Innovation or Adaptation

I’ve been thinking a little about innovation in libraries. I consider myself a fairly tech savvy person. I enjoy learning about it, messing with it and so on. However, it is frustrating to me how much library “innovation” is merely taking some other web app or tool and cramming it onto the library despite it’s lack of relevance or usefulness.


This is one that I’m constantly arguing with people about. Tagging is great! It works very well on things like delicious and even smaller services like Library Thing but I’m not sure it’s relevance in libraries. Why? Because for these to work, there needs to be lots of people tagging. So while your potential Library Thing audience is the entire English speaking world, the audience for a university or public library is much smaller.

Real Success

So the question is what do we as libraries do? I’ll admit, I’m not quite sure. Surely, though, we can do something better than creating a seldom read wiki or taking up space in second life. The greatest library success lately is without a doubt Google Books. Today alone I chatted with a individual from Germany who found a Turkish census book in our library via Google Books. He received info on his old village, we got to shake the dust off a book that’s so old no one bothered to recatalog it in LC.

Our Position in the World

We are at a crossroads now. We will never have the adaptive and technological capacities of Google, but we do have something: recognition and trust. So we are torn between the dual motives of completely recreating ourselves vs. focusing in on our strength (i.e. books and published information). I’d like to see a focus on what we offer that is unique and building innovations from there rather than spending time playing catch up.