Today please welcome Laurie C, who blogs at BayState Reader’s Advisory blog .
The Future of Libraries
While traditional book and audiobook publishing continues to shift towards the e-book and downloadable audio, library lovers around the world are wondering what’s going to happen to libraries.
As a public librarian, I care deeply about this question and hope the answer isn’t that the library will no longer be an actual place or be a place at all (even in the cloud). The fate of video rental stores, record stores, and possibly (gulp) bookstores looms large in this vision of a
post-library future. But if publication of books migrates over the next decade
to become entirely or almost entirely digital, what role would a public library
Of course, we know that a library is more than its collections; a library provides a community gathering spot, Internet access, tech help, research assistance, etc., but we’re talking the future of books here, so let’s just talk books.
As things stand now with e-books and e-audiobooks, most readers (including individual readers, families of readers, and students) who use libraries (whether public, school, or academic) couldn’t afford to buy every book they read or need, even if every book was available in a digital format they could use. Libraries currently act as go-betweens by offering e-book and e-audiobook lending through third-party vendors such as OverDrive and Freading who negotiate the licensing agreements with publishers.
With every change in format over the years, library budgets get squeezed more. It used to be when a new title was published, a library would purchase it and start lending it out. Now, a library might be expected to buy that same title in print, large print, audiobook (CD and MP3-CD), and in also in several downloadable electronic formats (KindleBook, ePub, MP3). Not to mention the paperback edition when it comes out!
In this transitional stage – as everyone tries to guess what the future of books will be – the push seems to be on to do to books what was done to music in the name of convenience. That is, remove DRM (digital rights management) to make reading and sharing e-books easier for the purchaser. It seems to me that if this happens, we’ll have to get used to having blinking ads and alerts on every page of every book we read and libraries won’t be funded because illegal sharing of e-books will be so commonplace. OR…we could continue to support our school, public, and academic libraries and keep them going.
Libraries transitioned from cassette tapes to audio CDs; from videocassettes to DVD and now Blu-ray; and from print reference to digital. Can libraries survive the transition to a majority e-book collection? I hope we can figure out how.
Others have been pondering these questions far better than I can do here, so here are some links to articles about the future of libraries and e-books.
Thank you, Laurie for joining us today! Leave a comment for Laurie below!
Agresta, Michael. What Will Become of the Library?: How it will evolve as the world goes digital. Slate. 4-22-14