Friday, November 05, 2010

Why don't libraries...?

It's simple, I could expound on these for hours, but here's the thing. Why don't libraries?
  • allow patrons who are searching for a great new book (e.g., they heard an interview with the author on the news) to see if it's already on order at their public library
  • allow patrons to buy the book for 1st themselves, then to contribute into their local public library's collection when there's a hot new title (set it up through Amazon, for example, & then, in fact, also have Amazon give a percentage of the sales profit to the library)? People buy new books when their libraries don't have them & they just want the book instantaneously, but then when they're done, what do they do with them? This solves all of those issues, gives the library a better collection, & gives them some $, and makes the patron feel good about themselves. In fact, patrons participating in that program should be featured (if they desire) as special-level VIP/contributing member type patrons - perhaps publicly acknowledged on the website (it's like being an NPR supporter)
  • just do a mailing service to get materials to and from patrons - initiated online, a la Netflix
  • offer a couple of types of membership (1 the traditional way of being a patron, with fines, etc., 2 a premium membership that allows them a netflix-style arrangement wherein they don't incur fines & guilt/shame, but don't get a new item until the old item has been returned)
  • become community exchange centers for bookswaps (& exchange of other materials, as well), setting up an online system like a BookMooch (maybe ask LibraryThing's help or hire professional web developers to put a system together - it wouldn't be all that hard)
  • fix the ebook problem. Work with ebook content providers to setup online buying & exchanging cooperative accounts. Work out the licensing issues. Everyone in OCLC & ALA should stop working on ANYTHING else, DROP EVERYTHING, & get this underway NOWWWWWWW!!!!!!! IT SHOULDN'T TAKE MORE THAN A YEAR IF WE ALL APPLY PRESSURE TO THE INDUSTRY TO MAKE IT HAPPEN. WE DO NEED MORE BOOTS ON THE GROUND THOUGH. THIS IS A WAR FOR THE SURVIVAL OF LIBRARIES!!! I'M NOT KIDDING.
There are a million ways we could move forward into the 21st-century. But we'd all have to acknowledge the crisis we're in & address it. ASAP.
I mean, I'm not worried, I'll always keep digitally up-to-date enough that my skills will find a home/job/consultancy elsewhere. I have no doubt. But I'd like libraries to survive. This isn't about my job, per se, this is about the value of a community space for education, entertainment, connection & bridging the increasing digital & social divide in our great nation - in fact, in preserving democracy. A democracy requires its participants to be educated & it should be a basic right in America that everyone have access (throughout their lives) to educational materials, such as books, ebooks, databases, articles, journals, magazines, online versions of all of those things, videos, audio books, and so on. The library currently serves that function. Why? Because, overall, taking care of all levels of the community is not a big moneymaker, so the free market system will not rise to the occasion. They'll only take on the aspects of that problem when & where they can find a line of profit.


Anonymous said...

Well... libraries DO do some of these things.
The library I worked at 12 years ago was doing your second bullet point. Surprisingly not as many people were interested...
On order books show up in some library catalogs...
I absolutely agree with your last bullet point! That said - I'm not out there negotiating. I'm leaving it for someone else. :-( ?
Unfortunately, it seems like we all are...

Aarontay said...

Agreed. Actually I would say every single one of your bullet point has being tried before in one library or another actually...

Only maybe the last one on ebooks.. but that's toughest..