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David Lee King

The Beginning of the New Normal



change agentTwo posts caught my eye over the past couple of days, and they’re still rumbling around inside my head … let’s see if I can pull a couple thoughts out of the cacophony.

Both posts discuss how lots of industries are at the beginnings of huge restructuring/remaking themselves or are disappearing entirely, and how much of our lives will seem like upheaval until the “new normal” is reached. No one’s exactly sure what “normal” will look like (after the recession and remaking is over) – but everyone’s sure it will be completely different from now.

Here’s the first article, and the main one setting off thoughts for me: The Great Restructuring, by Jeff Jarvis. Jeff talks about our recession – first quoting Umair Haque calling it a great “compression … as an economy built on perceived value reconciles with actual value.”

Jeff also mentions this article from the New York Times and ends up calling our current recession a “great restructuring.” Then, he lists thoughts about quite a few industries and their future. Here’s a partial list of them:

  • America may well not be in the auto industry soon.
  • Financial services will have to be completely remade
  • Newspapers will vanish
  • Magazines are in worse shape than I would have guessed and many will go
  • Books’ channels of manufacturing, distribution, and sales will go through upheaval
  • Broadcast media will become meaningless, replaced by digital delivery
  • Large-scale retail will shrink and consolidate and then be transformed by a search-and-buy economy
  • The blockbuster economy in entertainment will become harder to support as more attention and money shifts to the tail.
  • We should be so lucky that elementary and secondary education will also face such pressure.

And that’s just a few (go read the article for the whole list and some great thoughts).

Here’s the second article raising a ruckus in my head: Big Music Will Surrender, But Not Until At Least 2011 from TechCrunch. This article mainly gives a music executive’s perspective of coming changes for his industry, and how they currently plan to figure it out. So it’s one industry’s perspective on how change will ultimately play out for them. Interesting take.

My question to you – are you ready?

Look at that list from the first article: books, magazines, newspapers, media. All going through huge changes, all going to be remade. And all stuff that’s near and dear to our librarian hearts!

Some of these changes are already starting, you know:

  • Newspapers and Magazines have already started going digital. It’s just a matter of time before more/most decide to stop printing that paper thing and go completely digital.
  • Books… {David quickly ducks} DON’T freak out! Of course I think people will still read books. That’s a given. But have you looked around lately and seen the Amazon Kindle? Or the iPhone ebook reader that millions of people are now carrying around? I have a book on mine to read right now. Those 300-page paper things will eventually turn digital – because it’s simply a container for the content – not the content itself.
  • Music and movies – think LPs/8-Tracks, Cassettes, CDs or super 8, 16 ml, vcr, DVD … and compare that to iTunes or Netflix emerging subscription models. Also going digital!

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for libraries – most of our huge buildings exist to primarily hold physical stuff. What will we do when there’s no physical stuff to hold? Will you still be able to justify that large building? That staff? (My answer to that is yes, you can … if you are planning for change now).

How are you starting to re-think your services and libraries? My library is in the middle of strategic planning, and we’re going to tackle that whole “re-think everything” approach. Looks like Darien Library has been doing that, too. How about you?

Closing thought – I live in lucky times – I get to see … basically … my whole life change before my eyes. And I get to help it change.

Bonus reading:

  • An interesting article on remaking education
  • This post is where I found the title of for my article … good post, too – focuses on economic stuff

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.technolustandloathing.wordpress.com/ Jacquelyn Erdman

    My worry is if we are setting up ourselves for a big future disaster when it comes to going completely digital. In the past it took one big fire and all the knowledge of that town/city was gone. Now, it takes a virus, or power loss, or demagnetization, or damage to the servers. Yes digital is easier and in some ways cheaper and greener, but we no longer are at risk of only losing one town’s library but all libraries, all knowledge, if there is no preservation. I don’t know how a library can justify keeping “stuff” on the shelves when no one is using it. I also don’t think keeping “stuff” on the shelves can be justified by the possibility of a digital collapse that might happen, as most people do not plan for the worst. I’m not totally sure where I’m going with this, but it is on my mind and I would like to figure out how we can evolve as an occupation while still putting up safety nets.

