Some libraries around the world are changing.
While most of the 100,000+ libraries in the U.S. will likely continue to function as they always have, moving books around shelves and holding areas, to and from patrons — at least for the foreseeable future — some libraries around the world are changing and this could be the start of a trend.
An NFC-tagged library in Japan allows patrons to research books before removing them from the shelf. A small town in Austria, one without a library of its own, has turned the entire municipality into a library of sorts by planting QR codes and NFC stations on streets and buildings that allow users to download ebooks. (And libraries in the U.S. have been using QR codes for a while now.)
Library technology vendors 3M and Overdrive have both come out with physical kiosks that act as a digital portal to library offerings from patrons.Overdrive’s kiosk, which was on display at the recent American Library Association conference in Chicago, will allow patrons to browse and borrow a catalog of ebooks, MP3 music files and other digital offerings.
With these innovations being hungrily adopted by library systems in the U.S. and around the world, is it only a matter of time before we see a library space that looks more like a digital playground than a house of books? Library budgets are always under pressure and readers in general are slowly but surelymoving on from the printed word to the digital one (though this movement seems to be slowing for the time being). It’s not surprising to see libraries try to keep pace with the new realities of digital media using any tools available.
Librarians, so far as I can tell, are incredibly earnest about their mission and passionate about organizing information and bringing it to patrons. While we all have warm, fuzzy feelings for books, I’d guess that most librarians would put providing their patrons with the information they want and need over that good feeling you get when you walk through overflowing library stacks. And, who knows, maybe the children of tomorrow will grow up getting that good vibe from a room humming with kiosks and filled with QR and NFC access to all the information they could ever want.
To stay up to date with what’s going on when it comes to libraries and technology, follow Alan S. Inouye’s blog on DBW. He’s the head of the American Library Association’s Office for Information Technology Policy. Here are some recent posts: