Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New Jersey esummit

On May 2, I spoke (with others) at New Jersey's esummit . I jotted down several thoughts I wanted to record.

First, I'm always surprised by the natural beauty of the state. When I left Denver, it was snowing (between days of over 70). New Jersey was blooming, green and growing. It truly is the garden state.

Second, I really enjoyed meeting Eli Neiburger, who gave a rollicking and provocative first talk.

But I think he was entirely too dismissive of the library's role in the collection, discovery, curation, and preservation of content. Overwhelmingly, the public looks to us for our cooperative purchasing power. They look to us to gather, organize and present.

At DCL, we check out over 8 million items a year in a community of 300,000 people.

We get 2 million plus visits to our website. The key use? Our catalog.

We get another 2 million visits to our 7 facilities. The key reason for their visits? To check stuff out.

After that, things drop significantly in levels of use. People come to us for technology (wireless access and public pcs), for databases (which I think of as self-help reference), and then for the more human,  high touch services of reference and programs.

So I don't think it's "insane" for libraries to figure out how to acquire, catalog, display, and manage access to e-content. That's clearly where all content is going, and we are still the pre-eminent institution the public looks to in order to find the content that matters. And the value proposition remains (by pooling our money, we buy more access than you can buy yourself).

But it's also clear that this role isn't the only one we fulfill. This is a time for bold experimentation, and I welcome the idea that we're testing a variety of alternate futures. Let's put the science in library science.

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