Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why Communities Need Libraries

Of the bricks-and-mortar variety.

For some of the same reasons, I suspect, Why Amazon Needs Stores. (Retail Prophet Consulting, 2/7/2012).  I don't think it's a leap of logic to expand the theme of Doug Stephens' brief blog post to libraries.

Here's an excerpt.

The answer may lie in one very simple truth. When I try to picture the Kindle Fire experience, nothing comes to mind. There is no tangible, sensory or emotional connection to the product at all. Whereas with Apple, I can clearly conjure images of crowded stores with people aged 6-60 lining up to try the new iPhone or iPad, my Kindle Fire recall is a vacuum. And I doubt that I’m alone. 

In truth, what Amazon needs to sell over and above the Kindle Fire, is the “Kindle Fire Experience” –and that’s where stores play a strategic role.

Stephens goes on to say that the store is the experience.....emphasizing in bold letters that, increasingly, a  bricks-and-mortar store serves as a distribution channel for brand experiences as opposed to simply products.

Just like the library experience.  It's not just what people find on the shelves.

On his highly recommended blog, David Lee King, Digital Branch & Services Manager at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library shares notes from the 2009 American Library Association presentation on "Revitalizing the Library Experience"   (Program presenters:   Joan Frye Williams and George Needham.  )  I used these notes to help me formulate a series of questions for an assignment in the Public Library class I teach for UW-Madison School of Library and Information Studies, "Walk into a Library for the First Time".

During my 22 years as Director of the Middleton Public Library, I made this type of observation a part of my routine.  Granted, it wasn't always easy to push aside the library "clutter" inside my head, but I found it to be an invaluable exercise nonetheless.

Obviously, the idea that Amazon need stores, the premier online retailer as The Week notes here (with a variety of reactions to this latest news) is very much on my mind, particularly as it relates to the continuing relevance of libraries.  As Shannon O’Neill, an archivist and reference librarian at the Atlantic City Free Public Library, says in an October 15, 2011, New York Times op-ed piece:  Libraries are always in a state of transformation: as the means of information production and consumption change, so do libraries.

And along this continuum of change, the library, I feel, will always be a (physical) place to go to.

1 comment:

cobbt11 said...


Thank you posting on this topic--spot on, I think. I was drawn to the following line in David Lee King's blog post that you referenced: "Give respect and get respect – you have to treat every connection as if it has a transformative potential."

I would add--because every connection really DOES have that potential, and often that connection has a transformative effect upon the patron AND the professional "helping" them. This is why I love libraries, library professionals and the field I'm in.