http://librarysociety.pbwiki.com/ A fun idea from a casual conversation. This is not to say that CILIP, ALA, ALIA et al are unnecessary. Rather that the social computing thing can help a more responsive and flexible international collaborative set-up to emerge.
Many thanks to Stuart at the Royal Armouries Leeds. He gave us a very interesting insight into the library and its work. As well as a wide ranging library they have some fantastic archive materials, some dating back to the thirteenth century.
The library provides a reading room service for people interested in the Armouries’ collections, from PhD researchers to people interested in family history, and holds an extensive picture library.
The Armouries themselves are a good day out. Whilst the focus is on the implements of war, the devastating impact of war is made clear.
Good luck to Stuart with his MA!
Libraries need to open on Sundays, many would say. Today I learned that two of Rotherham’s libraries do open on Sundays, 10-2. Thanks to good transport links they are available to pretty much everyone in the borough. Indeed most days everyone should be able to get to a library, even when their nearest library is closed.
I don’t use the Sunday opening libraries myself as the Central library is on my way to/from work and has two late night openings, so I can get in then. But it’s good to see an extension of the service.
See also Suffolk libraries
OK, so what are libraries then? As Matt asks, what is it that we can offer that is different and worthwhile when compared to Borderstones and Amaspace?
Answers on a comment please… all libraries welcome; let’s not make this about public libraries only.
My answer, copied from a comment to another post, is…
In looking at ‘information’ simply as the stuff in books/websites, and libraries as being about access to that information, then your view of libraries is narrowed. You focus on Google etc as competitors.
If libraries are only about the social, then no they can’t compete either; they don’t get the money or time. The mall can be made much nicer, even if they don’t always have what you want. You can get a coffee! And as the social is equated with the web, they can compete even less; why go to LibrarySpace when you can have MySpace?
Combining the social with the informational, Amazon is often quicker than libraries, has more clout and flexibility and lets you say what you think of books. So long as you are buying books.
I guess libraries’ ‘point of differentiation’ is that (in public library terms) they are public services. They are not beholden to shareholders. They are not limited to the profitable or even the pleasant areas, be they physical or informational. They do not always chase the latest. They will keep up as they can, but try not to leave people behind. They advocate access to information, to stories and to the community. When done well, they can represent the community to itself.
A last point is that libraries and librarians are (yes, ideally) committed to information, stories and community. Amazon et al., great though they are, are ultimately committed to themselves.
I appreciate this is very idealistic, but it is my honest answer. In my gut, I dont’ want information, sociability etc to be solely done by the shops and the software. And even if everything is distributed and rooted in radical trust, who owns the infrastructure and therefore the real power? Where is the analysis of power in discussions of “information”?
Amazon is a partial competitor, sure, and a good source of inspiration. But libraries are not bookshops, digital or not 😉
Intereresting comments over at Katharine’s blog. It may be that the article missed some key points on this service. If they did, where is the rebuttal/clarification from the service?
The issue of charging is still an important one. As Walt said in the comments to my original post, if you introduce ‘premium’ services it can have the effect of weakening ‘core’ services.
At times it feels that users are waved around like Uthman’s shirt, to justify any position library/librarian critics wish to espouse. Rarely are these users identified, or relevant evidence presented. It’s users, stoopid; that’s all you need to know.
Do other ‘users’ get used like this? When the great accounting frauds were revealed, were their ‘users’ held up in outrage? And were there calls for the abolition of accountants, the winding up of CIPFA et al? The ‘users’ don’t need professional accountants (or doctors after Alder Hey); well-trained and smiley clerks will do!