last time you went to the library?

For me, aside from taking my kids to the local library to check out some children’s books, I haven’t gone on my own in years…maybe decades.  Maybe I should…maybe we all should…if only there were a reason to…

A post today on Techland by Harry McCracken describes what seemed to be a rather heated and emotional SXSW Interactive talk that went on his past Saturday called “The Great Library Swindle.”  The session talked about the “daunting challenges that public libraries face in the age of the Internet and digitization.”

The problem: Libraries want to go digital by offering eBooks, but publishers don’t consider them to be a priority.

The article quotes Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones, “When you are growing up, there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the Church, which belongs to God and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.”

This made me think whether the future opportunity for libraries is really books. The opportunity is information.  Sure, historically, the library has always been a place to consume printed magazines, books, reference materials, even some digital audio and video content.  The image we have in all of our heads is shelves upon shelves of printed material, but if we step back and look at it from 30,000 feet, libraries are more localized information sources. How do we harness this into a new business model, or new means of drawing people in? The SXSW discussion led to one major conclusion: “Libraries, Block argued, aren’t just book-loaning facilities. They’re about also equal opportunity and community, and perhaps they should rebrand themselves as being about access, not books.”

How do they do this?

  • Less investments in printed material, more investment in technology like tablets.
  • Replace shelves with workstations, seating, conference rooms, etc.
  • Continue to provide information in self-service form, while also investing in training and education on how to utilize digital tools.
  • Utilize the cloud and online applications like PowerSchool to partner with local schools to capture what students are reading, researching, learning outside the school and reward their efforts.
  • Partner with community education programs to introduce digital information to adults that need the help.

Just a few ideas, I am sure you have more.  All in the mindset of transforming how we historically envision the library into a place where anyone and everyone could harness the power of information.

What would drive you back to your local library?

Related Posts:

SXSW: The Fate of Libraries

Why do we force students to work digital, but learn analog?

The land before drives: at the library

One Comment

  • Mark, thanks for giving this topic some e-ink. Libraries serve an essential role in our democracy. The tough thing is that for the most part librariians are not wired for advocacy, but most are sharp as tacks and care about the folks who come in the physical and virtual doors.

    Again, thanks!


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