Friday, May 20, 2011

Libraries can make it

This post is yeeeeears late. Google and Amazon have been using their nimble pink tips to digitize anything and everything for a long time now. Libraries are shutting down. Amazon is selling more e-books than book books. Publishers are limiting what libraries can e-lend. I figure I’m not too late to shoot my opinion to all 1 of you reading (love you dad!).

First off, everybody loves libraries and thinks they are valuable. This is great news for libraries. I remember saying once that the reason libraries are failing is that anything you need from a library can be found faster and easier online, but that’s not totally true. Libraries do offer something unique, and it’s the reason why we value them and will miss them if they’re gone.

Anyone can walk into a library and read a book (new or old) for free. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. And that’s completely unique even today (though Barnes and Noble was giving public libraries a run for their money for a while).

It's partially about money, and public libraries have none. What they do have are lots and lots of people who believe libraries are valuable and want to see them survive (which is actually way more valuable than the public funding right now). Can they come up with creative ways that their fans and followers can support them?

If you look for ways you can help libraries, most library sites and Facebook campaigns ask people to write their congressperson, demand more funding, vote on this or that, etc, etc. They’ve missed the point. I don’t want to write my congressperson and explain why they should give libraries more funding. I’ve never written my congressperson. That doesn’t interest me at all.

There are ways libraries can generate income that are better than waiting for funding or putting a clear plastic drop box near the book checkout. In many cases libraries already let businesses in (but who in the world clicks on banner ads?). It wouldn’t be a stretch for libraries to introduce their sponsors to their followers and ask their followers for support directly.

If I could help my local library keep the lights on from purchases I made at Amazon (hello Aceman) or for that matter ProFlowers (we’re desperate at this point, aren’t we?) I’d gladly click through them to buy from sponsors.

Basically you have a unique institution which everyone values and would miss on the brink of extinction with no money and nothing to lose.

What an opportunity.


  1. For example. You walk into a library and there are perhaps 20 people of all ages and demographics seated at computer terminals doing who knows what. Maybe some of them would form a team and work on a project of common interest, if they were offered the opportunity. Geez! What better environment than the library!

  2. It seems to me that at one time the library by default was a center for social interaction, even if Marion the Madam Librarian continually said, “Sh-h-h-h!” Nowadays that role has been preempted by the Scylla and Charybdis of designer lattes and free Wifi. What if you could show your library card and get 10% off at the coffee bar located on the lower level next to book returns?