The Meeting is the Media – Inga Lundén

Inga Lundén
Adding value by merging digital and physical service into a participative culture

What are the values that a public library can add to the everyday life of an individual, of the everyday life of a city? And what are the added values if the everyday life of a librarian?
Is it the circulation of books?
Today the book is everywhere, in every form. Still the competition for the readers are mostly about the price of the printed book, but soon the affordable and smart e-reader will be here and if the libraries hadn’t found a sustainable business model by then, we are facing either big costs for adding this new media form to our library, or ever worse – to be out of business.
Is it the reference service?
Google is the new reference desk. All is easy accessible anytime. Wikipedia is as reliable as Encyclopaedia Britannica, why bother to go elsewhere?
Is it even important that libraries survive? What would be lost if the library wasn’t there for us anymore?
The free flow of information is right on the net, or some of it. And some of it is free. At least for now. The people’s right to speak and print need the right to free access to be of real value.
The open society is often expressed in visions and values but reality tends to separate people in gated groups. The open space is needed, where people can be by themselves, among others. Where no one asks for money, membership or purpose.
The old core business of the library, with circulation of books and reference desks, is not enough. We have to add value.
The unique point about the public library is the encounter. The interaction between people and media. Between different kind of media and between people.
With these three perspectives libraries can take action for a viable development within the development of a growing city. Cities like Barcelona and Stockholm is not only growing by numbers. But also by diversity, complexity and knowledge. This is a tremendous asset, if the city can make use of it.

The city can grow wider in perspective, knowledge and imagination by a little help from its libraries. If the library grows with the city.
The library can be there for you, everywhere, anytime. Some public libraries are integrating the digital reality with the physical one to enhance the full library service and add values. They bring in the products of the publishing houses, the media, the blogosphere and add context. They introduce their users to providers and producers, staging new creative arenas, where users become producers and vice versa. They are staging the unexpected, introducing the media content or the people you didn’t know you were longing for.
They are staging spaces where you can meet and exchange: language in languages cafés, stories for example in digital storytelling workshops, technical knowledge in helpdesk sessions and ideas in “open spaces”.
All inclusive: these public libraries, together with good partners, reaches out to different individuals and groups and invite them to bridge the gaps between different cultures, ages and between those who have and those who have not, between those who know and those who don’t.
If the public library are vibrant, creative and fun in doing its core business, it’s truly possible to enhance the meeting between people and media, between media and media and between people and people. To add value to people’s everyday life.
This is a shift in perspective for many libraries and therefore necessary to underpin these actions with strong visions and plans, promoted by the politicians and well known by the staff.

“When libraries in motion meet people in motion, anything can happen.” That’s the motto of the Stockholm Public Library strategic plan, decided by the City Council for the years 2006-2010. A new plan is in progress and due to be decided early 2011.

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