Libraries and the Future of Electronic Content Delivery – an article in American Libraries magazine
“Libraries are about content plus community,” says Michael Porter. “What does that mean in a world where in 5, 10, or 20 years the vast majority of content is electronic?”
Porter draws on two decades of experience as a librarian, speaker, and writer to envision an organization that will take a leading role in charting the future of electronic content delivery for libraries, with expert information professionals and industry leaders at the helm. He created, and is president of, Library Renewal, “a new kind of nonprofit” organization whose goal is to develop “a new electronic content access and distribution infrastructure.”
Porter talked with American Libraries at the 2011 ALA Midwinter Meeting in San Diego about “making an idea happen,” the current information technology landscape, the plans for Library Renewal in the year ahead, and how librarians everywhere can get involved.
One of the goals of Library Renewal is to combine research, partnership, and grassroots involvement to define the future of electronic content delivery. Why is this important now?
Google lapped libraries early on in self-service search on the web, but iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Pandora, Spotify, and others are now getting ahead of them in providing electronic content. Either we figure out how to get people the electronic content they want, when they want it, in the formats they want it, or someone else does it … and for a price that only some can afford. These companies, the faces of the new publishing, will deliver content in ways that lack our special training, care, understanding, community commitment, and long historical view. This trend threatens both librarians’ roles as providers of unfettered access to content and information, and—since it is built on this concept—democracy itself. The writing on the wall tells us we run the risk of being replaced by commercial alternatives that serve only those who can afford them. In such an environment, all content provision is subject to the corporate bottom line. Existing libraries are not addressing this massive threat, and it simply cannot stand, plain and simple: The stakes for libraries and the communities we serve are too high.”
Read the whole article – thanks, American Libraries Magazine!
– David Lee King, Board member