Transforming the Library Empire – Possible?

Speakers – Steve Coffman, LSSI
Roy Tennant, OCLC

This was the morning keynote presentation – here are some notes from their talk.

Steve talked first. He compared cataloging the web (some libraries were interested in that around 1999 or so) to Library 2.0, and said both those didn’t really work. I’ll disagree with him on the library 2.0 side of things…

– the real problem – google and amazon have larger collections than we do
– there is a huge amount of free material, and the average price is $7 so it’s cheap
– amazon, audible, and Netflix are capable of setting up library-like lending services

So – why would people go to a library, when you can get stuff pretty cheaply and more conveniently from other places?

His point – the digital library is here. It’s just not something we created or are in charge of.

Post-print futures

Maker spaces, gadget gurus, community convenors, publishers … Help improve society by facilitating the creation of knowledge in their communities…

Questions – what makes a maker space different from places like build-a-bear? Etc…what makes librarians unique in these new roles, because many others are already doing this stuff?

So where does that leave us? Because he thinks we are closely associated with books and buildings.

So …he thinks instead of running from our books and our buildings, maybe we should focus on them. That’s where our assets are right now.

So now he’s talking about how there are lots of print books still being published, don’t count print out, etc.

Also thinks that, in a few years, there will be some sort of digital backlash.

Ok … So I’m not really into Steve’s points. To me anyway, he’s basically saying people think of libraries as books and buildings, and publishers are still making print books, so lets still do that.

Again, to me anyway … That’s sorta like IBM saying let’s keep focusing on making typewriters, because people think of us as making them, and people are still buying them.

Um… ????

Roy spoke next…

Roy thinks libraries will survive.

Our flexibility is important.

Showing a bunch of old technology that has come and gone … and it wasn’t really that long ago

We as libraries have been through these technology changes – have done nothing but change for a long time.

Our gender matters. Our industry is overwhelmingly female.

Our principles matter. Freedom to read. Right to privacy matters. Yikes! Roy showed my old Facebook privacy settings video. I should update that one!

Our people matter. We have great people working at libraries that do awesome things. Patrick Sweeney’s Story Sailboat idea for example.

Maker spaces – a bit more positive thinking from Roy. Entrepreneurs try many things before something clicks. This might be one of them, but you have to try things to see what happens.

R-Squared conference – very different type of conference.

ALA ThinkTank – another great, lively idea.

Me here – I personally got more out of Roy’s part of the talk…

  • Greg Lambert

    I’ve been following this a bit on Twitter, and had to shake my head at a few of the comments posted on Steve Coffman’s part. Focusing on bricks, mortar and books seems to fly in the face of what progressive librarians are doing these days. Sure, we most likely will continue to have a “physical space” and have “print books”, but the value of the library profession is not going to remain in these areas. Instead, it has to be focused more on the services provided by the library. That is going to depend upon who the library is serving (the community) and what fits that community. It could very well boil down to the fact that the community needs a space (library) and desires (paper) books, but not all communities are going to fit this pattern. I’ve been pressing librarians to think of ways to break the community they serve in equating the library with the physical location it occupies, and start training them to think of the services that the library provides that community, regardless of where the members of that community, or the library/librarians are physically located.

  • Patrick McVicker

    I think Steve made some smaller points that by themselves are hard to argue with (our unmet expectations of many analog/digital transitional service attempts), but wrapped it in perhaps an over-zealous package: it’s all about books. I may have taken the same approached and ended up at a different conclusion: it’s all about facilitating access. The “things” will continue to evolve and change, the need for capable guides will not.

    That being said, I think librarians have traditionally (and presently) placed far too much importance (and time) on the stuff, and not nearly enough on presentation, engagement, community-building, and tool-building. These are the things propelling companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Google into a swelling digital space. The “stuff” is just the medium through which they each have an opportunity to wedge their services and philosophies of consumption. Should we really be any different?

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