Friday, September 23, 2005

Conversation is content

It's All Good has a terrific post "Conversation, not Content?" reviewing Jeff Jarvis's discussion of "Who wants to own content?" Here's a snippet they plucked out, looking through the "library lens"... "Jarvis says, 'the value is no longer in maintaining an exclusive hold on things. The value is no longer in owning content or distribution. The value is in relationships. The value is in trust.' Why? Because 'There is no scarcity of good stuff. And when there is no scarcity, the value of owning a once-scarce commodity diminishes and then disappears....[I]n this new age, you don’t want to own the content or the pipe that delivers it. You want to participate in what people want to do on their own. You don’t want to extract value. You want to add value. You don’t want to build walls or fences or gardens to keep people from doing what they want to do without you. You want to enable them to do it. You want to join in.'"

I love this--partly because this is exactly what we want to do (not just try to do) on our library's Web site. Very experience-library. It's not just the cup of good coffee--it's the experience. The lessons learned by Starbucks and how libraries can build on them is one of the main reason I named my blog after another not-so-famous, but far more worthy character from Moby-Dick--because that's exactly what libraries should do--build on what private industry does, but make it better--more real, less expensive, more about community rather than commerce- And, you know, sometimes we should be first and let private industry build on what we do, too.

Also--In reviewing Jarvis's ideas, Alane from It's All Good asks, "A puzzlement to me--and something Jarvis doesn't address much--is how trust, relationships and conversation become monetized. In other words, libraries receive funding to be--for the most part--the content owners and the distribution pipes. How would they be funded for such ephemeralities as trust and conversation?"

Although I'm not sure is this is what Alane is getting at, I would say that we are funded for trust and conversation right now--this is why we hire people rather than simply stand as warehouses of books and databases. And we need to do better at encouraging the people of our organizations to get out and create relationships and therefore trust in the community, etc... as someone in a suburban library, I don't get out beyond my social circles much. My husband is a professor at JCCC, and almost all of our friends have Ph.D's or at least multiple advanced degrees. lHowever, I know the difference between swimming in certain social circles vs. really being involved in a community at large because I grew up in a small town. Librarians should act more like they are in a small town. Get out. Talk to people. Bring fliers promoting your library programs for adults, like poetry readings, out into the community, and hand them out at coffee shops. Hand out information on remote-access library databases at places with free Wi-Fi like Panera. Providing space (virtual or real) for community members is one thing--being part of that space is something else.


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