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 Kids don’t shlep to the lib­rary to use an out of date encyc­lo­pe­dia to do a report on FDR.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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