I dropped off three copies of Trust Agents to my local library today, and realized a few changes since I’d last gone in (a few months or so). They’d added free wifi. They’d taken most of the new release fiction and nonfiction and stuffed it in an off-center room to make room for their ever expanding collection of feature length DVDs.
That’s right: my library has become Blockbuster.
But no, not really, and let’s not malign this, because my library is adapting to what its patrons are demanding, and they evidently want newly released movies about the mafia and aliens and anything starring Nicholas Cage or Jim Carrey. And this gets us thinking about what a library’s mission REALLY is today.
My library has a half dozen computers with Internet access, plus free wifi. So they’ve given us pipes to the largest reference system in the world. They have media in paper and DVD and audio CD form, as well as links into all kinds of electronic document repositories (such as eBooks and the like).
In conversations over a year ago with some library futurethinkers, we discussed the possibility of libraries outside of the walls of the library. Why not use geotagging to drop rich data in the air beside monuments, to denote historic battles, to lay out political stories? Why not have geotagging tied to online video libraries that show me the ecological history of a place? Why not have bird guides that fly onto my iPhone when I’m standing in the nature reserve, versus that pesky distraction of visiting a building downtown that has become a video rental depot?
What do libraries really stand for today? Who do they serve? How should they evolve? What are your thoughts?