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Editorial: All I want for 2010

All I want for 2010: Brief notes about practical or totally pie-in-the-sky ideas for things we’d like to see happen in our libraries, in libraries in general, or in the profession

We thought the New Year would be a good time for us to get together and do another group post; what do we want for 2010? Comment on this post and tell us: What do you want for 2010 in your library, in libraries in gen eral, or in the profession?

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On a purely personal level, I’d like to get a fantastic response rate on the environmental scan my library will be performing this spring semester. On a broader level I’d love to see more libraries performing their own user studies and publicizing their results. For pie-in-the-sky I want catalogs magically fixed.


I’d love to see a radical expansion of Public Access Policies (like the NIH Public Access Policy) that are responsible to researchers, archivists, librarians, and the public. As a matter of fact, the Office of Science and Technology Policy is currently taking public comment regarding expansion of Public Access Policies. If we can give good feedback to inform the shape of future Public Access, then maybe we can have a Public Access model that works for everyone involved: researchers who want to disseminate their work, librarians who help people find that work, libraries that can consult on creating repositories, publishers that remain important in the peer-review model, and the public that funds the very research at stake.


I want to see some Amazon Libraries. To me, the idea seems so obvious I can’t believe it hasn’t yet happened: a full partnership between Amazon and a subset of public libraries–maybe a group of independent municipal libraries, or perhaps entire library systems.

The legal arrangements would take some doing, but I think it would be worth it for Amazon. FedEx purchased Kinko’s, and UPS purchased Mail Boxes Etc., in order to have a large, trusted network of brick-and-mortar retail outlets. Amazon could benefit from a similar arrangement by appealing to in-person, impulse, and last-minute shoppers, and it could also reduce its warehousing and last mile expenses. For example, it could begin offering free shipping on any purchase for customers willing to pick up their items at a local library, a common practice among retailers such as REI and Nordstrom. Amazon could then raise the minimum for free home delivery from its current limit of $25. I don’t think a new minimum of $50 or even $100 would be unreasonable–after all, if these customer want their purchases shipped for free all they have to do is visit their local public library.

As beneficial as this arrangement could be for Amazon, I think it could be even more of a boon to participating libraries:

  • Amazon’s website is more usable than any library website I’ve ever seen;
  • Library operations, especially our collection development activities, are inefficient and expensive–and we still don’t have useful predictive statistics, which can cause long waits for popular items and encourages us to rely heavily on ILL;
  • Library cataloging is very good, but it’s frequently slow, and we almost always duplicate effort.

By partnering with Amazon, libraries could outsource many of these activities to an organization that is among the world leaders in each area. Amazon would manage its partner libraries’ technical infrastructure and material-related operations; in exchange, libraries would handle all in-person transactions and customer service. Depending on availability, cardholders would have the option to borrow or buy popular items–and could still rely on their libraries to offer reference services, training and programming, and other activities library users have come to expect. The cost savings for participating libraries, plus the revenue they could earn by selling some items instead of just lending them, would help these libraries become far more solvent.

The only obvious danger would be to privacy, but that could be handled by storing circulation records on-site and purging any personally identifying data before it is uploaded to Amazon. That is, assuming people want to maintain their anonymity. For those who don’t–that is, for those who want to use their Amazon login in place of a library card–they could enjoy Amazon’s tailored shopping experience at the library they know and love.


Pie-in-the-sky for libraries in general:  I’d like to see augmented reality apps (demo using Layar) to be developed for use in libraries to expose collections and services.  The NCSU Libraries is nearly there with its WolfWalk application.

As a practical application for libraries in 2010, I hope to see the implementation of a more effective way to manage collections, especially licensed content like journals and databases, alongside things like usage patterns and return on investment analytics.  Keep an eye on the ambitious efforts from OCLC (have some spare time? check out this video presentation) and the OLE project to see who gets there first.

Related to the profession, I hope that SLA can recover from its name change initiative (identity crisis perhaps?) and continue to advocate for its members in an intentional, strategic, valued, and thoughtful way.  In an historic vote to change the name or keep the name, the process made members think about what it means to be a member of a professional organization – defining expectations, questioning SLA’s motivations – and it fractured the member pool soon after the organization reached its 100 year-old birthday.  SLA has been my professional organization of choice, and I hope that 2010 is a year of renewal and momentum in the right direction for SLA.


Well, since you asked… all I personally want for 2010 is to be granted tenure: magically, early, and without all the hassle! (Just kidding.)

Just as pie-in-the-sky, though, here’s my wish:

All I want for 2010 is a national referendum requiring that true research skills be taught as part of the K-12 school curriculum, including lessons on how to distinguish different types of online and print resources, how to find authoritative research, and how to be a critical information consumer. I would like to see students in my classes who understand that not all information is good information. I would also like to see colleges and universities embrace the national movement in research instruction (that I just invented) and apply it to the higher education curriculum so that all college students learn advanced research skills as they broaden and advance their educations. I would like to see us raise a new generation of information savvy American citizens who think critically about the information they receive as they move through our diverse, opinionated, and complex world.

If I may be granted a second wish, I wish for the American Library Association to find its way in reinventing itself as an association, and as a set of associations, that might better support and inspire librarians and libraries around the country.

3 Responses

  1. Andrew Klein

    Where’s Derik? Slacker. ;)

    I was just thinking to myself over the holidays about how augmented reality could be useful in libraries. Nice to see I’m not the only one with that on my mind.

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