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Page history last edited by Kevin O'Neill 15 years ago

I wondered if anyone wants to talk about libraries, as it seems a bit odd to have a bookcamp without them. I was thinking of them as part of social reading, but in most cases, visiting the library is a far from social experience. More of a sort of  public-private experience.


Libraries could be amazing, but generally they aren’t. There are lots of them, they often occupy a pretty good space in the high street, they’re free and they’re nice and warm. That’s a good start. But they’re also often dingy, unfriendly and useless, if you can’t find what you need.


Library systems store information on exactly who their users are, and what they read. That could be used to recommend relevant titles, join people with similar interests together, or inform the sort of events that could happen in the library like author visits, discussion groups etc. Visiting the library could be a dynamic, enriching experience. They could be playing a major part in encouraging reading, improving literacy, building communities etc.


In discussing this there are bound to be other schools of thought. Some people think libraries are dead. It’ll all be e-books and POD. There’s no need for them now as Waterstone’s has coffee and better chairs. That sort of thing. I’d be really interested to hear different viewpoints, and to hear how (if?) libraries figure in the future.


Anne - there are definitely a couple of librarians coming on Saturday who I am sure would have a view on this. Jeremy


On the day there was a good discussion which covered a wide range of library related topics and so here are some of the ideas of what libraries are potentially good for:


  • Providing space for individuals to meet up or to work in relative peace and quiet
  • Being a source of free stuff - in the current credit crunch it is worth promoting free book loans and broadband access
  • educating the public on techie related issues such as DRM and privacy in using search engines
  • adding social networking platform to our Library Management Systems (LMS) to allow customers to create profiles, make wish lists, share searches and reading histories and contact people with shared interests. There is the potential to do this but the cost is too high to justify at the moment. Creating a widget doing this would also be a bonus
  • having a ticker display showing current enquiries
  • re-engineering commercial services. Google Answers no longer exists but UK libraries offer a simillar service called Enquire which allows people to instant message a real librarian in real time
  • having expert staff to answer enquiries and recommend good reads


Thanks to everyone for ideas and opinions - Kerry




Hijacking this page to appeal to anyone who uses the British Library, building on some inspiration I got at Bookcamp.


I've been spending more and more time in the BL this year, and have been wondering about the possibilities such an incredible resource offers. One of the things that I think is lacking is the potential for some spontaneous discussion and collaboration, like the kind we experienced at Bookcamp. The ease with which people got together and shared ideas was great, and it seems to me the number of people researching in the BL is a resource that is begging to be exploited.


I've written more on my blog, but basically I'm interested in putting together some kind of online diary system, where people put up a suggestion for something they'd like to discuss, where they're going to be, and people can indicate if they're interested in coming along. I think there's a lot of potential for making meaningful connections through this.


-- Kevin O'Neill


The BL is supposed to be the most important place for knowledge and learning in the country - I think this could really help contribute to this goal. I've emailed them about this idea - they might even be working on something similar, but I'd welcome any suggestions/comments.


Comments (6)

Anne Ward said

at 11:53 pm on Jan 13, 2009

Oh good. I was wondering if anyone had been invited. Perhaps I should declare myself as an ex-librarian, although there's still a lot of library in me, as it were.

Kevin O'Neill said

at 11:55 pm on Jan 13, 2009

This blogpost makes good reading for anyone wanting to get their passions riled up!


Anne Ward said

at 11:59 pm on Jan 13, 2009

I was going to link to that, but it got me too riled. Interesting though.

Chris Meade said

at 11:57 am on Jan 14, 2009

I'm very interested in this - thinking about the significance and use of local libraries when any laptop provides access to a massive information and imagination service. The library could be a vital local 'our space' for meeting and sharing, and getting personal advice on how to navigate through knowledge online and off.

Kerry Morris said

at 4:57 pm on Jan 14, 2009

I'm a librarian working for Newcastle Libraries. We have a new City Library opening in June which will be big, sparkly and hopefully welcoming to all. Books and reading are a vital part of our service and we offer a number of reading groups in addition to attractive and fresh stock. We already offer e-books in the form of online reference resources and would like to take the plunge into lending fiction and non-fiction titles very soon.

Glad you raised this and looking forward to Saturday!

Ben O'Steen said

at 10:40 am on Jan 16, 2009

While not a bona-fide librarian, I am working on the digital library here at Oxford University so I can at least give some insight on what the paper librarians across the hall believe their jobs are. Part of my work is to marry the digital content and the physical content, at least in terms of the accessibility and interoperability of their records.

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