  • http://www.technolustandloathing.wordpress.com Jacquelyn Erdman

    My worry is if we are setting up ourselves for a big future disaster when it comes to going completely digital. In the past it took one big fire and all the knowledge of that town/city was gone. Now, it takes a virus, or power loss, or demagnetization, or damage to the servers. Yes digital is easier and in some ways cheaper and greener, but we no longer are at risk of only losing one town’s library but all libraries, all knowledge, if there is no preservation. I don’t know how a library can justify keeping “stuff” on the shelves when no one is using it. I also don’t think keeping “stuff” on the shelves can be justified by the possibility of a digital collapse that might happen, as most people do not plan for the worst. I’m not totally sure where I’m going with this, but it is on my mind and I would like to figure out how we can evolve as an occupation while still putting up safety nets.

  • http://laurenpressley.com laurenpressley

    I love this:

    Closing thought – I live in lucky times – I get to see … basically … my whole life change before my eyes. And I get to help it change.

    & I couldn’t agree more.

  • Kim BB

    Thanks David. Good stuff to read in the midst of planning for budget reductions at MPOW; once the grieving crests we can work on moving forward – and help make change.

  • Kim BB

    Thanks David. Good stuff to read in the midst of planning for budget reductions at MPOW; once the grieving crests we can work on moving forward – and help make change.

  • http://kylejones.thecorkboard.org/ Kyle Jones

    Interesting points, David. While I tend to agree with most of this post, I find myself worrying more and more about the “containers”, as you put it.

    Like you, I love my digital geekery – but I’m limited by what I can afford. At this point in time books as containers are more financially accessible than Kindles and iPhones/iPods. May we be jumping a bit to quick to new expensive containers especially in this time of financial upheaval?

    I do agree with you – don’t get me wrong – but let’s pace ourselves.

    Thanks for the post-
    ~kyle~

  • http://kylejones.thecorkboard.org Kyle Jones

    Interesting points, David. While I tend to agree with most of this post, I find myself worrying more and more about the “containers”, as you put it.

    Like you, I love my digital geekery – but I’m limited by what I can afford. At this point in time books as containers are more financially accessible than Kindles and iPhones/iPods. May we be jumping a bit to quick to new expensive containers especially in this time of financial upheaval?

    I do agree with you – don’t get me wrong – but let’s pace ourselves.

    Thanks for the post-
    ~kyle~

  • davidleeking

    Jacquelyn – good points! Yes, eventually, it’s going to take much more than mere backups. Just think about the traditional university archives for a sec – they need to be equipped to archive the digital documentation of the university … and I doubt highly that most (if any) are actually set up to do that yet.

    There are definitely ways to save, backup and even preserve digital stuff – but we have to start thinking along those lines BEFORE something bad happens.

  • davidleeking

    Jacquelyn – good points! Yes, eventually, it’s going to take much more than mere backups. Just think about the traditional university archives for a sec – they need to be equipped to archive the digital documentation of the university … and I doubt highly that most (if any) are actually set up to do that yet.

    There are definitely ways to save, backup and even preserve digital stuff – but we have to start thinking along those lines BEFORE something bad happens.

  • davidleeking

    Kyle – I’m hoping that we’ll eventually have a checkout-able model for these things… We’ll see about that!

    As far as pacing goes, I don’t think we have much choice here. We’ll be forced to go as fast as the general market for these things. Example – most of us are now buying dvd movies … why? Because the market changed. That’s still easy for us, because it’s a physical thing.

  • davidleeking

    Kyle – I’m hoping that we’ll eventually have a checkout-able model for these things… We’ll see about that!

    As far as pacing goes, I don’t think we have much choice here. We’ll be forced to go as fast as the general market for these things. Example – most of us are now buying dvd movies … why? Because the market changed. That’s still easy for us, because it’s a physical thing.

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  • http://kylejones.thecorkboard.org/ Kyle Jones

    Good point, David, about the market changing. Note, though, that the market for DVDs has been in existence since around 1996/1997. That leaves us with about a 9-12 year span until we were forced by the market to transition to DVDs. As per the iPhone, it has only been in existence for about two years; the same with the iPod Touch. Will the market change for the iPhone and similar devices be significantly quicker? Perhaps – maybe most likely so. However, at the moment I still believe they’re mostly containers for the first-adopters and tech elite.

    Maybe when the low-cost version of the iPod Touch becomes available we can start to think that these containers are feasible for the masses to purchase. Because in the end, libraries need to serve the masses with content and not create our own digital divides.
    ———
    Either way you look at it, this is a very interesting topic. It’s like trendspotting but much more complex. It’s about trendmapping and choosing the precise time to act. Thanks for bringing it to light.

