Libraries in the 21st Century

Going for a "library in the palm of your hand..." thing.

The digital advances in publishing and media may provide new services and even opportunities for the classic social amenity of the library. The what? I know–the li-brar-y. Stacks upon stacks of dusty tomes will be moved to make room for a few extra computers and even rentable ereaders. Libraries will offer the same technology that has convenienced a generation of readers and scholars, providing them with services that a library card simply can’t on its own.

What’s new?

  • OverDrive, the global digital distributor of ebooks, recently dropped hints of providing library ebook support for the Kindle at this past Digipalooza conference1. At this time, only rumors are circulating, but one can speculate that it would mean free-range and 24/7 access to your library’s digital inventory if you have a Kindle in hand. This actually surprises me a bit, because OverDrive is partnered with Sony, and this development could cannibalize the market for the new Sony ereader.
  • Speaking of Sony, their partnership with OverDrive is a natural fit, considering Sony has made great strides in working with public libraries to establish ereader lending programs with their devices. Now, paupers like myself can enjoy all the technological facilities that hipsters can at a local library.
  • Scholastic is launching BookFlix in California to connect homes, teachers and children to local libraries (provided they have an internet connection). The service provides interactive literary resources to engage children and enforce strong reading habits. The program pairs fictional storybooks with nonfiction ebooks from Scholastic to provide real-world knowledge to reinforce the themes of the literature. Check out the BookFlix website to see a video overview.

Even with all of this 21st century support, the public libraries have a lot of work left to do. Libraries and publishers still butt heads over a lending model that is effective and profitable for both parties. They also still have to develop their digital inventories and find ways to connect to patrons remotely. It will be an interesting time of transition, but with new tools and strategies, the library of the future is not far from reach.

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