I think libraries have just met the latest problem. I didn’t see this one coming. I was checking out the latest discussions on BlogHer and one of the post talked about a new membership service called Book Swim.
What if you could order the books you wanted and have them delivered to your door with free shipping? You could keep the books as long as you wanted and when you are finished you would return the materials and get three more?
Now add the possibility of commenting or reviewing that book with other book junkies. You would also get to create a personalized service that is tailored to your needs.
What is the catch? The membership fee starts at $23.99 a month. If the book is lost or damaged you pay the replacement costs.
I see potential alarms with Book Swim. Many small communities are losing libraries due to funding issues. What if a city contracted with Book Swim to provide online library services to that community? There would be no building, no staff, no maintenance issues or those pesky complaining patrons.
And if the city entered into said contract would it put stipulations on what books could or could not be offered to the citizens? Or would Book Swim set that up so that for whatever per membership the city is paying there would only provide a certain level of service?
And since there would be no need for a physical building called a library the land could be sold and more non-affordable housing and parking structures could take the libraries’ place. No, it hasn’t happened yet. But it could.
That would be bad, very bad and a more than a little worrisome.
I don’t dislike the idea of Book Swim. I’m for anything to keep the concept of physical books before the public. But libraries are more than books.
In my opinion, libraries have got to be about services and much more community outreach. They have got to have more tangible connections with their immediate and online communities.
The first line defenders of a library are the patrons. Will the patrons take on City Hall for the library or slip into the (Book) swim? How connected are libraries with twenty and thirty year old people? With speakers of 2nd and 3rd languages? With non-readers?
Who will be trusted to act as information guides to this incredible wave of information that is about to hit all library workers full force? (Yes, there is another wave of change coming.)
If public libraries don’t figure this out quick there will be alternative solutions provided by commercial interests.