In this day and age of fast paced, ever changing technology, libraries seem like they are on the extinct end and losing the battle. The Hyperlinked Library is not just about new and emerging technologies, but it’s a way for students moving into the world of librarianship to introduce innovation into a world that is sometimes very slow to adapt and react. In his book “I Live in the Future and Here’s How It Works: Why Your World, Work, and Brain Are Being Creatively Disrupted”, Nick Bilton explains how the fear of the unknown can stunt innovation and why everyone should be ready to evolve with technology by creating the perfect user experience.
So trust me on this one, the public library can learn a lot from the porn industry. Let me explain, the industry keeps one step ahead of technology in order to retain their audience. Rather than asking themselves how can they continue to get people to use their old stuff (magazines, DVD’s, peep shows), they are ready for what’s next (digital technology). The porn industry has recognized the importance of developing a connection with the community, if you exchange library for porn industry, it still makes sense. Librarians have figured out that outreach is important as well as programming, but it only works if it’s relevant to your community. When was the last time your library asked you what you wanted as a patron? Or as librarians, how can we engage the community and change the perception that a library is only about books and quiet time?
Bilton explains the term “technology hypochondria” which is the divide between those who rush towards new experiences, fearful that they might miss something, and those whose fright leaves them feeling disoriented and left behind. New technology creates anxiety and this goes back to the days when the telephone, railways, and phonograph were introduced, it’s not a new phenomena. Way back when, people claimed that comic books would create juvenile delinquents, the phonograph would replace reading, and the railway would make you suffocate, those claims seem ridiculous now but currently, people assume that the internet, video games, and social media will turn your mind to mush. Again, it’s the fear of the unknown that is creating the barrier. Unfortunately many of us work with the librarian who has done the same program/outreach/task for the last 30 years and doesn’t feel the need to change anything because it’s worked for 30 years, or so they believe, but times are changing. It’s important to be prepared for backlash, but it’s more important to always have a voice for innovation, even if it’s blocked, one day it will be accepted!
Social media platforms have grown exponentially over the last decade, and Bilton points out that our “online friends” are influential, with recommendations to restaurants, books, movies, news and more. Since there is a common interest there is more trust and our online friends actually help us sift through online content that is important to us, and this is what Bilton calls anchor communities. It should be noted that each individual does not receive the same level of trust which can grow or change at any given time. Why are most libraries not using social media? Or maybe the question is how can we engage the community when we do post to social media? Chandler Public Library has Library Face Friday which involves the community and staff. Basically it’s a picture of the face of the cover of the book and the body of the person. It’s actually really cool and there are a lot of unique and creative book covers that people have used. If the community is involved with the social media posting, more patrons are likely to listen if another patron raves about a book they read or a program they attended.
Another point that Bilton brings up is how users will pay for the experience if it’s a quality product, they can have it immediately, and if the price matches the experience. Most big companies in 2010 were not evolving as fast as technology was changing. The users stated “you make it easy to own, or we’ll make it easy to own”, hence the dawn of the illegal downloads. The Disney Vault is the old way of thinking, people will just illegally download the movies that are in “The Vault”. Apple has evolved because they’ve added devices and content and even though everything needs to be purchased, people will buy because the experience is cool, immediate, consistent, and simple. What type of experience can we provide for our library community? The library is free, consistent and simple to use, sometimes we have to wait for materials or programs, but that is the “price” we pay for the experience. We can do more such as get to know the community, talk with them and ask them what they want. One of the branches in my library system is around a large population of retirees with no senior center in the area, so they have three Bridge days (they take that game seriously!!), a grant program gets seniors involved with different technologies like coding and robotics which they love, and an art program presented by a Phoenix Art Museum docent about a different artist once a month. Bilton says “you’re selling to a new audience, you need to talk to them differently”, just as these programs “speak” to the seniors, the shared-use facility which connects the public library to a public high school should speak to the teens. Programming should involve and be relevant to the community that surrounds the library because the experience is what will bring them back.
So what does the future look like for libraries? Societies are changing and change is the only constant but everyone wants immediate gratification. The lessons to take away from both Bilton and The Hyperlinked Library is like consumers, patrons have the ability to sway the discussion. Libraries are more than books, they are community centers, they are spaces to do things, to learn, to create, to be a part of something. Note to future librarians- listen, communicate, ask, innovate, think ahead, and creating the experience will continue to be the fun part.
Bilton, N. (2010). I live in the future & here’s how it works: why your world, work, and brain are being creatively disrupted. New York: Crown Business.