I noticed that in the stories following CES this year, lots of media outlets were amazed at the sheer quantities of e-readers, tablets and other media devices on parade. Library Journal, http://www.libraryjournal.com/, also noted this but mentioned as well new companies such as COPIA, http://www.thecopia.com, and Blio, http://www.blioreader.com, which are advocating new methods and formats for ebooks and other types of media. At the cost of alienating many of us, the push for innovation and different formats, I think, is a good thing. From a library standpoint, now is a great time to push for internal change and integrate these methods as well as the ebook formats currently in use.
Looking at COPIA and Blio, both offer new approaches to reading and sharing ebooks and other media. COPIA, while offering hardware, is focusing on the social networking aspect of ebooks, that is that more than just a single reader and a device. Their software offers groups chances to work together on whatever goal they might be going for. Blio, taking a different angle, promises to bring a “more media” experience across a whole spectrum of devices. Information I’ve gathered is that Blio is also planning to partner with Baker and Taylor, a traditional supplier most librarians are quite familiar with.
As a librarian, I’m excited at these changes and can see how they would benefit the average library patron. Integrating social networking tools as mentioned by COPIA and other companies would help afterschool programs, summer programming and even the more traditional adult library patron who might be interested in joining a book group. Any changes in viewing media, such as the one Blio promotes can be integrated into genealogy collections, magazines and serial collections and a host of increased opportunities for patrons looking for library materials on a particular subject. Let us not forget the now well known ebook formats such as ePub, which thanks to Google Books and the Internet Archive can become the linchpin of any library’s morphing into a digital resource.
I feel however, that the hardest part of any proposed changes such as this will be overcoming the public perceptions of just what a library is. Many of our patrons still associate libraries and librarians as the last bastion of paper sometimes! While this is changing slowly, it’s going to be hard for many traditional patrons to accept. Getting libraries to change from an internal staffing viewpoint can be difficult as well. Many library staff members are just now becoming aware of some of what is out there in digital format. Don’t be too hard on the staff, however, as libraries have many challenges from funding to resources–and sometimes just do not have the resources needed to stay abreast of the constant digital changes.
So, how about your library? Would a book group getting together electronically work just as well as a regular book group? How about a public-private partnership to provide access to more content and platforms? Or do you want your library to be the “last bastion of paper”? Give us your thoughts.
Editor’s Note: Tony Bandy is a librarian with a background in history and writing, he is currently freelancing and active in the field of library technology training via his company Library Knowledge. You can find his writings in Discovering Family History, Internet Genealogy as well as his blog, Adventures In History. You can reach Tony via Twitter (@LibKnowledge) or email: tony at libraryknowledge.com. PB