Monday, August 2, 2010

The Network is the Focus of Attention

On Friday I heard Lorcan Dempsey talk about discovery and disclosure in a networked environment. He discussed a number of changes—discovery beginning at the network level and attention, workflow, and consumer switches—and how these challenge libraries, which have developed rather complex systems for pre- or extra-network behaviors. Dempsey encourages libraries to consider what business they are in: infrastructure, product innovation, or customer relationship management. He pointed to the repurposing of library buildings as an example of libraries shifting from a focus on infrastructure to one on customer relationship management. (A recent article in College & Research Libraries provides evidence of this, supporting the perception that library buildings are becoming glorified study halls.)

But the network is not the exclusive concern of libraries. Libraries remain local institutions with physical stuff, spaces, and services; not everything is or is deliverable online and not everything can or should be externalized. A particular library can still have a vital physical presence as an archive, place, and educator.