Thursday, November 19, 2009

Life on the Fault Line

San Andreas Fault in California
I really enjoy Libraries and Museums on a number of levels. One reason is that they are patron-oriented and are continually seeking to reinvent themselves. At least, the good ones are.... You see, good museum and library personnel have discovered a startling fact: they live on a fault line. The ground often moves under their feet. I lived in California so I have first hand knowledge of how unsettling it is when the foundation shakes. Operating an organization is hard enough, but the stresses of the tremors make it all the more tricky to remain sustainable.

Most of my recent experience has been in a museum environment, but libraries are quite similar. Museums are at a crossroad. Museum professionals have felt the tremors and are concerned that they are no longer perceived as performing as valuable a role in society. Each generation brings with it new perceptions and higher expectations. The status quo is unacceptable. Patrons in a digital age are looking for new ways of enjoying the past. It's not that the artifacts are any less significant, it is the means of interpretation that is at issue. Patrons want to experience the past. They want multi-sensoral and interactive exhibits. They still want to receive the message, but they want to be entertained in the process. Hey, once you've experienced HD, you don't want to go back to standard definition!

Libraries are similar. The content of books is still relevant, but the delivery format is shifting. Media is on the ascendency. The Internet is everywhere. The Web 2.0 has shaken the foundation of information delivery. Interactive knowledge sharing is becoming commonplace. That's why 23 Things is so important. It's simply the realization that we work on a fault line, and we must change with it.

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