Change has become the norm for libraries as it has with many other businesses who wish to remain competitive. The rise in popularity of the e-book and digital libraries, the transformation to digital centers featuring computer and Wi-Fi access, and libraries as community meeting centers has challenged what used to be the norm, and replaced it with an ever evolving one instead. Here are five emerging technology trends that will benefit both staff and patrons.
Troy Lambert Author Archive
“Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. Translated: More things should not be used than are necessary.”
In the near future, a man who has an overdue book will walk into a library. A librarian behind a desk will get an alert on her mobile phone, tablet, or computer screen. After waiting a moment for him to approach the counter or place the book in a drop, she follows him to the stacks when he doesn’t. “Excuse me, Mr. Smith?” she says. “Our system shows you have a book overdue. Did you happen to bring it with you today?”
I recently read an article here on Public Libraries online referencing a report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP) talking about the plateau of e-book sales, a sure sign that paper books are making a comeback. In my role as an author and editor, I have experienced quite the opposite. So what’s really going on here?
Times have changed. E-books, something many of us never thought were possible, are now commonplace, and many checkouts from the library never even involve a visit to the stacks. Not everyone has access to them though, especially families who are poor and cannot afford to pay for content, even if they have a smartphone or computer. Checking out e-books from libraries is one option, but at the end of February, the White House released a new app: Open eBooks.
At Bibliotheque et Archives Nationales du Quebec, in Montreal, Canada, the Alberto Manguel/ Robert Lepage collaboration “La bibliotheque, la nuit,” a virtual reality exhibition of the interiors of libraries, is on display. “The experience felt so real it was disconcerting to look down and not see my own body in the virtual space,” says Jeff Peachey, a recent visitor, in his blog. “Overall, it was an oddly reflective and poetic.” But what, if any, is the future of virtual reality (VR) in the library? What kind of role does this technology play? Libraries have become much more community centers centered around education and experience as much as they are books. Patrons visit for free Wi-Fi and computer access, 3D printing labs, and other programs not directly related to the hundreds of volumes housed in the stacks.
With a little searching, maybe someone can find a needle online in the haystack of information. At least, if they have some idea of where it might have been in the first place…
Libraries, despite some strides toward a reasonable solution, still struggle with the cost of e-books. Regardless of the clear data showing the benefit of libraries lending an author’s work in print, publishers still hesitate to budge on e-book pricing. It’s different, they say. And in some ways they are right. But with issues of preservation, shrinking budgets, and rising costs, libraries have to be extremely careful about what books they stock both in print and in digital form.
It’s clear libraries and librarians face unique challenges as more and more content is presented digitally. One of the concerns I have heard from librarians relates to one of their primary missions: preservation. As an author, I share this concern. It’s been said that literature is writing that fifty years after the author’s death is forced upon high-school students by their teachers, who strive to explain what the author meant when he wrote “the sky is blue.”
What do book subscription services have to do with libraries? Well, in a Forbes article, Tim Worstall suggests we “close all of the libraries and buy everyone a Kindle Unlimited subscription.” Using his home country of the United Kingdom, the author argues such an action would benefit the public in the long run. Are subscription services library killers? Here are some simple reasons why not.