Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Do We Need Libraries? - Forbes

Libraries everywhere are under threat. After all, who needs a library
today, when it is possible, without even getting out of bed, to find
and read almost any book or article that has ever been published? One is
tempted to recall the reaction by some to the recent news that Radio
Shack had gone bankrupt: “Radio Shack bankrupt? I didn’t know Radio
Shack still existed!”

I was asked to give the opening keynote at a combined meeting of the Library Leaders Summit and the Computers in Libraries
conference this week in Washington, D.C. In discussing the future of
libraries, the conference continues a long tradition of forward-looking
libraries exploring emerging technologies, hearing from bleeding edge
practitioners and sharing case studies of innovative libraries. My
thoughts on the future of libraries are equally applicable to many other
sectors that are facing the threat of extinction from massive
disruption to their businesses.

Library of Congress in Washington, DC, (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

The scale and pervasiveness of the disruption that sectors like libraries face is amazing.

The disruption begins with products. The smartphone, as Larry Downes and Paul Nunes explain in their book, Big Bang Disruption, is resulting in a huge array of products becoming obsolete:

Address books, video cameras, pagers,
wristwatches, maps, books, travel games, flashlights, home telephones,
dictation recorders, cash registers, Walkmen, Day-Timers, alarm clocks,
answering machines, yellow pages, wallets, keys, phrase books,
transistor radios, personal digital assistants, dashboard navigation
systems, remote controls, airline ticket counters, newspapers and
magazines, directory assistance, travel and insurance agents, restaurant
guides and pocket calculators.

But the disruption isn’t limited to products. Whole sectors of commerce are under threat.  Read more...

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