Confronting the Future--Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library

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Selected slides from my 7/28/11 presentation to SCLS library directors: Confronting the Future--Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library (on OITP policy brief #4, of the same name)

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  • This report issued in JuneI am going to cover the highlights
  • 5. Free to FeePublic Libraries were created primarily because info was scarce and expensive. The idea that they should be free and open to all came later. If you remove scarcity and expense, does the imperative remain?Many Public services are not free:ParkingToll roadsuniversities (none free to all)National and state parksLibraries are not quite all the way at the Free end of this spectrum.Some fee services already exist: copies, rentalsCould libraries be at the 75% or 50% free point, instead of 99%Possible new fees:conferencingbandwidth (free 1.5Mbps, pay for 50)softwarereference, research, instructionpremium space access (e.g. Public Airport, private club)membership! What’s old is new.Caution: Chris Anderson in Free: “Give a product away, and it can go viral. Charge a single cent for it and you’re in an entirely different business. . . . The truth is that zero is one market and any other price is another.”A danger is that if we begin to concede free, are we eroding our chief benefit over commercial services?Free is already no longer exclusively our domain for much content.Ours: privacy, trustworthy, funded directly by publicTheirs: more what they want (e.gHulu), works better, funded ‘intangibly’Too radical?Why do we charge fines at all?why lend and not give with no expectation of return?These too are limits on access to information. We have more or less collectively determined what reasonable access is, based on a set of criteria. Some of that criteria is changing6. Public to PrivateWho provides the services?Will public/private hybrids develop? As in many public research inversities?7. Social Safety Net to Cultural LuxuryAre libraries for all, or for those who otherwise lack access to services?24/7, or only Thursdays 1-4?Save the time of people who could do their own research, or find things for those who lack the ability?Conclusion:Will libraries change or compromise theirValues?On page 29, we read “Unfortunately, it is not impossible to imagine a future without libraries. If that is to be avoided so that libraries can continue to fill their role as guarantors of free and unbiased information, they must play an active role in shaping their future.”We strive for free and unbiased information. Yet, funding changes threaten us precisely because information is not free. And regardless of how we may select materials, we make choices, about where to site our branches and the types of services we prioritize.We should recall that our current values developed over time. Some may be more ‘core’ than others. The history of libraries suggests that none are immutable.
  • Confronting the Future--Strategic Visions for the 21st Century Public Library

    1. 1. Confronting the Future <br />Strategic Visions for the <br />21st Century Public Library<br />Marc Gartler<br />Madison Public Library<br />Chair, America’s Libraries in the 21st Century<br />Office for Information Technology Policy<br />American Library Association<br />
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    10. 10. Disinvestment Continuums?<br />Free<br />Fee<br />Public<br />Private<br />Safety Net<br />Luxury<br />
    11. 11. "The libraries are closing forever, like tombs." <br />Historian AmmianusMarcellinus, 378 AD<br />
    12. 12. Confronting the Future <br />Strategic Visions for the <br />21st Century Public Library<br />Marc Gartler<br />Madison Public Library<br />mgartler@cityofmadison.com<br />Twitter: @gliblib<br />

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