Vinton Cerf on the Future of Libraries

Vinton Cerf

You have no idea how eager I aVinton Cerfm to ensure that the notion of library does not disappear – it’s too important. But the thing is, it’s going to have to curate an extremely broad range of materials, and increasingly digital content. I am really worried right now, about the possibility of saving ‘bits’ but losing their meaning and ending up with bit-rot. This means, you have a bag of bits that you saved for a thousand years, but you don’t know what they mean, because the software that was needed to interpret them is no longer available, or it’s no longer executable, or you just don’t have a platform that will run it. This is a serious, serious problem and we have to solve that. – Vinton Cerf

He is right this is a serious concern. We already have the example of the Digital Domesday.

Photo Credit: Takuya Oikawa

Longing for Library 1.0

While it hasn’t always been embraced by everyone, I think most people are willing to either give Library 2.0 a chance or just ignore it. Unfortunately, the “Editorial Staff of the Tampa Tribune(Mission Creep In Library System Deserves Fresh, Closer Look)”: don’t fit into those categories. They would prefer a third path. Here are a few choice bits of wisdom.
bq.With people increasingly accessing information online, libraries have quietly grown their mission beyond simply circulating books and researching questions. Today, they also serve as computer centers, neighborhood meeting spots, art galleries, tutoring sites and even homeless centers. Some in county government believe every neighborhood deserves a library, so plans have been developed to build more and more. But such convenience carries a high cost, and taxpayers are in revolt over costs that have grown too great.
bq.But in discussing the demand for new libraries, it becomes clear that the role of libraries has evolved. You could even call it ‘mission creep.’ Today, the top priorities are more computer labs and more public meeting space. Book collections are deliberately being kept small. So make no mistake about it. The construction of new branch libraries is mostly about adding value to neighborhoods, not about getting more books to more people. If circulating books were the top priority, the library might decide it makes more sense to buy more bookmobiles, since the current two mobile units have been wildly successful.
bq.The board might also want to review its reciprocal agreement with Pasco County, a deal that’s become a mostly one-way street and gives Pasco a pass on building sufficient libraries for its neighborhoods near the county line. While we want to be good neighbors, it’s hard to see how this agreement serves Hillsborough taxpayers.
bq.Another good place to cut is the heavy focus on movies. While it makes sense for libraries to stock the classics and documentaries, there’s no reason to stock the latest Hollywood shoot ’em up. If people want to watch such movies, the private market offers ample opportunities. Besides, libraries are having a tough time keeping track of movies, and spending much too much to replace lost copies.
bq.And in refocusing its mission, the system also should reconsider the wisdom of saying yes to social events – such as Dance Dance Revolution. While the goal is noble – getting teenagers to the library – teens who arrive to play free video games aren’t there for the books. It seems some would prefer Library 1.0. Or even 0.1.