Earlier this month, the last BlockBuster Store shut its door and while that made news, at the same time, The University of Western Sydney removed half a million volumes of books – claiming a lack of space, rise of the electronic version and silverfish infestation as some of the excuses. It makes you wonder, are libraries on the same trajectory as BlockBuster?
It’s easy to blame the Internet for the BlockBuster demise but there were a number of other contributing factors and examples of business that didn’t share the same fate. The digital transformation didn’t kill all retail so maybe the realisation that BlockBuster was a retail player rather than an entertainment company could have prevented the inevitable. Netflix is an eCommerce proposition and a very successful one.
So what about the humble library? My memories of the library are more around the experience than the product it provided – the excitement of choice, the time spent studying with access to all this information, the consistency of the customer experience – the smell, the sight, the silence – all the senses amplified. In many ways, it was a sensory experience and for someone who still prefers to read physical copies of books rather than digital versions, I’m hoping it’s the same, if not, evolved.
There seems proof that libraries around the world are recognising and embracing the customer experience that they can provide. The Brooklyn Public Library’s TeleStory Project is a beautiful example of this. 2.7 million USA children have a parent in jail and as such, many children rarely get to see their parent. Based around the social issue to improve childhood literacy in a safe and trusted environment, the Public Library offers free video based visitation services for the incarcerated parent to read books to their child(ren) – connecting over words and story-telling.
In Norway, there’s a library – Biblo Toyen – which is designed specifically for children aged 10-15, as Government run after school care finishes for children older than 10. This library categories its books not by author or genre, but by themes like animals – all designed to facilitate discovery. They include cooking courses, 3D printing, Lego building and much more.
And then there’s The Bibloburro – a donkey in rural Colombia who brings books to children who wouldn’t and don’t have access. Travelling up to 8 hours a day, he stops by different villages and loans books via a mobile library.
So maybe the library is safe from a fate similar to BlockBuster … deliver a customer experience and keep the world reading.
By Paul Dixon