Libraries are dead. Long live the Librarian!

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I love it when coincidence and synergy lead to a blog post, this post in fact.

In a post earlier this week, Seth Godin lead us through the history of the Library and the Librarian. In his post, he eventually settled on the somewhat alarming concept that the Library was basically dead:

Wikipedia and the huge databanks of information have basically eliminated the library as the best resource for anyone doing amateur research (grade school, middle school, even undergrad). Is there any doubt that online resources will get better and cheaper as the years go by? Kids don’t shlep to the library to use an out of date encyclopedia to do a report on FDR. You might want them to, but they won’t unless coerced.

They need a librarian more than ever (to figure out creative ways to find and use data). They need a library not at all.

Book warehouse?
Given the migration of information from paper to digital forms, the library will perhaps, outlive its role as a warehouse for books. Rather, it’ll become a place where some cool tech and some very well informed people meet and do great things with information (and here’s where the next part of the coincidence happens)  — such as Biblion: The Boundless Library, a cool new iPad app from the New York Public Library:

… go on an exclusive journey deep into the Library’s legendary stacks. This app is designed to open up hidden parts of the collections and the myriad storylines they hold and preserve…through a unique immersive experience. In this free iPad app you will hold documents, images, films, audio, and essays — directly from the collections in your own hands.

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Also earlier this week, the New York Public Library launched the redesigned and updated Biblion app. In this case, Biblion is a themed approach to exploring the library. The first release digs into the huge archives relating to the 1939-1940 Worlds Fair in New York. Download the free app and you’ll:

  • read original essays from such prominent writers as Karen Abbott, William Grimes, Henry Jenkins, Elliott Kalan, James Mauro, and others
  • view General Motors’ famous Futurama ride, in full color, from the original carousel!
  • explore the development of the Fair’s designs, uniforms, buildings, and exhibits, including Salvador Dalí’s then-shocking Dream of Venus extravaganza
  • relish the outrageous restaurant ideas that never made the cut
  • learn about the fate of the Czechoslovakia Pavilion after the country was invaded by Hitler
  • discover what was buried inside the Westinghouse Time Capsule … which won’t be opened until the year 6939!
  • fly from story to story, charting your own journey through the stacks…

It’s made of librarians!
Cool apps like this don’t  just magically appear out of thin air. Developers need to create the code, and content managers need to pull all the interesting content together in a way that makes sense to you and me, the viewer. In this case, the content managers are Librarians, and it’s exciting to see them creating these mashups of library science and technology.

What about the books?
As much as I enjoy reading a good book (the ink and paper type) I think their days are numbered. Except for significant works of a historical nature, many books more easily stored, searched and referenced digitally. Which means the book warehouses (libraries) can evolve into their next phase. I’m not sure what that would be, but I bet we’re going to love it :smileyhappy:

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