Saturday, May 30, 2009

A new world indeed

Michael Stephen's article "Into a New World of Librarianship" had a portion which best sums up where I think our focus should be.

"Librarian 2.0 gets content This librarian understands that the future of libraries will be guided by how users access, consume and create content. Content is a conversation as well and librarians should participate. Users will create their own mash ups, remixes and original expressions and should be able to do so at the library or via the library’s resources. This librarian will help users become their own programming director for all of the content available to them."

I like this statement because it helps us focus on solutions for getting our content (books, programs, services) to "them" where "they are" and how "they" want it and letting "them" know they need and want it in the first place. Fine and dandy, you say. How can the library make people want and need our DVD's when delivery systems for movies are 1) growing in number, 2) part of a format war that will never end (heard of blu ray before 2 years ago?) 3) dispensed in ever convenient ways (inside Safeway for a dollar, Netflix for a few dollars per month, TV show episodes for free on Hulu), and we have limited hours.

While I don't have answers to these questions yet, nor do I think a consultant exists that can definitively say do this, this, and this and you'll be fine, I believe we need to start somewhere. Downloadable movies is a start. The resolve the "open hours" and "I want it when I want it" issues. Also, we will never know just what device people are going to choose to view or receive content and they have no mechanism or desire to impart that to us since the number of delivery and playback systems is exploding. So let companies do that dirty work (let them make products "everyone" can use) and we can spend our time finding creative ways to market/push the service.

Another point well made by Rick Anderson, in "Away from the Icebergs", is making our services easy to use for our patrons. "If our services can't be used without training then it's the services that need to be fixed--not our patrons." This has several consequences or meanings. One, library vendors wanting our business should take note of this and make products accordingly. Every RFP should have this grading element in it. Second, all of the 2.0 technologies are competing for people's time and attention; in this bombardment who will stand out? Someone with a quick and easy solution or someone who makes it a chore just to understand how to get started?

We've got so much to do; I'm going to grab a book and relax!


  1. I think you are right that libraries can't compete with Netflix or the grocery store Red Box or Hulu. However, I remember something Joe Janes said at last year's Training Day. "Don't go chasing what you can't catch". He was talking about librarians' fixation on being better than Google. We can't be. Let's focus on what we can do best, instead. OK, so now what CAN we do best? I don't know the answer. But we'll be starting up some heavy strategic planning here in a few months...

  2. "Access, consume and create content" - love the visual! Some people have done a power of thinking about the future of libraries. I wish I had something profound to say, but right now, I'm still struggling with my job description and making it mesh with reality.