Sunday, June 19, 2011

"The future of the library" - Seth Godin and more


I have a lot of enthusiasm for the vision of library-as-community gathering place, and I really love Seth's vision of the library. As a voracious lifelong learner, I love this image of the library as "The vibe of the best Brooklyn coffee shop combined with a passionate raconteur of information." Frankly, that's the kind of place I've been looking for all my life - the kind of place I've always wanted the library to be.

We should be a haven of geek-chic, a convergence of intelligence, a world where "knowledge is power" is a proven truth, not a catchy bookmark.

So where do we start? Sadly (for me), I don't think a catchy bookmark will do the trick. As much as I'd love to single-handedly save the library by creating great publications, I think we'll need a much wider approach. Here are my suggestions for the small steps we can take to start down this road.

  • Put the staff forward as hubs of book conversation. Encourage us to show our love, our enthusiasm, and our personality in our conversations about books.
  • Staff suggestions should be well-displayed; don't just throw them on a shelf or cart. Take a lesson from bookstores and do some MERCHANDISING.
  • Don't give up on Book Discussion Groups. This oft-maligned but perennial library standard is based on a good solid premise: that avid readers like intelligent discussion about books.
  • If you have any kind of Small-Business Center (our library does), offer some opportunities for networking. Try doing some workshops aimed at business owners, or having a business-to-business bulletin board, or a meet-and-greet. We should be positioning ourselves as the hub of a network of RELEVANT information.
  • Connect with existing groups that use the library already. For example: author groups. homeschooling groups, chess or bridge clubs, and artist's associations already use the library as a meeting place. Think about how you can create a symbiotic relationship that will benefit the group and the library.
Or we could just build a coffee shop right in the lobby. I'm being flip about it, but really....the idea has some merits.

(Thanks to "The 'M' Word" for directing me to the Seth Godin piece.)


  1. should be like a college library, yes? That would be SWEET. Open all hours, coffee shop inside, a billion study-group rooms, a billion computers--OOH! Access to academic journals!! Including the online ones, hello! I tried to help Will with some research one time, and it was STUPIDLY impossible to find any kind of current article without being affiliated with something. To be fair, it might have been me that was stupid about finding things, but that makes it Case In Point.

  2. It should be like a cross between a college library and Barnes & Noble. All the things you said, with the added bonus of lots of visual appeal, and an emphasis on the recreation and leisure aspects of reading and learning. The ultimate home to geeks who read Stephen Pinker for fun.

    Many libraries do subscribe to academic journals, by the way, but they're kindof "the best feature you have no idea how to use."