The first two keynotes at this year’s IDPF Digital Book conference were focused on looking to the future for books. Peter Brantley, of the non-profit startup Hypothes.is Project whose goal is to develop a deeper dialogue between libraries and publishers, spoke from the library and ebook lending perspective, specifically what digital implications there will be for these institutions.
“People associate libraries with print books and other physical media,” explained Brantley. “For libraries, things are good. Libraries are seeing far more activitiy todyya than they have in the last few years. The kinds of activities that people are ding in the branches are much more engaged.”
Of course, Brantley did clarify that statement by saying that we must first take away the death-blows to budgets as a consideration before we can say that things are going well in the public library sphere.
“People can walk into the smallest, most remote locations, and they can have access to conversations that are happening in their communities, their state, their country, and the global communications networks.”
Brantley called libraries an “internet of places,” where people can engage with physical objects while also being a part of a communication fabric. Libraries are front and center for helping to create those on ramps bringing readers and authors together with those who read and care about books.
He also spoke to the services that libraries provide that community members would not be able to access without a library.
“Libraries are quickly becoming city data centers, places to take data, recombine it, and allow people to consume and interact with it. Libraries are also now providing an opportunity for communities to enrich the data and bring it back.”
For example, Brantley spoke about the NY Public Library app Building Inspector that lets citizens walk the streets and supply important data on the city’s infrastructure to city planners.
However, when he brought up ebooks, the outlook was less positive. Ebooks are being presented to libraries in a prohibitively expensive way, causing libraries to be expected to spend outrageous amounts of money to provide ebooks for their patrons. More streaming services would be a natural transition for libraries to be able to meet patron need and demand. Subscription offerings would also allow libraries to present vast catalogs of content. Subscriptions allow libraries to experience more focused personalization in order to meet only content needs that their patrons want.
One final benefit that libraries offer is the opportunity to become community publishers, helping community citizens to publish their works and bring their voices out while providing visibility, “working hand in hand with a larger publishing community.”
Brantley spoke to the need for an open internet, stating that it is part of how we live, how we communicate, and how we tell our stories to each other. It is part of our lives and conditions how we see the world. An open internet is vital to social movement, the tool that we had to create as a global utility. Libraries are “critical nodes in that infrastructure, uniting people to present new forms of data and engagement.”