    ~Kyle~

  • http://kylejones.thecorkboard.org Kyle Jones

    Good point, David, about the market changing. Note, though, that the market for DVDs has been in existence since around 1996/1997. That leaves us with about a 9-12 year span until we were forced by the market to transition to DVDs. As per the iPhone, it has only been in existence for about two years; the same with the iPod Touch. Will the market change for the iPhone and similar devices be significantly quicker? Perhaps – maybe most likely so. However, at the moment I still believe they’re mostly containers for the first-adopters and tech elite.

    Maybe when the low-cost version of the iPod Touch becomes available we can start to think that these containers are feasible for the masses to purchase. Because in the end, libraries need to serve the masses with content and not create our own digital divides.
    ———
    Either way you look at it, this is a very interesting topic. It’s like trendspotting but much more complex. It’s about trendmapping and choosing the precise time to act. Thanks for bringing it to light.

    ~Kyle~

  • http://walt.lishost.org/ walt crawford

    Jeff Jarvis as a reliable prophet? Really?

    And suddenly, in the blinking of an eye, nearly every change in media over the last century (or more)–which is that new media and distribution methods almost always complement, and perhaps, slowly and gradually, displace older ones unless something’s drastically wrong with the old one–is replaced by some digital tsunami?

    That post could have been (and was) written two years, five years, ten years ago. I think the high-speed universal disappearance of physical media is as unlikely now as it was all the other times it’s been projected. (Guess what? The recession affects digital media as much as it does physical ones. It’s an incident, not a game-changer.) (I know, “This time it’s different.” Just as it was every other time. Change happens, but rarely in a massive overturn. DVDs being, in fact, a fine example–but one where the existing medium was in fact fundamentally flawed.)

  • http://walt.lishost.org walt crawford

    Jeff Jarvis as a reliable prophet? Really?

    And suddenly, in the blinking of an eye, nearly every change in media over the last century (or more)–which is that new media and distribution methods almost always complement, and perhaps, slowly and gradually, displace older ones unless something’s drastically wrong with the old one–is replaced by some digital tsunami?

    That post could have been (and was) written two years, five years, ten years ago. I think the high-speed universal disappearance of physical media is as unlikely now as it was all the other times it’s been projected. (Guess what? The recession affects digital media as much as it does physical ones. It’s an incident, not a game-changer.) (I know, “This time it’s different.” Just as it was every other time. Change happens, but rarely in a massive overturn. DVDs being, in fact, a fine example–but one where the existing medium was in fact fundamentally flawed.)

  • http://kenleyneufeld.com/ Kenley Neufeld

    Excellent ideas brought together in one piece for us to think about. I remember well a couple years ago sitting at a table with James Neal from Columbia when he asked the question, will the “Academy” even exist in 50-years?

    As I read your piece, I am trying to pull some of the themes into the academic library world. We have obviously seen the transition away from print journals to electronic – has been happening over the last 20 years. What’s happened is a greater reliance on electronic journals over print books, primarily over ease of access. Does that mean the print books will also disappear?

    Possibly.

    I’m running an experiment right now by reading a novel on my iPhone. It’s working ok, but I’ve lost my sense of place. Where am I in the book? How long is the book? Holding the iPhone in bed is a bit different than a paperback, but it’s functional. The other thing about ebooks is that you can’t easily give it to a friend; or can you? Can you give your Kindle copy to another Kindle user? Testing continues.

    Ultimately, we need some upheaval in western society.

  • http://kenleyneufeld.com Kenley Neufeld

    Excellent ideas brought together in one piece for us to think about. I remember well a couple years ago sitting at a table with James Neal from Columbia when he asked the question, will the “Academy” even exist in 50-years?

    As I read your piece, I am trying to pull some of the themes into the academic library world. We have obviously seen the transition away from print journals to electronic – has been happening over the last 20 years. What’s happened is a greater reliance on electronic journals over print books, primarily over ease of access. Does that mean the print books will also disappear?

    Possibly.

    I’m running an experiment right now by reading a novel on my iPhone. It’s working ok, but I’ve lost my sense of place. Where am I in the book? How long is the book? Holding the iPhone in bed is a bit different than a paperback, but it’s functional. The other thing about ebooks is that you can’t easily give it to a friend; or can you? Can you give your Kindle copy to another Kindle user? Testing continues.

    Ultimately, we need some upheaval in western society.

  • davidleeking

    Walt, here’s what I’m seeing:

    article on major newspapers folding soon from Time

    An article talking about recent major magazines going digital

    So on the one hand, I have you saying “I think the high-speed universal disappearance of physical media is as unlikely now as it was all the other times it’s been projected” .. and I have real-life examples of what I talked about playing out, right now, in the major news media.

    Who am I gonna believe?

