‘Libraries make no sense in the future,’ says Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical Company, a well-known publishing consultant

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imageFor the benefit of public librarians who don’t worry about the “franchise” part of the franchise-and-branding issue, here’s an excerpt from a Toronto Globe & Mail article quoting Mike Shatzkina well-known publishing consultant and CEO of the Idea Logical Company:

“Will the percentage of electronic books plateau? No. ‘In 20 years it will not be strange for a kid who sees someone reading a book to ask, "What is that?”’ Screens are going to be ‘ubiquitous.’

“And libraries? ‘Libraries make no sense in the future,’ Shatzkin said on stage in a Montreal library that dates back to 1828. Anyone with Internet access already has access to far more books than were in that library, he pointed out. ‘There is no need for a building.’ There will be an ongoing need for librarians, however; their skills will continue to be in demand, as will those of editors."

Great, but what about a little detail: library users—especially kids not growing up in book-revering homes, including those who could be best inspired in person?

I’ve met Mike, and except on matters like this, I find him rather likeable, and if nothing else, I admire his honesty. Perhaps Harper26Collins is thinking similar thoughts even if the company has decided it’s too early to articulate them in public.

Related: Thoughts from librarian Gary Price—we share many of the same concerns. What’s more, Gary makes the excellent point that plenty of material has yet to be digitized. I realize that Mike’s talking about the future, but let’s aim for carefully planned evolution, not helter-skelter revolution.

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4 comments to “‘Libraries make no sense in the future,’ says Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical Company, a well-known publishing consultant”
4 comments to “‘Libraries make no sense in the future,’ says Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical Company, a well-known publishing consultant”
    • We agree, Kaye! The confusion is at Mike’s end, not ours, even though I wanted to focus on the topic directly at hand, libraries as book-providers. If I had to do it over again, I’d also include your argument, which was among those my friend Gary Price mentioned in the linked post.

      Libraries are not even just about “literacy/reading.” They are about knowledge, too—both the directly practical and more. If people want good medical and financial information, or help in finding work, the local library beckons. The information there is far, far more likely to be accurate and objective than from, say, medical sites underwritten by drug companies. Local librarians have a role to play, then, especially for the many patrons not comfortable with database searches. Perhaps most Americans will be truly computer-literate in the future. But that could be a long time from now, given all the studies that show that information literacy has a long way to go.

      At the same time, I can also see the usefulness of extending this beyond-the-book approach to a national digital library online. As I wrote in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the system should offer such items as “textbooks, carefully vetted scholarly papers, user-contributed photographs, local oral histories, and multimedia job-training materials, as well as other directly practical content. We mustn’t neglect digital textbooks, multimedia, and other how-to content for students, small-business people, factory workers, and others. Those are the kinds of materials that can help our country create the wealth and economic growth we keep hearing so much about. Libraries are notable for aiding Americans to realize ambitions that can lead to gainful or more-gainful employment; digital-library collections should reflect that interest in self-improvement and other life-changers.” And, in libraries or online, books are hardly the only medium to use toward those goals and others, especially if patrons need the freshest information!

      What’s more, as Tom Peters likes to point out, libraries are about services (for example, reference, story-reading hours, and programming on on a wide range of topics) rather than just content!


  1. Pingback: Bibliotheken en het Digitale Leven in April 2011 | Dee'tjes

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