On Libraries (3)

I’m sure this isn’t a new idea but I haven’t heard of it before. Manly library in Sydney is running a Lego in the Library event. Strikes me that this is a perfect fit with a key library audience (young kids) and also fits with the thought of developing a creative and inquisitive mind.

BTW, has anyone ever twinned public libraries in the same way that towns within Europe tend to be twinned? This could turn into a giant gravy train but done well it could be a great way of sharing ideas across cultures.

One other thing (for Steve). Yes, I am a reluctant futurist in the sense that I don’t necessarily think that every new idea (especially elements of digital technology) is good and I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how to prevent the future. In the case of public libraries this means that, whilst I appreciate the benefits of technological tools in a public library context, I also believe that we should, in some instances, fight to preserve what makes libraries increasingly special, which is non-digital and non-distracting objects and environments. This doesn’t mean that computers, social media and so on are banned – very far from it – but there needs to be a balance between the old and the new.

But that’s just my opinion.

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8 Responses to On Libraries (3)

  1. There was an excellent BBC Click programme a month or two ago about the future of libraries. With digital books, the library system is likely to undergo significant changes, and not all the publishers want to continue the library model in the future.

    Perhaps Internet chat/forums/blogs have replaced libraries? Did people ever share ideas in libraries in the past though? They definitely do in web forums and blogs though.

    The more troubling aspect in the digital future is book lending between friends/colleagues. In the paper world, I probably have a dozen books at home, and the rest have all been lent to people that I’ve never had back (I’m not complaining – hopefully they have been lent to a third or fourth party). In the digital world you can only forward an App/ Book Store link to a friend for them to purchase it. So ‘sharing’ or ‘promoting’ this type of education/literacy is easier in the paper world.

    In the new model an author would [probably] end up earning more money. Richard – as an author are you in favour of the new model or not?

  2. Richard Watson says:

    I think your sharing point is an excellent one. In terms of the model for books and libraries I don’t think I – or anyone else – knows what it (actually they) are yet.

    For libraries it is complicated by the fact that they are about more than just books. They are neutral community spaces where people bump into and exchange ideas. They contain books but also events (especially for the very young and very old) and also items relating to local history. If libraries just become digital hubs or virtual spaces they will die.

    The good thing about digital books is that in theory people will read more because they will get cheaper (?) and become more easily available (convenience). What people will read as a result remains to be seen and I worry for authors and publishers alike because if the developing music model is anything to go by piracy (theft) will become a huge problem. I also think that removing the barriers to entry (for authors) is actually a bad thing because while quantity will increase significantly the quality will decrease.

  3. Mark says:

    I like your line of thinking.

    As we become more isolated online I think that libraries should be the place where to meet people and exchange ideas. Not just book clubs – idea exchange hubs – discussions on TED talks, art and such. The focus should be away from storing information (which has largely been replaced by the internet) to communicating the information and using to in creative ways. Since creativity and innovation are always sighted as important to provide the next level of entrepreneur this should be seen as highly valuable. I am sure many ideas are lost because someone can’t figure out how to achieve some aspect of it – this could solve the dilemma.

    I love the idea of making them into creative spaces and innovation hubs – so not just storing creative ideas but being a place where creative ideas can be dreamt up, nurtured shared and encouraged. The U3A movement has shown that people of all ages are keen to learn, express themselves and share insights.
    Libraries will need different zones. Quiet places to think and contemplate (hopefully with suitable art) and more noisy zones to exchange ideas. They should concentrate on adding the necessary tools to accomplish this. I think Lego is a good start!

  4. I did a project some time ago looking at scenarios for public libraries in the future. The critical moment for me was when I realized that it wasn’t really about the books but about the physical space in which the books (and other things) lived. I’m not convinced that this can ever be replicated virtually.

    As for librarians they were also looking somewhat obsolete, but given some of the issues around information trust and data deluge I think they will make a come back.

  5. Lynda says:

    I have read through your posts on libraries and I agree with balance – because in order to survive libraries need to attract a diverse, multi-generational audience.

    The rest of this comment will be different from the others, but an important experience to consider as changes are made or considered…Your posts triggered some fantastic memories for me as a kid walking to the public library with my father and sisters.

    We were a family who didn’t have the means to buy books or records, so the library provided us with the opportunity to access a world full of information, culture and education outside of school. We would spend the afternoon checking out books and listening to records from around the world. I remember my Dad introducing me to a record of music from Zimbabwe because I was into Paul Simon’s “Graceland” at the time. So we plugged in our big padded headphones to listen and share through whispers. Then we would get another as I climbed on the step ladder at different times reaching for one on cajun music, then whistling, Brahms and then another, this time The Culture Club with Boy George.

    We would also explore the isles of books and sit on the little chairs and couches to comfortably read on our own and stop for a while to ponder the words on the page, think and at times dream. The only distractions were from those who were one level up from a whisper, which would be quieted by our favorite librarian who just happened to be my friends Mom. The walk home was always full of boundless energy and conversations of what each of us read or listened to that day. We would ask our father questions which were typically answered with, “First, what do you think…” and once we worked through our answers he would always contribute something philosophical or offer an opposing point of view that would require some thought, personal exploratory…and another trip to the library 🙂 I remember having so much fun that I would end up checking out more books than I could possibly have read at a time.

    The library provided access to resources and experiences that I may not have had otherwise. Thank you Richard – for your work and the fond memories sparked by your posts.

  6. Christine says:

    I too thank you Richard and others on your provactive conversations regarding the future of libraries and librarians. Very intriguing.

  7. Tim Atkinson says:

    Kiama Library have been holding Lego competetions during summer school holidays for a few years now.

    Our photo gallery shows some of the participants

  8. Richard says:

    Thanks Tim,

    I send greetings to Kiama from deepest Sussex. I have fond memories of eating fish & chips on the rocks overlooking the blowhole! 😉

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