Librarians envision a book-free future
PORTLAND, Ore., April 1, 2010 (NW Newswire) -- Librarians in your town or city will soon be arguing for the elimination of books from your public library. In response to a call for action issued at a major librarians' conference in this city on Wednesday of last week, over 750 leaders in the field met in the Grand Portland Ballroom of the Oregon Convention Center to found a new advocacy group, the Redeployment of Library Resources for Renewal Round Table, or RDLRRRT, which will be affiliated with a major professional organization.
"As the interest in, and need for, literacy declines in the era of networked information sharing, public libraries must realign their priorities to better match the interests of their communities," said Lucia Ashton, a Seattle-area public library administrator tapped as first chair of RDLRRRT. "Thousands of shelves of books idly occupy millions of square feet of library space across the country, space that can be repurposed for greatly expanded public computing, coffee service, gaming, and suites of study and meeting rooms."
"Today's library patrons want what I call the Three C's -- computers, coffee, and community," noted Edgar Ravenswood, RDLRRRT member and public-relations coordinator. "The Three C's require space -- space now inefficiently occupied by books, few of which circulate at levels high enough to justify their continued existence," he asserted. "The cost/benefit analysis simply no longer supports books, whereas the Three C's show large, measurable social benefits for the space expended on them."
RDLRRRT member-at-large Art Bucklaw concurs. "At my library, entire mornings can transpire with not a single member of the public seen in some ranges of the bookstacks. Imagine that space devoted to computers, gaming, or conferencing, or simply to a good cup of coffee! We do our taxpayers no service by tying up expensive square footage with a medium no one uses or cares about," he observed. "Even Steve Jobs said 'people don't read anymore.' "
Ashton emphasized that there are now excellent alternative channels -- reading devices such as Kindle, Nook, and iPad, and inexpensive book lending services such as BookSwim -- available to the relatively few, representing an older and declining demographic, who still indulge in longform reading. "They can get more of what they want faster and cheaper through those channels, frankly, than through the public library," she remarked. "The public library has never been 'free.' Tax money is involved. Why not deploy that resource in the way our customers clearly want? Reading is moving in the direction of Twitter-size bites, and 'information' is whatever our users want it to be. These are just the kinds of activities we can support and promote with our computers, wifi, space, and tech savvy."
RDLRRRT's initial goal is the launching of several EPLOTs -- Experimental Prototype Libraries of Tomorrow -- around the United States. "We want to get a few libraries interested in the concept of completely clearing their facilities of books," Ashton stated. "RDLRRRT will assist the libraries in using the federal grants process to obtain funding for computers, wifi, game consoles, and coffee bars to fill the space once wasted on books."
"We are confident that the EPLOTs will see usage levels never before encountered in library service," Ravenswood asserted. "The EPLOTs will stand as proof-of-concept projects, and will serve notice as to just how relevant and -- may I say it? -- hip public libraries can be. Once they are book-free, the sky will be the limit."
I find this article interesting - while I agree people are reading less and listening more - MAYBE - the bookstores are awfully full when I go in with people reading and buying books - and many look under the age of 40 and quite trendy..............We certainly have more reference books than are necessary, and I firmly believe in weeding materials, "if in doubt, throw it out!" libraries as a generalization are not responsive to community needs - and some - not just ancient people - want books.......