Recent reading

Posted on July 31, 2007. Filed under: access, administration, collections, library, Library 2.0, Web 2.0 |

I just finished reading “The Starfish and the Spider: The unstoppable power of leaderless organizations” by Ori Brafmans and Rod Beckstrom.  I highly recommend this book.  It’s a fairly quick read and the thesis is supported by multiple examples.   

Assuming their thesis is correct, it has a number of implications for libraries, but the one that struck me first was in relation to our collections and their availability. 

The first point is that record companies will eventually be overwhelmed by the “Napster/Kazaa” type of organizations.  Based upon the perspective of my 20 something children this may well be correct.   

How does that impact libraries?  Our media collection, including music CD’s, is one of our highest percentages of circulation.   Assuming the standard CD format goes away, which will probably happen as a result of technology anyway, how do we continue to provide access to music in a cost effective manner?  I can see the possibility of download stations, but it dramatically impacts our collection development procedures since we will probably be selecting individual tracks rather than complete, pre-packaged albums.  Or will we pay a fee to an aggregator, something similar to itunes, which provides our customers with access to a broad range of selections? I don’t see the demand from our customers dissipating anytime soon.  We still have too many people that cannot afford the bandwidth and item costs to consider accessing this music at home in this new manner. 

To take this a step further, what if publishing becomes more of a de-centralized activity like “Napster” and our traditional sources for books change dramatically?  Technology is making this an increasing possibility.  I’m not viewing this as the end of books, but more the end of a supply chain. 

To put this on a personal level:  I’m a professional musician in my other life.  I’ve long thought that going to a music store, ordering music and waiting for it to arrive – sometimes several days later, is frustrating and unnecessary.   Why not have all music in a massive database and then print on demand?  At first, I thought it could be printed at the music store which would have the appropriate sized paper and printers to do the job, but home printers have gotten so much better in the last few years, it probably could be done at home.  I’d be willing to pay the same price, or may a little less since I’m providing the paper and ink, as I was charged before.   

Back to books, I know there are a few print-on-demand stations, but from what I’ve heard they are not ready for mass usage yet.  Assuming this becomes the norm and we are downloading content, packaging can be determined by the end user: print, computer file, etc., do we remain in the supply chain to the customer?  As above, we probably will have a number of customers who cannot afford to do this at home.  How do we stay relevant in this process?  Recently,Jill Norgren, author of “Belva Lockwood stated on a BookTV broadcast that she was thinking about what format she would use on her next book, indicating that the Internet provided other options than just the traditional book.   

I have additional thoughts on this, but would really like to hear what you think.

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