In April I was at an event where I used the phrase get deeply local to describe a key strategy for libraries that want to survive. It was picked up by a couple of other speakers there, so I thought I would elaborate.
In a world of generic best sellers available in supermarkets, music and video downloadable by bittorrent and university libraries getting best bang for buck with large “one size fits all” journal database subscriptions , I think that to best way to serve our communities libraries need to shift our resources toward a greater focus on the deeply local.
I think our strengths over large ubiquitous sites like Amazon, Google and Wikipedia are – or should be:
- our deep, human knowledge of the people in our community who use us
- our deep, human knowledge of people in our community who do not use us
- our deep, human knowledge of the specific information resources needed by our community
- our deep, human knowledge of how our community wants to find and discover information
- our deep, human knowledge of locally produced information
- our human ability to provide many different services to the same individual by our knowledge of them as people
- our human ability to anticipate desires and to delight our local community
- our buildings as a social hub for our local community
With this knowledge, we have the ability to:
- connect people in our community with each other
- connect our community to local information
- connect our users to the outside world of information
- put local information where our community can best access it
- provide tools for remix of local information
- help our local communities to organise, publish and make findable their own local information
- connect our local information to the world for those outside our communities
There are many methods to do this. Some examples of things that Google, Amazon and Wikipedia cannot do what we can do – and that maybe we should give more resources – are:
- Institutional repositories of publications in academic libraries
- Digitization projects for ephemera and special collections held by libraries
- Local history projects
- Community information
- Homework clubs
- Homebound services
- Events designed to be intergenerational – like a grandparents vs children’s wii tournament
- Job clubs that help locals support each other in finding information and upgrading skills to find jobs
- Partnerships with other local groups or institutions, like the Health Bags in Topeka Shawnee County Public Library in partnership with a local hospital.
- Online initiatives to promote local discussion of reading, like the Yarra Plenty Reads blog or the Mosman Readers Ning
- Projects like Kete Horowhenua that allows community members to create an online repository of locally produced content important to the community
- Providing remix sites where users worldwide can mashup local data, like Digital New Zealand’s Memory Maker and Widget Gallery .