Thursday, April 30, 2015

Do We Need Libraries? : : Forbes

Do We Need Libraries?
Forbes: 4.28.2015 by Steve Denning

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.

The Scale of Disruption Today
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.

Against this background, what is the future of libraries? There is no reason to think that libraries are necessarily immune from the Grim Reaper of disruption. Do libraries have a future at all?

Five “Right” Approaches For Libraries
The future of libraries is a story that has yet to be written. I don’t pretend to have “the answer” to that story. The only thing we know for sure is that the story will be different from the story of libraries in the past. But here are five questions that could lead to the right answer. In fact, the key to unlocking the mystery requires asking the right questions.

Using the right metrics to track customer delight will be important here. A informal poll at this week’s conference suggested that relatively few libraries are using the Net Promoter Score (NPS) methodology. Instead, the metrics in use seem to focus outputs, like numbers of users or circulation figures. Although we all love librarians because they are instinctively helpful, getting feedback from users about the overall utility of the library as a whole, using the NPS methodology, would give libraries a handle on whether their efforts to delight users are paying off—or not.  READ MORE !

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