Plinius

Monday, January 29, 2007

PL 6/07: A great keynote from a capital librarian

Filed under: library 2.0 — plinius @ 8:30 pm

At the Opening Session, Tomas Rehak – Managing Director of the Municipal Library of Prague – held the keynote speech: “There are two kinds of libraries”. A great performance.

– I may not agree, but I was seduced by the lecture, Tor Henriksen – former Director of the library school in Oslo – told me.

Supply and demand

Librarians like to talk about the social value and the great services libraries can offer. They see the market from the supply side.

They are frequently less happy with debate on technological change and on the corresponding changes in public behaviour.

But Rehak focused entirely on the world “out there” – external trends and the demand side.

Survival strategies

Will public libraries survive the next one or two decades? he asked.

– Hey, why such a stupid question?
– The certainly can survive ..
– But will they?

Loans and visits per capita increased til 2004 – but in 2005 there was a slight downturn (TH: the same applies to the Nordic countries).

Change management

There are two kinds of companies: those who change and those who disappear. Says Philip Kotler. This statement applies to libraries, as well.

The whole business is changing – both the information service business and the recreation and entertainment business. We have lost our monopoly – and there is tough competition in the market.

There are three kinds of people:

  • Those who make tings happen
  • Those who watch things happen
  • Those who wonder what happened

The social effects of digital technology

The changes happen outside libraries:

  • Googlization and Wikization of information services
  • Internetisation of culture.

Take storage. 4 gigs (gigabytes) is equivalent to 8.000 books. I don’t have time in the rest of my life to read 8.000 books. A tiny 4 gig memory card costs 75 Euro. Reading for the rest of my life …

The same storage capacity as a DVD has a price of 0,25 euro. (TH: 1 euro = 32.000 books).

Moore’s law (since 1965). Processing capacity increases:

  • 10 times every 3-4 years
  • 1000 times every 10 years
  • 1.000.000 times ever 20 years

Internet is becoming rich – it is now easy to find most of the things you need. I searched for “the highest mountain in Czechoslovakia”. On the first page of Google hits I find:

The highest mountain is Snezka – 1602 mters

Using Snezka as a search term in Google I find an extensive article in Wikipedia. My needs are fulfilled – at home.

Wikipedia now receives 60 million requests per day. There are fifteen thousand active wikipedians – those who make 5+ contributions per week.

Technology and magic

Rehak had a great set of slides, the techniques of a professional showman – and managed to convey a sense of wonder …. which I share. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (Arthur C. Clarke, 1962).

He is also a professional statistician.

Well done!

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