What Are Libraries Good At?

At last year’s Internet  Librarian conference, three visitors from  Delft in The Netherlands gave a memorable account of a tour they took across the USA interviewing librarians about the future of libraries and related topics (you can find the account of that by checking out this blog’s archives–just click on IL2007 as a category).  They came again to CIL, and here are Erik, Jaap, and Geert (I won’t attempt their last names!) giving us an update at today’s keynote.  You can see the videos they showed and read the detailed account of their trip, the Shanachie Tour, on their web site.  Some of their interviewees were in the audience, and they were invited up to the stage to join them as the clip of their library was shown.

Here are a few of the impressions I gained:

  • Libraries should not be mausoleums for old books. Paul Holdengraber of the New York Public  Library wants to make the famous lions roar and "oxygenate" the library by making the building less formidable and daunting. Libraries can take over the role of what the schools are doing. We need inspiration everywhere.
  • (Charlotte-Mecklenberg Public Library); Books are containers for information and culture. What is the best way to transmit that culture?  It depends on the genre. The role of library will change to a community area—community innovation centers, a place where people learn about new things. The book is one of the best technologies ever invented, but it is a technology. Economic forces will determine the future of books. There are still generations that love to hold books. E-books will change things, but books will still exist and have different uses. The most provocative thing we can do to convince policymakers to fund libraries is to tell stories about what people do there. Show them what people are doing. The big thing we do is to make open environments. Technology is getting so much cheaper and smaller that you can do a lot in a small space.
  • Library students at Dominican University:  Make sure libraries provide material for people of all ages. Create a place for everybody so they will want to come to the library.  The library of the future will inspire me. Make your visions happen—break down barriers and provide access. Help the library evolve so it doesn’t die out in the age of the Internet. It’s something we can use to better the library’s position in society. Skill for librarian of the future: ability to adapt to change.
  • Delft Library Concept Center: Everybody will be mobile, so information must be capable of delivery on mobile phones. The library can’t be without games because more than 1/3 of the population plays games. It’s all about people, how they share their stories. If we care for them, keep their stories, and share their stories, then we have done our job.

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2008 Blog Coordinator

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