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David Lee King

The Physical Library in the 21st Century?



From the comments on this post:

“… what happens to the physical library? If Topeka Public mails the holds to patrons and they can drop the returned item at boxes, and the patrons need not come to the physical library… I’m the systems librarian at the Academy Library Budapest and am alarmed by the declining clientele. What still draws them to the library is the line of subscribed databases which are unavailable outside of the library. What can we offer to repopulate the spaces, apart from the complementary agora-like events like occasional exhibitions, book presentations and invited lecturers-speakers?”

Great question, and a great way to end the year… or start the new year, depending on when you read this. So – readers, what do you think? How can we get people into the physical library?

Here’s my shot at it – we need to run the library a bit more like a business, and simply offer people something they want (like a good or product that a business offers to a customer). But what do we offer them? Here’s a great example from the ReadWriteWeb:

Imagine a future when you go to the library with a 5 minute video you’ve just made about last night’s Presidential debates and that librarian says to you:

‘You should upload it to YouTube and tag it with these four tags – two broad and two more specific to existing communities of interest on YouTube and the topic of your video. Then you should embed that video in a blog post along with some text introducing it and linking to some of your favorite posts by other people who have also written today about the Presidential debates. Make sure to send trackbacks to those posts!’

‘Now, I think this is a particularly good video on the topic, so if you’re interested I will vote for it on StumbleUpon (as a sexy librarian I have a very powerful account there) and give it a good summary explanation. Any of those are steps you can take that will make your work all the easier for people to discover.’ “

So again – readers? What do you think? Why should our customers still visit the physical library, and how do we get them to do it?

And… Happy New Year!!!!!!!!!!!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • steven bell

    I’m not sure I have the answers David, but we do discuss this from time to time at Designing Better Libraries (http://dbl.lishost.org). One of our discussion topics is “the user experience.” One important reason people do go to the same retail operations repeatedly is the great experience. You can get books anywhere. You could get video technology anywhere. Why go to the library? It has to be because of the experience. The only problem is that we haven’t quite figured out what makes for a great user experience at the library just yet. That’s what we need to work on. I just listed to a good podcast about the Age of Experience over at google videos. The speaker made a good point – and yes there are business models and examples we need to dissect – about the totality of the experience. The ipod isn’t a hit just because of the technology. There are known better players. But what you get is an overall experience – buying the music – showing how cool you by wearing an ipod, etc. I think that’s the direction in which we need to go – developing a total library experience that begins when you come in the library and when you check out and leave. I’ll be thinking more about this.
    StevenB

  • steven bell

    I’m not sure I have the answers David, but we do discuss this from time to time at Designing Better Libraries (http://dbl.lishost.org). One of our discussion topics is “the user experience.” One important reason people do go to the same retail operations repeatedly is the great experience. You can get books anywhere. You could get video technology anywhere. Why go to the library? It has to be because of the experience. The only problem is that we haven’t quite figured out what makes for a great user experience at the library just yet. That’s what we need to work on. I just listed to a good podcast about the Age of Experience over at google videos. The speaker made a good point – and yes there are business models and examples we need to dissect – about the totality of the experience. The ipod isn’t a hit just because of the technology. There are known better players. But what you get is an overall experience – buying the music – showing how cool you by wearing an ipod, etc. I think that’s the direction in which we need to go – developing a total library experience that begins when you come in the library and when you check out and leave. I’ll be thinking more about this.
    StevenB

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  • casey

    Business is a beginning but by and large we need to be something more. Children’s libraries should be 1 part hands on children’s museum and one part childrens’ theater. Adult libraries should focus mroe on programming that not only showcases library materials but also ties those materials into that particular branches community. By and large business seems to push for homogeous cookie cutter models and those models work for selling widgets they do not (IMO) work nearly as well for exciting folks about information and information literacy….the beauty of libraries that they can be marketed like a fortune cookie. That is, by suprising our patrons they learn without realizing it and it has been my experience that this leads not only to more patrons but happier ones as well.

  • casey

    Business is a beginning but by and large we need to be something more. Children’s libraries should be 1 part hands on children’s museum and one part childrens’ theater. Adult libraries should focus mroe on programming that not only showcases library materials but also ties those materials into that particular branches community. By and large business seems to push for homogeous cookie cutter models and those models work for selling widgets they do not (IMO) work nearly as well for exciting folks about information and information literacy….the beauty of libraries that they can be marketed like a fortune cookie. That is, by suprising our patrons they learn without realizing it and it has been my experience that this leads not only to more patrons but happier ones as well.

  • Sarah

    I think we’re talking apples and oranges here. If the Academy Library Budapest is the one found here http://www.mtak.hu/en/eng.html, then it’s really not a public library – look at the use restrictions. Why would people come in unless they belonged to one of the designated user groups? I don’t get the idea that this library has popular browsing collections of books, magazines, etc., nor can just anyone check out materials. This is not to denigrate the Academy Library but to point out that there’s a good reason why the specialized clientele is declining. YouTube isn’t going to solve the problem.

  • Sarah

    I think we’re talking apples and oranges here. If the Academy Library Budapest is the one found here http://www.mtak.hu/en/eng.html, then it’s really not a public library – look at the use restrictions. Why would people come in unless they belonged to one of the designated user groups? I don’t get the idea that this library has popular browsing collections of books, magazines, etc., nor can just anyone check out materials. This is not to denigrate the Academy Library but to point out that there’s a good reason why the specialized clientele is declining. YouTube isn’t going to solve the problem.

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