It's always fun to hear a story about libraries on NPR, and the latest one
is no exception. But I was a bit puzzled by the title: "Libraries Shine in Tough Economic Times." First of all, libraries shine all the time. It's just that some people don't notice it until $40 seems like too much to pay for a book club meeting where you barely discuss the book. Secondly, the bustling business that libraries do in harder economic times is usually followed by harder economic times for libraries themselves. This boom of library demand is likely to be followed (sometimes quickly followed) by a shortage of resources in the library. By the time the public is asked to vote on that bond referendum, it could be too late.
So, I am a library technologist. A product developer. An obsessive-compulsive efficiency guy who is starting to believe that if the Web cannot give it to me better, faster, and cheaper, I don't want it. I want Facebook and LinkedIn, not a rolodex and a pile of business cards. I want online banking and a key fob, not paper statements and an ATM. I want software on demand and authoritative data stores. And I want it better, faster, and cheaper.
I'm going to assume that very little of the financial bailout will trickle down to libraries. Where will we get our bailout when there's a run on libraries? How can we reduce our total cost of ownership of technology, materials, and library workflows? How do we get better, faster, and cheaper?