Story 4: The Mobile App

The trust which the public has placed in the library for over a century is extended to the library as a virtual place.  Library services are virtual and mobile and access is 24/7. There are no library buildings.  The library is a mobile app.

To address the problem of too much information, the Library works with others to provide a community information portal for Saint Paul-specific information.  The community information portal includes local information on services, resources, and Saint Paul history.  The library hosts an ongoing digital archive of local material

Staff, in partnership with others, provides 24/7 one-on-one help with information search and research needs by phone, text, Skype, and other means.  The library also provides information search guides for common questions and community needs.  The library and the school district manage the backbone for a learning network to support K-12 learning.

Library staff and technology are mobile.  Staff brings reading events, instruction, and mobile technology labs to parents, teens, and children at community sites throughout the city.  In addition to circulating digital material to e-reading and mobile devices, the library meets a demand for print material with pick-up sites throughout the community and 24/7 access using kiosks, books by mail, and other means.

Staff is the key investment and resources are shifted away from buildings and fixed technology.  Staff manage a 24/7 circulation system and act as aggregators of content, information navigators, and research specialists.

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8 Responses to Story 4: The Mobile App

  1. Sarah Carter says:

    While I like the idea of mobility and the availability of 24/7 reference services this is too direct a competition with other online apps and such that are already available at our fingertips. Libraries should take advantage of the staff expertise and the ability for them to relate to the communities that they work in.

  2. Lindsay Steussy says:

    The issue I have with this scenario is that it essentially prevents the poorest segment of the population from accessing library services. If there are no library buildings, how can people who cannot afford internet access or fancy smartphones access library services? While bringing materials to community sites can alleviate some of this problem, not everyone will be able to go to these sites at the times when librarians will be there (whereas a static library building provides many more opportunities for people to find time to visit).

  3. MEB says:

    Many people may take advantage of this; however, what about the people who cannot access mobile apps? This seems to promote the “haves” versus the “have nots.” We do not need to further segregate our communities.

  4. Jennifer says:

    The future seems tenuous – if the provision of core services rests almost exclusively on the backbone of internet/broadband/telecommunications companies- the fate of the library is no longer in the hands of the people (the city) but in corporate boardrooms. What happens when telcos merge, raise prices or go out of business?

  5. Carrie Pomeroy says:

    I agree with other commentors here that we would lose key components of what make libraries special and crucial with this plan. We would lose the democratic availability of knowledge and resources to all, excluding people who don’t have the money for technological gadgets. From what I understand, the primary expenses for the libraries are not the facilities, but personnel, and to me, this plan seems very labor-intensive and technology-intensive, as well, so I’m not sure how it would cut costs. Another problem is that it prevents browsing, and I suspect it would not promote early literacy as well or be as user-friendly for small children. I suspect it would alienate many elderly users, as well. We would also lose the community gathering space aspect of libraries, and the sense of identity that library buildings give each community. This plan makes this avid library lover shudder, I have to admit.

  6. SamLL says:

    Ebooks are at around 3% market share so it seems like the public is generally still operating with the print book.

    This sounds like a good plan for the library for around 2050 when computers are cheap as dirt and are built into everything, all white-collar jobs telecommute, and ink that doesn’t move around on the page is a thing of the past, but I think it’s probably a couple decades too early to implement yet.

  7. Senor Lacuna says:

    In this scheme, perhaps prior to vaporizing the library and with it the many virtues of its public civic space, there could be a winter carnival book burning, just to make it final.

  8. CC says:

    The library is also a museum; just as individual books are relics of a time, place, and mind, so the library itself is part of the society’s physical memory and embodies past and present ideals. Getting rid of library buildings and library books is theft, a crime perpetrated against the future.

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