This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

March 24, 2004 - library futures

For the past year or so, I've been subscribing to something called "Library Futures Quarterly." It's put out by one John Guscott, who combs all kinds of literature looking for trends affecting my business. You can find his website at www.libraryfutures.com.

Guscott does a good job of throwing some truly arresting statements and observations into each issue. Here's a sample from the Spring 2004 publication:

* "...an article in Searcher Magazine underscores the growing reliance on Google, pointing out that it now gets more searches in three days than libraries get worldwide in a full year."

* However, "these popular search engines are increasingly designed for online shopping, marketing and branding, not to conduct in-depth research."

* Clifford Lynch, executive director of the Coalition for Networked information, said, "there's still a place for place."

* "The e-book market continues to struggle for a foot-hold."

* There are now book-scanning robots -- devices that go through books and make digital images of each page.

* There are variety of products making their way to the market designed to produce "ultra-short runs." This is also called "print on demand." These products churn out 1 to 20 library quality paperbacks per hour. They are under consideration for use, at least to start with, in third world countries.

* "The BBC reports in the past five years, more information was created and stored than all that in previous history." (Yeah, maybe, but I'm guessing that 50% of it related to Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction. It's not information, exactly.)

* Open Source tools seem to be finding some "traction," as they say. Check out the Internet Archive's free web crawler tool, Heretrix.

* "Recent legal developments in Wisconsin now require libraries to release information to parents about what kids under 16 years of age have on their card." Note to parents: I realize this is a radical suggestion, but has anybody tried TALKING to their kids? Or see the next two items.

* "To combat the tendency among adolescent boys to abandon reading, more libraries are attempting all-male book clubs between young boys and father/grandfathers/uncles, etc."

* "Intergenerational reading clubs ... that pair seniors and students for discussion around classics or today's bestsellers."

* "Jimmy Wales' endeavor of providing an open source online encyclopedia called Wikipedia. Anybody can write an article and anyone can review it .... It has amassed over 150,000 entries since its start in 2001. .... It has become a major competitor of Britannica, a 235-year-old institution."

* "...in the U.K., 400,000 kids under age 10 have a cell phone, up from 80,000 three years ago."

* "Music insiders at Billboard Europe predict the death of the CD single by 2007 (the sales of online music have already eclipsed singles sales almost 2 to 1 since June 2003)."

* "The US is facing its deepest library budget cuts in history (only 15 states did not cut funding for libraries)."

* "We are becoming communication autists, alone in front of a computer screen, receiving a transmission but losing the message."

One of the key points, at least in the latest issue, is clearly that technology continues to be a tail that wags the dog.

But what I have been seeing in public libraries all across the country is something that doesn't seem to get much press. Today's libraries are the seeds of a rediscovered sense of community, of true public space where people gather not just to hunt down a bewildering collection of information snippets, but where they connect for the first time in a generation to a larger social, cultural, and political network.

And that's very good news indeed. In fact, there's a real future in it.

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