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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