Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Libraries of our future…

  • What will the library of our future look like?
  • Will the physical library itself become extinct?
  • Will digitization bring about the end of almost 5,000 years of collecting, housing and preserving our physical properties within our respective communities, altogether?

While no one holds the answers to these questions, many speculate the number of physical libraries themselves will continue to shrink, as the library patrons of the past continue to transition into Internet users for gathering and retrieving data. In a survey conducted by NetLibrary, 93% of undergraduate students asserted their preference for finding information online versus going to the library. On the other hand, libraries have and continue to serve the lower class citizens within communities, providing them with access to computers and information they otherwise wouldn’t be privy to. At my company, LAC Group, we offer consulting on this topic - helping libraries prepare for as much of the future as possible.  Much of this is around collection; however, we also touch on design characteristics and amenities.

State libraries themselves have different focal points, just as the laws from state to state are surprisingly still intricately different. The library itself serves an important role in housing, interpreting and disseminating those differences to the citizens within. And, much like early developing civilizations throughout the world, libraries continue to tell the unique story of man’s plight and journey in a specific region.   

And, while the debate over the future of our physical libraries rages on, perhaps the digital collections, their organization into highly effective databases, and the sharing and collaborations from state to state, federal and a worldwide basis hold some of the keys to their physical survival. After all, our need and desire to collect, house and preserve our treasures hasn’t decreased, but increased over time. That trend itself tells us the library, while its appearance will continue to evolve its importance to us, what it represents and houses for us remains at the very core of our civilization.

“We may sit in our library and yet be in all quarters of the earth.” – John Lubbock

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Libraries of the Present

Libraries, of our present…

Libraries today stillprovide patrons with access to the treasures of their community, but thosetreasures now extend farther out into our world, and within a rapidly changinglandscape. Our libraries have become powerful technological resources with theinclusion of: onsite computers, impressive portals, highly organized databases, and extensive digital collections. While today’slibraries still serve the purpose of housing and preserving, some believe their evolutionwith technology has made them even more powerful cores within our presentsociety.       

While our libraries arestill filled with bookshelves and books, they also now provide communities withonline access, from within their four walls. Many modern patrons of the libraryvisit, not for the books per se, but for the access to a computer. Ironically,the physical library has now expanded the world to some by giving them accessto the vast World Wide Web, and its 80 billion pages of data (and growingdaily).

Our present-day librariesare not just physical repositories anymore, but most have already created astorefront within the Digital Marketplace, offering patrons a new virtual experience, aswell. As a result of early adaptation to the digitization movement, most librariesprovide open Internet access to their collections, from outside their fourwalls, from anywhere, and any computer device. In addition, over 75% ofpublic libraries now lend out ebooks, and 39.1% lend out ebook readers.

Whether inside the physicallibrary using a computer onsite, or offsite accessing the library’s informationretrieval system through a seamless portal, the amount of data (collections,volumes, archives, etc.) has exponentially increased, not only in quantity, butalso quality. Library databases are highly organized, and provide patrons withquick access to rich content that might otherwise take hours to find throughrandom searches on their own.

Sample partial librarydatabases (of digitized and rich metadata tagged content) include:
·     American Newspapers – electronic editions of hundreds of local,regional and national U.S. newspapers
·     Ancestry Library – 450 million digitally enhanced census recordsfrom the U.S. Federal Census
·     Automobile Repair Reference Center - all automobile makes and models from 1945 topresent, how to repair, maintenance schedules, recalls, etc.
·     Biography in Context - biographical details and images on 500,000+
·     History in Context - historical contextual online collection
·     Books &Authors - background, themes and origins of books and their authors.
·     Health & Wellness – medical publications, information on diseases,drugs, and healthy living.
·     Legal Forms Database - 1000’s of legal forms: federal, state, business,personal, real estate, etc.
·     Transparent Language Online - online learning system for 80 languages.

“Libraries are not made;they grow.” – Augustine Birrell

Blog Reference:
Public Libraries: Freeebooks available at your public library!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Libraries of the Past

A library, by definition,is a central, organized collection of a community’s documentation (historicalaccounts, artwork and resources) preserved, and made accessible forreading, reference and borrowing. The library was conceived to make public, theprivate spoils and treasures of a community.

The first libraries date asfar back as 2600 BC in Mesopotamia, containing clay tablets of cuneiform script,the earliest form of writing. The early libraries of this region also containedevidence of an early classification system used to catalog and organize theircollections, and most notably established the starting point of our world’s history.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org
Library ofAshurbanipal – The Flood Tablet/The Gilgamesh Tablet

As civilizations developedand evolved throughout the world, libraries played a critical role as the central repositoryfor their laws, artwork, historical accounts, census data and genealogies, andacademia. By providing citizens with access to the arts andliterature on every discipline, communities prospered and advanced. JuliusCaesar, among many others, even targeted the library for destruction duringconquests, as in the case of the famous Library of Alexandria, as he believedit would severely handicap his enemy. While most of us identify our schoolingand early learning with our frequent (or infrequent) trips to the library,these physical buildings have served a critical role in the development and preservation ofcivilization, since the beginning of man.

Traditionally, librariesserved as the physical repository where our books, magazines, newspapers,manuscripts, maps, artwork and films were housed and made accessible for thoseeager, or by necessity, “had” to learn. The Dewey Decimal Classification Systemwas implemented in 1876 and became the metadata classification standard forlibraries in over 135 countries, and for the last 136+ years. (See earlier blogfor brief history of the DDC: http://lac-group.blogspot.com/2012/01/document-imaging-with-and-without.html)As technology advanced, the physical library collection grew to includemicrofilm, microfiche, VHS, cassettes, CDs and DVDs. Many of us were firstintroduced to microfilm and fiche viewers, CRTs, Apples, and other earlycomputer devices for aural learning, games, and digital media in its infancy atthe library, of our past.    

“Book lovers willunderstand me, and they will know too that part of the pleasure of a librarylies in its very existence.” - JanMorris (Quoted in Heart of theCommunity: The Libraries We Love)

Blog Reference:
NPR: New York PublicLibrary:

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

“Free Information” Series – Playing in the Big Game

None of us knows with certainty today, whether future generations will ever have to clean black ink from their hands after reading a traditional newspaper, unwrap a new CD from its wrapper, or even physically visit a library. And, while some of these experiences have been priceless rites of passage for many of us, the possibilities and perks from instant access to “free information” are limitless.

There is no doubt, the tidal wave of “free information” has already claimed some traditional business models as casualties, but it has also opened the door to the globe for you, providing you with access to knowledge and tooling, beyond our ancestors’ dreams.

Regardless of industry or business size even, anyone can step up to bat. If you want to play in the big game, there is still plenty of time. While playing ball in the virtual marketplace requires creativity, outside-the-box thinking, and adapting your business model to fit the supply & demands of the online consumer, your entry is free.

As Larry Bird once said of his game, “Leadership is diving for a loose ball, getting the crowd involved, getting other players involved. It's being able to take it as well as dish it out. That's the only way you're going to get respect from the players.”   

When you point, click, and touch your way into the Digital Marketplace, you are in the company of 2.1 billion other players and fans, from all over the planet. Any one willing to dive for the ball can be a leader.