The subject of reinvention and modernisation of libraries has been touched on previously in our News section but a recent visit to the Netherlands, to take part in an event which provided the opportunity to talk to library suppliers from around the world, gave Managing Director Nick Hunt plenty of food for thought on this subject.
“Innovation and our role as suppliers within it was a key topic”, explained Nick, “The relevance of modern libraries in an era when information is so widely and freely available was also raised”. During his presentation guest speaker Jef Staes likened libraries and schools to wells, in an age when water is available on tap (quite literally!). This statement was to highlight that one of a library’s key functions, which is as an invaluable source of information, may have been overshadowed by the emergence, availability and speed of information in a technological age.
Many people will despair at such statements, the smell and feel of books can never be replicated via a screen and a keyboard. But for many more the convenience of accessing information at any time and at any location far out-weighs this. But against the backdrop of financial uncertainty and far reaching cutbacks the idea of innovation seems unlikely as this usually comes at a cost does it not?
“The event was an opportunity to look and talk about new ideas and concepts, based mostly around how RFID can be utilised. What stuck out for me though was the possibility we are at danger of forcing the issue too much” said Nick. “There seems to be a race on to create the next big RFID related solution, one that will improve efficiencies or attract visitors or put libraries at the forefront of technology. Does successful innovation have to be about the latest technology?”
On his return from the Netherlands Nick asked his team if, in fact, innovation can be in the form of encouragement and assistance in successful learning and providing awareness of the services libraries offer, be it as a main learning resource or a secondary one. “I truly believe that once people start engaging with their public or school library, either for the first time or being reintroduced to it, they will continue to do so” said Nick “Increasing footfall will surely help the survival and enhancement of libraries and RFID can certainly play a part in this, I just wonder if we are focusing on that part of it too much and not seeing the wood for the trees”
PSP does not have the answers to this, just yet at any rate! In fact this News section would probably be better titled A Pause for Thought.
Having been in the library market for 35 years it is very close to our hearts and a market in which we have witnessed many changes. One thing that has never changed is the value and opportunities libraries offer everyone. Perhaps our role is in spreading and reinforcing this message?