Libraries in the Tech Age (ListenIllinois)

October 28, 2004, [MD]

I love libraries, and I practically grew up in one. Whenever my mother didn’t know where I was, she would call the kind librarians at Hamar Public Library (the white building), and they’d usually found me in a comfortable couch reading a book. I knew them all by name, and I still drop by once in a while, when I’m back home, and they all remember me. Whenever I travel, I love visiting libraries - some of my favourite ones include the Oslo University Library (picture) , Helsinki City Library (picture) and Malmoe City Library (picture). The Robart’s Library at the University of Toronto (picture) is not all bad either.

I recently came across the blog of the Shifted Librarian, a modern tech-savvy librarian who amongst others led me to read about ListenIllinois, which is a totally rad project. It basically works like this: you browse a selection of digital audiobooks online, choose a few that you’d like to listen to, and take the list to the librarian. He/she quickly downloads the files to an mp3-player, and hands it to you. Bike home, mow the lawn, cook - all while listening to your audiobook. Within minutes of your “handing them in” at your library, they become available to users at other participating libraries (yes, only one user can check out the same book simultaneously). They are appearantly working on making it work with patrons’ own mp3-players.

It’ll be exciting to see what other ideas and projects can come out of libraries as they meet the dual threats/opportunities of emerging techonology - will libraries be reduced to mere internet cafes for the masses (already an important project to increase access), or will they add new and exciting services that we haven’t even started to think up? Check out Negroponte’s words on the future of books, the group blog the Handheld Librarians and another librarian’s blog walking paper.


Stian Håklev October 28, 2004 Toronto, Canada
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