In yesterday’s Post I reported what I think tolls the demise of the local library – creation of a National Digital Library. Although I didn’t predict when that demise might occur, I’m thinking it will be in about 10 years. Local libraries will not be able to withstand the onslaught of technology that is making all print media obsolete. Here’s another nail in the coffin.
As if Google wasn’t making local libraries obsolete fast enough, a personal book scanner will soon be available (March-April timeframe) to enable individuals to digitize their own collections, or anything. Hardware reports on “a gadget that will help you digitise your paperbacks, hardbacks, magazines and comics.” “Ion, the company best known for its USB turntables,” will market a personal device “Called the Book Saver, it’s a large frame into which you place an open book. Tap the Scan button and the spread is digitised and dropped onto an SD card, ready to be transferred to your computer.”
“Scanning a spread takes around seven seconds, Ion said. The gadget will come with character-recognition software, allowing you to extract the text from the images.”
In my October 29, 2010 Post DO NOT Confuse 21st Century “Library” with “Library Services”, I stressed a point that libraries are reluctant to address the 21st Century Library issue, therefore outside forces are impacting it in ways that are not beneficial to long-term library survival.
The WSJ reporter goes on to elaborate on the numerous companies that are designing and marketing DVD and pBook vending machines, and how they are being employed in local libraries. I certainly applaud library directors and boards for their innovation and resourcefulness in the face of difficult budgetary constraints. What concerns me is a trend toward libraries allowing commercial vendors to shape their library services, and eventually their library. This situation reminds me of an exchange some months ago with a reader who advocated closing their local library and later re-opening it when they had figured out what they should be. My counter point was “nature abhors a vacuum”, and in light of the librarian profession’s reluctance to address the 21st Century Library issue, commercial vendors are stepping in to redesign our libraries for us.
My point here is that not only are vendors influencing library decisions on library services, but every opportunistic (which is not a negative connotation because that is the nature of our free market economy) manufacturer is inventing “gadgets” that threaten the local library’s long-term existence.
THEREFORE, IF the librarian profession does not RIGHT NOW address “the 21st Century Library issue” and decide what it wants to become, and what its role in the 21st Century community should be – as Clemenza said to Don Vito, “In six months time there won’t be nothin’ left to build on.” – in 10 years there won’t be anything left of the library that current librarians grew up with.
BTW: As if Google wasn’t making local libraries obsolete fast enough – check out the list of the latest in new technology advances at the bottom of the Hardware article.