Mitchell Davis, Founder of Bibliolabs and a regular at the Charleston Conference has a serious point to make in his article Doing well by doing good: how libraries can reclaim their role at the center of the information universe. He claims that in this era of “open, accessible and abundant” information there is a disconnect between the media using consumer and libraries. In fact, libraries barely make the radar screen in the minds of “consumers who under other circumstances would be patrons” of the library. According to Mitchell, users accustom to getting their media from companies like Google and Amazon find library efforts to deliver content at best unwieldy, at worse a visit to “crazytown.”
How can libraries get back in the game? Mitchell has some suggestions. The first involves libraries challenging vendor assumptions and demanding they provide technology every bit as consumer friendly as that of the Googles and Amazons of the world. Second on his list, libraries need to have vision and recognize that they can expand their role from merely consumers of content to producers/publishers of it. And finally, he thinks libraries have to be more entrepreneurial and cash in on the remarkable “good will” that they still have with the public and translate it in to “patron engagement” and ultimately financial support.
Of course Mitchell’s arguments are far more sophisticated and nuanced than we can due justice to in such a short space. In order to get the full impact of his analysis and menu of solutions you’ll have to read actual article. However, you’ll be glad you made the investment.
And as always we’d love to know what you think. There are some thoughtful and perhaps controversial ideas being presented in this article that invite discussion so feel free to offer an opinion.