  • davidleeking

    Walt, here’s what I’m seeing:

    article on major newspapers folding soon from Time

    An article talking about recent major magazines going digital

    So on the one hand, I have you saying “I think the high-speed universal disappearance of physical media is as unlikely now as it was all the other times it’s been projected” .. and I have real-life examples of what I talked about playing out, right now, in the major news media.

    Who am I gonna believe?

  • http://stevenbell.info/ stevenb

    I think there are some important societal and cultural changes going on right now that librarians should be paying attention to because they present new opportunities for us and offer experiences we can design that will potentially fit well with the disruptive cultural shift. My perspective is a bit broader than what you present here David. We’ll likely see some media formats going away, but what about widespread shifts in consumer behavior. In that arena a “new normal” is emerging right now. How will these changes impact libraries? I discussed this in a post at Designing Better Libraries (“Shift From Stuff to Meaning”) and Thomas Friedman has an NYT column on a related topic.

  • http://stevenbell.info stevenb

    I think there are some important societal and cultural changes going on right now that librarians should be paying attention to because they present new opportunities for us and offer experiences we can design that will potentially fit well with the disruptive cultural shift. My perspective is a bit broader than what you present here David. We’ll likely see some media formats going away, but what about widespread shifts in consumer behavior. In that arena a “new normal” is emerging right now. How will these changes impact libraries? I discussed this in a post at Designing Better Libraries (“Shift From Stuff to Meaning”) and Thomas Friedman has an NYT column on a related topic.

  • Kellie

    “…What will we do when there’s no physical stuff to hold? Will you still be able to justify that large building? That staff? (My answer to that is yes, you can … if you are planning for change now)….”

    Now, THAT’S a blog post I would like to read. I get it that change is a comin’. All future library scenarios that I run through in my head end up with a store front library space with wifi, lots of electrical plugs and a coffee machine. Wait, we already have that, it’s called Panera. If people get movies from Netflix, music from iTunes, news from blogs, and books from Amazon or some as-yet-unknown online vendor, why DO we need libraries? Simply said–WE DON’T. Gaming and the ubiquitous “library as community center” (used to be “library as bookstore” but we don’t hear that one much anymore tg) simply don’t make sense as library saviors–see malls, movie theaters, and of course actual community centers as examples of once popular group gathering places turned completely useless to most of society. Libraries no longer fit into what has become an extremely individualistic society. When people can create their own content via Facebook, MySpace, and blogs, they assume they don’t need the content of library buildings. And no matter how many pizzas and cokes one can consume while listening to an iPod and talking on your cell phone in a comfy chair in a sign-free living-room like setting, the “new” library has nothing on the local coffee shop, Panera, a city park, or one’s home. So please tell me your answer, or even part of it, isn’t checking out Kindles to library customers.

  • Kellie

    “…What will we do when there’s no physical stuff to hold? Will you still be able to justify that large building? That staff? (My answer to that is yes, you can … if you are planning for change now)….”

    Now, THAT’S a blog post I would like to read. I get it that change is a comin’. All future library scenarios that I run through in my head end up with a store front library space with wifi, lots of electrical plugs and a coffee machine. Wait, we already have that, it’s called Panera. If people get movies from Netflix, music from iTunes, news from blogs, and books from Amazon or some as-yet-unknown online vendor, why DO we need libraries? Simply said–WE DON’T. Gaming and the ubiquitous “library as community center” (used to be “library as bookstore” but we don’t hear that one much anymore tg) simply don’t make sense as library saviors–see malls, movie theaters, and of course actual community centers as examples of once popular group gathering places turned completely useless to most of society. Libraries no longer fit into what has become an extremely individualistic society. When people can create their own content via Facebook, MySpace, and blogs, they assume they don’t need the content of library buildings. And no matter how many pizzas and cokes one can consume while listening to an iPod and talking on your cell phone in a comfy chair in a sign-free living-room like setting, the “new” library has nothing on the local coffee shop, Panera, a city park, or one’s home. So please tell me your answer, or even part of it, isn’t checking out Kindles to library customers.

  • davidleeking

    Kellie – You said:

    “it’s called Panera” – one HUGE difference there. Panera costs, the library doesn’t. I don’t see that difference changing.

    “If people get movies from Netflix, music from iTunes, news from blogs, and books from Amazon or some as-yet-unknown online vendor, why DO we need libraries?” – I still see haves and have-nots here. I’d amend your statement, for example, from “people get movies from Netflix” to “Movies come from Netflix.” That doesn’t mean everyone will want to rent (just like with Blockbuster/libraries now), or event hat everyone will have the newest access devices. They should still be able to rent/borrow from us. Different format – same thing (ie., cool movie).

