It’s either Darwin or the way of the Dinosaurs

By Lawrence Wischerth posted 02-16-2011 10:51


 The blogs posted here in the Capture Community focus primarily on the front side of document capture. By that I mean we blog about the “how to”; expanding document capture, increasing throughput, creating better quality images etc. and the “what do we do with”; OCR, indexing, workflow, storage etc.  aspects of electronic content.

So today, I wanted to talk briefly about something totally different; a forgotten victim of the electronic content age if you will. This victim is a poster child for the paper age. It has entire buildings dedicated to it and has a classification scheme that is so comprehensive it is universally used across the nation. Your tax dollars  fund it and it’s probably safe to say that almost all of us have visited one at some point in our lives or at least told our parents that we were going there as a cover for going somewhere forbidden with our friends. Need some more clues?  How about “the stacks”, card catalogs, periodicals?   Now you remember:  it’s your local Public Library.

I started thinking the other day about the long term relevance of the Public Library. What has electronic content done to our old friend?  With almost everyone having access to the Internet and with the surge in popularity of digital content and eReaders (Amazon reported that sales of ebooks have now exceeded hardcover and paperback sales on the website) how long will we need the Public Library? Does the Public Library have a “Dealing with Darwin” issue? (Geoffrey A. Moore, Dealing with Darwin, How Great Companies Innovate at Every Phase of Their Evolution  2005 The Penguin Group)  Can innovation and change save the library or is it already too late?  If you think it can’t happen, just look at the current state of Borders or Blockbuster Video.

I thought it might be fun to engage in a little virtual brainstorming about the potential future state of the library. Let’s try and make this interactive; which is really my way of encouraging you to play along at home. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. Does the Public Library have to be a brick and mortar facility?  Would the transition to a “virtual library” be a viable innovation?
  2. What would a “virtual library” look like?  How would content be accessed and presented to its members?
  3. Will local taxpayers benefit from an electronic “virtual library”? Would we see a reduction in local taxes collected to support the traditional library just as businesses have realized cost savings by transitioning from paper based content to electronic??
  4. Would a hybrid solution, consisting of a combination “physical” and “virtual” library serve the needs of both digital natives and digital immigrants?
  5. Is there “an app for that”?  How does the rapid growth in mobile content impact a future design for the virtual library?
  6. Should the library offerings be expanded beyond books and periodicals (physical or digital) to include streaming digital content, music, video, podcasts, blogs, wikis etc.?

So what are your thoughts and ideas?  How would you change the Library to keep it relevant?  Is it  worth the time and effort to try and innovate the Library or should we just let it go the way of the dinosaurs?  This is the part where you come in. Just think of it as your opportunity to participate in a little Business Process Innovation.  Let’s see if together we can create a blueprint for a new library. Your input and ideas can be added as comments to this blog post. I will assemble all your ideas and publish them in a future blog post.  

Note:  Healthfirst employment is listed for identification purposes only.  Opinions expressed are personal opinions and not those of my employer.

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