Sometimes, on the weekends, when the sun is shining in and I’ve had a lot of coffee and all is right with the world, I think about what kind of library I’d have, if I had my own library. This is, of course, crazy talk. Libraries exist in communities, they’re not started or maintained by egomaniacal librarians who need a new project. So, this is a thought exercise. I honor and respect the traditions that libraries are steeped in, I’m just curious about what elements of our new technological reality could be useful to the sorts of institutions libraries are. Here are some things I’ve been thinking about, in that regard.
- What if our catalogs were an overgrown version of really good personal library software instead of some sort of awkwardly-scaled version of very powerful all-in-one ordering/circulating/cataloging enterprise software? Check out Delicious Library, from that link, and tell me your patrons wouldn’t love it. [see also: usability & assessment]
- What if you could use the collective experience of your patrons to add to the library’s knowledge base? Have patrons add reviews, suggest their own supplementary “subject headings“, use the library web site for interactivity not just passive reception of library content.
- What if the items in your library catalog had fixed URLs so patrons could link to library records from their web sites when discussing items the library has, sort of like IMDB has short, linkable human-friendly URLs? What’s the book equivalent for IMDB, and don’t say Amazon because you know it’s not true.
- We’d be open when people wanted to use the library, not just when librarians wanted to work. How would we know? We’d ask them. [some surveys: here, here, here and here]
- In my library, we’d fix your computer for you. We’d work the information booth at your event. We’d answer your questions any time and any place, not just when you come to us and wait at the reference desk for us to be free. We’d save your time, even if it sometimes meant sacrificing our own.
Obviously changes in the economic reality of libraries or shifts in the work/home paradigm would need to occur before we could really do some of these things, but others just require a change in mindset, or a shift in priorities. A girl can dream, can’t she?