Which way do we go?

This morning I saw a new website twittered– BooksFree.com –which allows you to “rent” books like you do Netflix videos.

Demise of library services as we know them? Will people still want to go to a place if they can get the item via their mailbox? (of course, it’s not free, you have a monthly fee, so the library is still a better deal ;)!)

Similarly, I read in the NYTimes several articles relating to the demise of newspapers and/or magazines, including a touching one about the importance Bostonians have placed on their beloved and threatened Boston Globe, one about magazines raising their prices, and one about “hyperlocal” websites that bring aggregated local news to you customized for your location, and lastly a very telling one about newspapers and the AP attempting to control online content. Wes Fryer has been writing about this as well.

An armload of signs that are all pointing in the same direction–major change is on the horizon, driven by the economy as the tipping point. What will be telling is what communities fight to save–like the Boston Globe, and what things we let go. It will say something about us as a culture.

But more pertinent to this post is what is all of this going to mean for libraries? We are really at a tipping point? How much print content do we embrace and how much digital? When are our customers ready for what? What should we be willing to pay for if our students/staff mainly use “Google”? What will all this move to digital look like from a profit standpoint from publishers and providers that have excellent content?

So, renting books online….should we be mailing books to our students instead of them coming to us? sending them digital books via email? Only subscribing to magazines and newspapers online and not buying print ones? buying Kindles?

Yet students flock to our doors, check out more books than before, and use digital and books interchangeably. There is some need for a “campfire” to circle around for students. A place to be, to interact with books and knowledge and information….and to talk and hang out and do homework and get help when they need it.

On the other hand, I’ve found the teachers are somewhat more sequestered in their rooms with their own computers, so how do we reach them as well?

This is a mixed-up post which reflects the confusion over what direction to take.  It should be an interesting next few years.

I’d be really interested in views from my online learning community about these questions! What do you think?  Which way DO we go?

One thought on “Which way do we go?

  1. It’s also not the first time we as a species or a culture have gone through this confusion. The last time was the emergence of printing in the mid-1400s in central Germany.

    Then, a university professor posted a list of 95 items for debate in his class. Printers in the university town thought it looked good, and that people would be interested, so they printed and sold it. Others took up the text, and transmitted it across Europe. What had started as a not particularly controversial class at a second-rate university turned into the Protestant Reformation. A look through the books from that era, called the age of Incunables or Incunabula, shows that before the development of jargon, readers could turn their hands to any discipline: architecture, painting, fencing, anything.

    We’re back in that sort of environment now, where the kids today will learn how to do anything they want to do… and probably very little of what we want to teach them. There’s going to be a long settling-in, as well as a shorter-term crisis. School isn’t going to look the same at the end of the shorter-term crisis as it does now. But it’s going to look radically different even than that, at the end of the longer settling-in.

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