more convenient content news, response

The Roku digitial video player, an AppleTV-like device that allows for easy streaming of NetFlix content to a TV, now supports streaming from Amazon’s Video on Demand. It costs $100.

Some people passionately disagreed with me in the comments on last week’s “libraries might not provide content in the future & it’s okay.” I remain unconvinced that it won’t be okay. An ideal future? Maybe not. The way we’d like to envision our future? No way. We’d love to be delivering content to people in convenient ways. A nevertheless viable and perhaps more meaningful future? Could be.

Of the comments questioning a future without digital library content there was only one real articulation of why such a future wouldn’t work.

Why would I want to go to a library to exchange thoughts and ideas about materials that I have found and (using the examples you have cited in the first six paragraphs) paid for outside of the library?

… I don’t need a library to do this this kind of thing.

It simply does not make sense to think that people who use the web for materials provision will then travel to the library to “share their experiences about those materials.”

My experiences with the hundreds of people I’ve hosted film discussion groups, book discussions, gaming events and tech training classes for tell a different story. Hearing about playing miniature golf and ninja tag in their library tells a different story. The restaurant on the top of OBA tells a different story.

While it is certainly true that people don’t *need* a library to do the above things, they still chose the library. So it makes perfect sense to me that people will congregate at the library even if there isn’t an eBook to check out. Even increasingly so if libraries concentrate on becoming excellent public spaces that help people navigate their personal content consumption and create stories. (And let’s be a bit real here. Like Nate Hill said in his comment, this isn’t likely going to be an all or nothing situation.)

There’s another take on why people might increasingly use public spaces instead of private ones. They might not have a choice. In a Kunstler-esque future everyone will be forced to go back to using local public spaces because there won’t be a Starbucks on the corner in which to gather. Libraries are sustainable in this sense.

One more thing. In a comment Tony Tallent wrote:

Libraries–in all formats including electronic, can be a place where we ‘do’ not simply talk about what we did from home.

I agree and if it’s okay with him I think one of my new mottos will be: Libraries are places of doing.

5 thoughts on “more convenient content news, response”

  1. I have to agree with much of what you said here. I have been agrevated by the direction of many of the more popular electronic offerings because they fail to take their public-place mission into account. I am all for having a presence online and creating virtual services, but I think technologies that can actually create community among out users would be far preferable and truer to what a library does best.
    Why don’t we use our catalogs as a meeting point for users who share tastes in books. It will take a fundamental change to how we view privacy, but I think patrons would gladly sign on to online book discussion groups with others reading the same book. While we’re at it, why don’t we facilitate meeting spaces for these virtually organized groups so they can meet in person. Collaboration should be as easy as possible in our libraries and will be a large reason for maintaining our buildings.

  2. While I can certainly get behind the notion of libraries as “places of doing,” let’s not forget that, for some people, libraries are simply places of being. I wouldn’t want to construct a position that suggests there’s anything wrong with that.

  3. We have a lot to figure out in the next few years. I think the “doing” and “being” aspects are pivotal in our thought processes. While we are a heavily used library in the traditional sense(checking out a lot of stuff,) we had over 8,000 meetings at our library in 2008. We have to think like a convention center with a library attached rather than like a library with meeting rooms. Our most popular public program offered by the library is “Trivia night!” It is filled weeks in advance with a waiting list of teams in case someone doesn’t show up. This has nothing to do with anything people got from the library, although our librarians who create the questions use them to promote our collections as a part of the question. I can understand the thinking that people would not want to rent a movie from a movie rental place and then talk about it at the library, but we have found that, in fact, they do. The rental place doesn’t offer an opportunity to “talk” about their experience. We do! The whole “social” phenomenon is something to be reckoned with in the future scenarios and we use current technology (twitter, facebook, emails, etc. to communicate about the opportunities.) It won’t fit everyone, but we find that there is a large group that it does fit. Niche marketing. Look for how it impacts the different groups in your community.

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