Yesterday the blogosphere and Twitterverse were abuzz with the news that Amazon was possibly going to start a book service that would work similarly to how NetFlix works for video. Articles appeared that mentioned libraries and even suggested that this move by Amazon was a nail in the library coffin. But, why would that be? It’s not really the end of libraries, it’s another example of how we are now at the beginning of lots of new opportunities. It’s another indication that we get to tell the library story that’s a story not about library as warehouse for materials but library as:

  • An organization in which adults support teen developmental assets through a variety of initiatives from book groups to candy sushi making workshops to content creation with multimedia tools to traditional book lending.
  • A connection point for teens in which teens get to talk with each other, talk with librarians, talk with experts, talk with authors, talk with a variety of people who have information and content of interest to the age group.
  • A place where teens can hang-out and be a part of community.
  • An environment that promotes collaboration, critical thinking, and idea generation.
  • A resource that supports teen needs both face-to-face and virtually, through a variety of methods including programs, readers’ advisory, collections, and so on.
  • Where teens can find out about topics of interest and books they might want to read, even if they don’t check out the books from the physical or virtual library space.

If Amazon and other services start providing even more opportunities for teens to access materials, librarians working with the age group can say, “great, lets think about all the ways we can connect with teens even if they don’t ‘use’ us for books.” Actually don’t librarians working with teens already do that? And maybe with the advent of an Amazon service of this type it will be possible to do even more and perhaps provide even better service. If teens are checking out books from somewhere else will that give the librarian more time to talk about books with teens, more space in the library for teen youth participation activities, more dollars to spend on technology that teens might be interested in, more opportunities to connect teens with others in the community (or the world) that have something to offer, more…..?

I’m thinking this isn’t even about the size of the collection that Amazon offers through this service (what types of materials are available, for example) or whether or not libraries can offer a similar kind of service. Instead this is a chance to think about what libraries are all about and what their role in a community and with teens is. What do you think? Is an Amazon service of this kind the end, the beginning, or something else?

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

One Thought on “It’s Not the End, It’s the Beginning

  1. Libraries are not a destination – they are the transportation. The Grand Central Station of every great city and town. Ben Franklin was a genius, and although I love and use Amazon – it can never replace what the library is for our family. We <3 Libraries!

    xoxo michele

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