On Platforms and Libraries

The biggest danger for libraries across the country: to maintain the status quo.

I’m sitting in a local Las Vegas library last night signing copies of the book. The guy who arranged the event has worked in libraries for twenty years and freely admits they haven’t fundamentally changed. We start talking about what libraries need to do differently. After all, it’s not hard to imagine a world without those vaunted institutions. It’s not like you have to go to public libraries to find information anymore. This isn’t 1980.

I explain that, unless things change, libraries as we know them could very well vanish. Forget the considerable state and local budget constraints for a moment. For many municipalities, there soon may not be enough money to fund employee salaries and other costs associated with running libraries.

Like many institutions, the library needs to evolve—or face extinction. While I’m no library expert, what if the library became more of a platform for local events? What if people could meet to discuss ideas? What if authors could conduct readings and connect with fans? What if libraries helped writers build their tribes? In turn, local authors could drive traffic to libraries? What if libraries actually became hip?

The biggest danger for libraries across the country: to maintain the status quo.

Simon Says

In the Age of the Platform, it behooves your organization to offer something that people can’t get anywhere else—or can’t get as easily. Expecting people to use your service because they’ve always done so is a recipe for extinction.

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