Daily Archives: December 8, 2010

Are Libraries Screwed? Seriously!

According to Emily Williams on Digital Book World in a November 15 Post, according to Eli Neiburger, Associate Director of IT and Product Development at Ann Arbor District Library, MI, who was on the Tipping Point panel at the September virtual conference sponsored by Library Journal eBooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point.

Libraries are screwed, because we are invested in the codex, and the codex has become outmoded. It’s not just a change of text delivery format, it’s a move away from content that is ownable and shareable, and that’s a problem when your organization is in the business of owning and sharing content. … Popular materials have fueled a huge boom for popular libraries, but libraries were created to protect and ensure access to things like [local texts and history] for the communities that produced them, not to subsidize access to the hottest new clay tablets from Babylon.

The real problem is that the value of library collections are rooted in the worth of a local copy. The localness of something loses most of its embodied value when you can retrieve information from Australia in 300 milliseconds. Who cares if it’s local or not? I have it immediately. The notion of a copy loses most of its embodied value when there’s no longer a difference between transmission and duplication. When you’re dealing with digital objects, to transmit it is to duplicate it. If you know where it is, you’ll always have it. … In an internetworked world, when you can download anything from anywhere, the idea of having a local copy only makes sense to a hoarder.

No digital native is going to get excited about waiting to receive a digital object, and what’s the sense in making someone give something back to you when you still have it even after you gave it to them? Finally, the user experiences available to people who choose not to bother trying to use the library will only provide increasingly appealing value, which puts us in the situation where all this is happening as taxpayers are having to decide what municipal services they can live without. We are so screwed.

[Emphasis added.]

My point in regurgitating this information is to provide further argument FOR libraries redefining the business they are in. If you want to be in the collection and lending business, prepare to become a warehouse or museum. If you want to be in the library business, prepare to become something else – something more.

NOTE: I found it very interesting that Emily categorized this Post as “Business Model”.

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More Business-Like? Absolutely!

“TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT” (This headline was way too good to pass up.) Did you hear the news? Yep, Donald Trump is talking about running for President – YES – of the USA. Just to be clear, this is not a Post about politics.

I’m using this breaking news to re-emphasize a point from my earlier Posts (beginning in March with The 21st Century Library is More: Business-like, and 21st Century Librarianship – Part 4, Business Model and Business Model Revisited – Business Acumen from November) that the 21st Century Library needs to be more business-like.

While the political poll that started the whole buzz was taken in New Hampshire last September is not news, since a Time.com article reported their conversation with Trump about the poll on October 3, the fact that Trump said recently he was considering the possibility is new news, even since CNBC reported it in November, because I heard it myself from “The Donald” himself on a TV magazine show just last night. The story must have legs.

What I heard Trump say was (not that this is what he actually said) “government needs to be more business-like”, and that resonated with me as a 21st Century evolution to have the potential for a renowned business person to become President. Mitt Romney is more businessman than politician, and he was Governor of Massachusetts before he was a Presidential candidate. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is a billionaire businessman.

But, in actuality, government has become more business-like since the 1960s. Robert McNamara was Presidents Kennedy and Johnson’s Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968. According to our friends at Wikipedia, McNamara was an “American business executive … responsible for the institution of systems analysis in public policy, which developed into the discipline known today as policy analysis. … McNamara was one of ten former World War II officers known within Ford as the “Whiz Kids” who helped the company to stop its losses and administrative chaos by implementing modern planning, organization and management control systems. … On November 9, 1960, McNamara became the first president of Ford from outside the family of Henry Ford.”

Federal government becoming more business-like started in the military with McNamara, but has continued well into the 21st Century in the way the military prepares for combat. Army Field Manual 3-04-513 states;

Risk management is a commonsense tool that leaders can use to make smart risk decisions in tactical and everyday operations. It is a method of getting the job done by identifying the areas that present the highest risk and taking action to eliminate, reduce, or control the risk. It is not complex, technical, or difficult. It is a comparatively simple decision making process, a way of thinking through a mission to balance mission demands against risks.


Regardless of one’s philosophy of our free-market economy or form of democratic government, it seems undeniable that a more business-like approach to just about everything is an outgrowth of this global economy and global society in the 21st Century. Why shouldn’t libraries be run more business-like? Libraries are competing for very limited funds, competing for market share of the public for customers, and desperately need to evolve to become more relevant in a 21st Century society. Why not give a more business-like model a try?

PS: As if all this global competition isn’t bad enough for libraries, are we as individual librarians now being faced with the business approach to keeping our jobs – personal performance evaluations based on outcomes? According to Kendra, at Library Attack! (Not all of us can be the Best: How to measure your impact?), she is facing a performance evaluation, and is concerned about demonstrating, or substantiating her impact from her job. YIKES! Are you ready to justify your job based on the outcomes you’re produced?

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