How do we explain the value of the library?
- Microsoft: Software = Money
- Google: Services + Ads = Money
- Apple: Hardware = Money
- Amazon: Content = Money
- They create the metadata that facilitates finding and efficiently using information.
- They provide bibliographic instruction, reference aids and other user services.
- They build academic commons - spaces that encourage conversation and learning.
- They collect lots of valuable stuff that users need access too in order to learn.
So which one to choose? I think the choice needs to be number 2. I believe we need to position ourselves as information experts who can help users understand and use all the information technology tools at their disposal. Of course the presupposes that we actually are information experts who have this knowledge - we may need to start by acquiring it. This will not be an easy position to market when simplicity and un-mediated access is the siren song of technology marketing but I think there is currently and likely will remain a need for educated guides to teach information skills and assist those who are awash in data to make sense of it.
Briefly reviewing the other options:
1. In the world of Google and Wikipedia it is hard to argue that librarians are necessary to find information (even if that is true at a deeper level).
3. Wonderful buildings are nice but seem like a shaky rock to build on as more things move online.
4. Some of us may indeed have collections that are truelly unique and of obvious value but as Google and others make millions of resouces available anywhere I think physical collections becomes a very hard point to sell (but thanks Anthony for trying!).
Labels: future of libraries