Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Some musings on E-Books (amongst other things) from 4 years ago!

While looking through some old work I came across this article I wrote after attending the Public Libraries Conference on a sponsored place  in 2008. I'll admit I wasn't as clued up on new technology as I am now but wow, have we come a long way since then. It was originally intended for Update but I don't think it ever got published. Can't imagine why.

" The day when public libraries worry over their choice of e book format (Sony Reader, Kindle, ibok?) may seem very remote to some. But this was just one of many forward thinking topics at this years PLA conference in Liverpool. Personally I jumped on the ‘not in the next ten years’ band wagon but having  given the subject a bit of thought it is easy to see James Bond style ‘ this book will self destruct in 14 days’  loans being common place in under a decade. After all, 20 years ago few would have fully predicted the impact of the internet on library services or the role that mobile devices play in our everyday lives. Who are we, a generation of (in the main) digital immigrants, to second guess what the public, with it’s ever increasing demographic of digital natives, will expect from their libraries.

Pursuing new formats will invariable mean choices which may or may not take us further from our traditional role of libraries. An e-book is, after all, still a book, that sacred object at the core of all library services.  Yet its existence as an electronic object takes us further from the idea of a library as a physical place and closer to the idea of a virtual entity.
"This idea of choices, or at least the consequences of choices, leads me to the second most tangible thing I brought away from this years PLA conference. In the current climate some choices are harder than others and it was obvious that many services had hard decisions to make. However what we saw at PLA  was a showcase of all the positive outcomes that have resulted  from people making the right decisions. Schemes that had services working with banks to improve numeracy in children, volunteer schemes to engage asylum seekers and true community engagement to determine how best a refurbishment of a local library might benefit it’s local residents showed positive outcomes that complimented rather than challenged reading as the central role of the library service.
While it was natural that services should want to celebrate their achievements I wasn’t the only one who commented that many speakers steered clear of more controversial issues. Some might say this is only to be expected given the presence of those people with the power to make decisions. Who after all wants to rock the boat when there is so much good to talk about ? But who would have thought it possible to present on public private partnerships without touching on that omnipresent, and high contentional,  entity – the coffee chain. Obviously by its very nature this was never going to be a conference that challenged the establishment, after all it was the establishment that was present.
 Yet while the reviews were encouraging  one has to wonder whether they will have any real impact when those responsible struggle even to decide on the benchmarks or have little real power when it comes to influencing hard up councils making spending cuts."

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