Saturday, March 15, 2008

Bookish Ingenuity

The Brooklyn Public Library doesn't have (or won't give) enough money to support all of its branches. Nate Hill has a solution: retail-store sized "Library Outposts":

• Strategic location. The Outpost is a small space in a commercial area, a business improvement district, or a transportation hub. Rather than bring the patrons to the library, the Outpost brings the library to the patrons.

• Extended service hours. The Outpost will be open from 8AM until 10PM, giving the community access to library materials, exhibitions, and programs during the times most convenient to them.

• Collection available via online holds system. Rather than providing a localized browsing collection, the Outpost will connect users to all library materials via the catalog.

• Reference service. Outpost staff will provide exceptional reference services using online databases and internet searching strategies. All reference sources will be electronic.

• Wireless access and digital library content. The Outpost will be a comfortable WiFi zone to work in from a table or play in from a lounge chair. Through patrons’ portable devices they can access digital content via the library website.

• Programming and Exhibition space. The Outpost will feature exhibitions that pair the library’s collection and services with art related to community interests. The space will also be flexible enough to accommodate performances, lectures, concerts, discussions, even meals during evening hours.

Hill had developed a pilot version of this kind of access point at a library in DUMBO, but it was killed (get this) for lack of funds.

Further demonstrating that neighborhood libraries may very well morph into the futurist dream of Library-as-Starbucks, Hill spells it out:

(T)he Outpost has NO LOCAL COLLECTION. Every single piece of print material (with the exception of magazines and newspapers, and those can be eliminated digitally in a different manner) is an item that was requested online for pickup at the Outpost location. This in turn frees up 1500 sq. ft. of library space for programs, exhibitions, classes, movies, concerts, community meetings, serving coffee, and virtually any community-building, social capital-creating activity. The library of the 21st Century has to maintain a physical presence, but that presence cannot always be in the form of a well-organized, publicly accessible book warehouse.

1 comment:

Nate said...

Thanks for the plug Tim, who knows maybe this plan will be realized in Philly? Your city is advertising for a new library director....