Here’s an interesting prediction about the future of libraries just posted by a blogger who works in electronic resource management in New Jersey. Eric Hellman thinks the advent of ebooks and high operations costs will lead to fewer libraries but more locations in places like shopping centers and storefronts:
While the shift to digital media will cause library organizations to become larger through mergers, it will also allow branches to be effective at smaller sizes. Without the need to store a critical mass of books, tiny, storefront branches will become more practical and cost efficient. Guys in vans carrying books will become more important. When people go to their local branch, they’ll be able to use the free Google Books terminal (libraries are to get one free for every building) or other computers, check out some books, then have a coffee and socialize for an hour or so until the van makes its hourly delivery. Or they’ll do their shopping rounds and come back to pick up the bag of books waiting for them. Establishing branches in shopping areas is not only a smart thing for libraries to do, it’s also very cost-efficient.
In my own town, it seems that almost every year there’s talk of closing the branch to save money. If you look at it, you can see why—the building is massive and has to be very expensive to operate. Eventually it will be shuttered and sold, but a storefront branch down the block could deliver the same services and cost much less to run. Does it make sense for the town high school to run its own library? Not really, but that could be another branch. We’ll have fewer libraries, but more locations.
Read Eric Hellman’s full post here.
Interested in more? Check out some of the threads we’ve been following about libraries and small-scale, street-level cultural use of urban space.