I received a call today from a gentleman named Charlie who lives in British Columbia. He is part of an organization working to build a new library and he wanted to know what type of digital content and new media they should be thinking about when they design their new building. I was caught slightly off-guard, to be quite honest, but the question got me thinking. What comes to mind when you think about technology at your library? How would you answer Charlies’ question?
Consider this–Barnes & Noble announced that the line of Nook e-reader devices are the biggest-selling items in its history. They sold nearly one million e-books on Christmas Day. That is ONE day! And Amazon just announced that the third generation Kindle is officially the best-selling product in company history. Traffic to sites like OverDrive, the service many libraries (including the Cedar Rapids Public Library) use for downloadable media simply exploded around the holidays, so much so that the company struggled to keep up. (They plan to be back up to full speed by 12/31)
While this increase in e-book sales is interesting, an article by Newsweek states that only 15 percent of e-reader owners stop purchasing print books. That means even those of us who love the resources available through this new type of technology, there is just something to be said for holding a book in your hand.
Other forms of technology are taking up valuable space in our new library. For example, we will have a download station where you can access the library’s digital content while in the building, putting it directly onto your personal device. Imagine a filling station for your iPod or Nook. We will have express internet stations for those of us who need to check something quickly and don’t want to occupy a computer for a long period of time. These are new ideas, things not even considered when the last library was built.
So what does this mean for those of us in the midst of building a brand new library? It means we need to spend the time before our doors open in 2013 listening. We need to listen to the trends in technology and prepare for the future. We need to listen to our industry as we all forge ahead in a world that is changing faster than ever. And most of all we need to listen to our customers. Our library is not only a reflection of what the world looks like at the time of construction, but of the people who occupy that world. We need to listen to what our customers need in a library, what type of technology is most sought after, and what we can do with that technology to make life just a little better for those customers.
I hope I helped guide Charlie in the right direction, or, at the very least, pass him along to someone who could. And I hope he shares his progress with us. Good luck, Charlie!