05 March, 2010

New model for libraries?

The future library on show in Abu Dhabi

A proto type library is on show at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair that heralds the likely future of public libraries in that country. The report explains

Abu Dhabi’s future libraries are likely to feature 24-hour, self-service facilities with vending machines stocked with books, CDs and DVDs, allowing people to take out and return them any time of the day or night... Books, CDs and DVDs will be available in vending machines using radio frequency identification technology.

This raises interesting questions about what people value in libraries. Is it just access to lending materials? Our industry research conducted in Victoria as part of the "Libraries Building Communities" showed that the value that libraries offer is much more than the collection. In any user survey it is always the "helpful friendly staff" that get the highest importance, and the wide range of programs and activities held in libraries that encourage learning and creativity are seen as just as important. The whole notion of libraries as third places (ie a place where you can be that is not work or home) is also embraced by many libraries.

Let's hope public library provision is never reduced to a few vending machines!