culture Uncategorized

The library of the future

The next library is a place, still. A place where people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together. Aided by a librarian who understands the Mesh, a librarian who can bring domain knowledge and people knowledge and access to information to bear.

Seth Godin, “The future of the library”.

Technological veneer won’t save the library. Half-hearted attempts to integrate social networking, or ebooks, or digital media will fail. The Internet offers better and broader selections of all those things.

Fortunately, the library’s best resource was never its catalog, but its people. The visionary librarian must reclaim her historic role as the community’s information curator and collaboration coordinator.

Imagine an open environment boasting the resources of today’s “coworkplaces:” whiteboard walls, blazing broadband speeds, standing desks engineered for collaboration, and widescreen monitors everywhere. Now add the coup de grace: a professional information sleuth, ready to help your team sift through the Internet’s vast piles of information—eager to help you find inroads into the problem at hand.

Now that’s a library worth visiting.

books culture Uncategorized

The library’s demise: tearing down the temple

“Tear down the temple; we’ve got shrines at home.” True enough; we can erect little altars to literacy on our bookshelves and nightstands. But how long can we justify this quaint luxury in a digital age? Printed books will become relics: hallowed icons mounted to the wall–first decoratively and then ironically.

Spouting the “spiritual, not religious” cliché, we’ll eschew reading’s rituals: type-set paragraph, licked finger, page at the ready, musty incense. Digital evangelists will shrug off these losses, proclaiming sola scriptura (“Content alone!”). Literary Reformers, like the iconoclasts of old, will sweep away the traces of a sacred era.

books technology Uncategorized

Libraries and ebooks.

Libraries may be doomed. The digital age will force these beloved community institutions to streamline, prioritize, and (ultimately) reinvent themselves. In fact, this transformation is already underway. Libraries (like mine) are incorporating digital assets into their collections. At the moment, I’ve got Born to Run, The Accidental Billionaires, and the A Game of Thrones quadrilogy queued up on my iPhone.

Now, this new service may not stem libraries’  long-term financial blood loss. But for patrons like me, library eBooks offer some great advantages. First (and foremost), they’re free. All you need to check out titles is a local library card. Second, they’re convenient. Lending periods are comparable to those of dead-tree books, and you can browse, check out, and download eBooks from the comfort of home. At last, you can visit your local library in just your underpants.

But there are some significant downsides to library eBooks, too. For one, transferring books onto your device is clunky. Here are the steps: visit the library website on my PC, download an authorization ticket, email said ticket to my iDevice, open it with my favorite reader app, download the book itself. In other words, the process is too complicated for the average bibliophile!

Other disadvantages are common to all eBooks, whether borrowed or purchased. For example, the hardware still isn’t ideal. On phones, the screen is too small. Get ready for a lot of swiping; because so little text fits on each tiny page, the average book easily balloons up to a thousand pages. Tablets fare better, but their resolution is so low that text can look jagged and fuzzy–not ideal for extended bookworm sessions. Such problems are exacerbated by poorly formatted eBooks (all too common). Often, you’ll lose precious screen real estate to weird spacing bugs, irremovable margins, and mal-adapted images.

A final disadvantage: eReading demands serious self-discipline. My phone is packed with apps–most of them far shiner (and less productive) than my eReader. Who can press through another paragraph, when faux Scrabble awaits? Why exegete another endless sentence, when Angry Birds requires no such concentration? Why strain to follow a chapter-long argument, when bite-size tweets are infinitely more digestible? By the time I finish with my other apps, any leisure time I had is long gone.

Still, despite the problems, publishing’s future lies with the eBook. Presumably, then, eBooks must figure prominently in libraries’ future, as well. Hopefully, they survive long enough to work out the kinks.