    “When people can create their own content via Facebook, MySpace, and blogs, they assume they don’t need the content of library buildings” – I think you’re blending two things here. Yes, I can create content on Facebook. It’s small little blog posts, and status updates (ie., David’s posting now). That’s VERY different from content I could get, say, from my current book.

    And of course part of my answer is checking out Kindles – we’re still dealing with poor people in almost every public library. But ALSO, it’s about having a subscription service for the library so that customers can check out a kindle ebook onto their own devices.

  • davidleeking

    Kellie – You said:

    “it’s called Panera” – one HUGE difference there. Panera costs, the library doesn’t. I don’t see that difference changing.

    “If people get movies from Netflix, music from iTunes, news from blogs, and books from Amazon or some as-yet-unknown online vendor, why DO we need libraries?” – I still see haves and have-nots here. I’d amend your statement, for example, from “people get movies from Netflix” to “Movies come from Netflix.” That doesn’t mean everyone will want to rent (just like with Blockbuster/libraries now), or event hat everyone will have the newest access devices. They should still be able to rent/borrow from us. Different format – same thing (ie., cool movie).

    “When people can create their own content via Facebook, MySpace, and blogs, they assume they don’t need the content of library buildings” – I think you’re blending two things here. Yes, I can create content on Facebook. It’s small little blog posts, and status updates (ie., David’s posting now). That’s VERY different from content I could get, say, from my current book.

    And of course part of my answer is checking out Kindles – we’re still dealing with poor people in almost every public library. But ALSO, it’s about having a subscription service for the library so that customers can check out a kindle ebook onto their own devices.

  • http://walt.lishost.org/ walt crawford

    David: You believe who you choose to believe. I think my arguments are based on decades of observation, reading, analysis–but very little of the pop universalism that Jeff Jarvis capitalizes on or other universalisms. (The third player in a niche that may not make sense any more–newsweeklies–goes digital. That doesn’t mean all magazines are going digital any time soon, although some will do so or disappear, just as magazines have disappeared since they first appeared. As for the ten newspapers, well, I wouldn’t count the SF Chronicle out just yet, since the union’s come to terms–which may be why Hearst was doomcrying in the first place. As for print books: Consider 2008. Huge recession. Downdrafts in all spending. Book sales off by 0.2%. Two tenths of one percent! That doesn’t sound like a death rattle to me.)

    Since “But this time is different” is always available as an answer, there’s no good response. Who knows? Maybe it is different. I happen not to believe so. Which doesn’t mean ignoring the possibilities of circulating pure-digital media–but also means not abandoning physical media before your patrons are doing so.

  • http://walt.lishost.org walt crawford

    David: You believe who you choose to believe. I think my arguments are based on decades of observation, reading, analysis–but very little of the pop universalism that Jeff Jarvis capitalizes on or other universalisms. (The third player in a niche that may not make sense any more–newsweeklies–goes digital. That doesn’t mean all magazines are going digital any time soon, although some will do so or disappear, just as magazines have disappeared since they first appeared. As for the ten newspapers, well, I wouldn’t count the SF Chronicle out just yet, since the union’s come to terms–which may be why Hearst was doomcrying in the first place. As for print books: Consider 2008. Huge recession. Downdrafts in all spending. Book sales off by 0.2%. Two tenths of one percent! That doesn’t sound like a death rattle to me.)

    Since “But this time is different” is always available as an answer, there’s no good response. Who knows? Maybe it is different. I happen not to believe so. Which doesn’t mean ignoring the possibilities of circulating pure-digital media–but also means not abandoning physical media before your patrons are doing so.

  • http://dltj.org/ Peter Murray

    I wonder about this, too, but I’m trying to reconcile it with how libraries treat physical and digital information differently. This goes beyond just how we process it; it is also about the hoops we make users jump through hoops to get it. (See my post about comments from a OLE Project regional workshop.)

  • http://dltj.org/ Peter Murray

    I wonder about this, too, but I’m trying to reconcile it with how libraries treat physical and digital information differently. This goes beyond just how we process it; it is also about the hoops we make users jump through hoops to get it. (See my post about comments from a OLE Project regional workshop.)

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  • http://laurenpressley.com/ laurenpressley

    I love this:

    Closing thought – I live in lucky times – I get to see … basically … my whole life change before my eyes. And I get to help it change.

    & I couldn't agree more.