Netflix, Unicorns and the Future!

Lori Bowen Ayre over at Mentat asks the good questions:

What if the Library Worked Like Netflix?

NetFlix is easy, personal, fast, and convenient. It assists users in finding titles they will not only enjoy but titles that they are probably very excited to find because they are surprised that they could be found or they’ve never heard of them before. Their choices are not limited to the blockbusters of the day. NetFlix makes it very easy for customers to borrow and return titles. NetFlix is to movies as libraries should be to books.

She lays out a solid argument that I agree with a hundred percent. Too bad it’ll never work.

Some of the institutionalized policies that we librarians deal with are holdovers from the analog days of card catalogs and physical browsers (people looking at shelves) rather than OPACs and web browsers. But there are still enough old school librarians around who remember how things used to work and never wanted them to change to begin with and don’t want them to change too much, at least while they are still around.

A colleague from grad school was telling me about this recently. She had a great idea to streamline her library’s ILL procedures, and all it would have cost was a piece of software that was less than the cost of one month’s ILL shipping expenses. But the ILL Librarian there didn’t want to hear it. She had her paperwork and her forms and her filing system and her two to six week turn around time and that was that. Didn’t matter if the new system would save time and money and help people better. The Netflix model of patron service probably has merit. And public librarians could save thousands of dollars switching to Open Source, and maybe one day we’ll ditch Dewey and LoC and catalog with tag clouds. But not today. Or tomorrow.

We new school librarians can’t change the world It’s going to take time. Time to either convince admin to take a chance on new technology (regardless of how well it’s proved itself in other fields) or time to wait for the dinosaurs to die off.

2 thoughts on “Netflix, Unicorns and the Future!”

  1. Inertia is the bane of all organizations. Death and retirement are your only allies in trying to institute a new system. It isn’t just libraries, you should read about the attempts to modernized IBM.

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