Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I chose Art, the 14th card of the Book of Thoth tarot deck, as my inaugural image. Aleister Crowley intended it to represent the alchemist at work, carefully and deliberately blending together the various components to produce a vastly improved end result.

A similarly carefully crafted blend of various web tools can transform your library's internet presence. Today an ever increasing number of people begin their information searches on the web (I use internet and web synonymously but I am aware that they are, technically, different). The vast majority of libraries have a very lean web presence beyond their OPAC. Using your website, you can direct patrons to a host of ways that they can interact with and become emotionally invested in your product, the public library. It will also allow you to provide service to where the customer is.

A great deal of my beginning assumptions are based on a presentation given at the Library of Virginia by George Needham, VP of Member Services @ OCLC. The slides and notes are available from Slideshare. He talked about a semi-comic "Extinction Timeline" created by a couple of groups, What's Next and Future Exploration Network. This time line has libraries going extinct in about 10 years. Needham went on to say,
"If we are going extinct in 11 years, here’s why. It won’t be due to some evil cabal of censors and budget cutters, it will be because we’ve allowed the love to drift into apathy. And as we well know, the opposite of love isn’t hate---it’s apathy."
If you asked the average Joe-on-the-street, he would say that, "yeah, libraries are great." If you asked him where he would go first to look for answers, it would not be the library. Research has shown that people begin looking for answers on their own, only rarely do they think to go to the library (documentation forthcoming). As for material, OCLC's study Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources does not really bode well either. Of American respondents, 27% (the largest group) said they go to a library not even once a year.

We have very poor brand loyalty. In my current system, the county administrator suggested that we may have to put the new library on hold for awhile and no one even squeaked. We do have the info, and the trained staff, and many expensive databases. You can't beat the price. What's the problem? The problem is our old M.O. no longer functions. People want drive through 24/7. We expect them to sit down for five courses and only between 5 and 8. We are not Barnes & Borders but we can learn from them. We are not Googlepedia but they, too, have much to teach us.

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