Tomorrow’s Tool Library on Steroids

The pace of change (and of devices) is outpacing the consumer’s ability to purchase the latest and greatest. Couple that with asset-light trends toward sharing commodities and you can see a niche for libraries.

The public has just spent billions on touch screen devices, smartphones and upgrades to our computers. And now, this year, we’re being presented with Microsoft’s Surface and soon wearable computers. Even the most savvy techsumers, wielding the latest MacRumors Buyer’s Guide is having trouble keeping up with the dot.joneses.

And, if Ray Kurzweil is to be believed (and I am a Kurzweilian true believer), the rate of technological change, and therefore consumer gadget innovations, will surely decimate our Google Wallets in short order.

But a recent trend in libraries to rethink themselves as gadget bars, maker spaces and digital media delivery centers could very well be the cure to the world’s ever-quickening pulse rate.

My favorite library of all time was the Berkeley Public Library’s Tool Library which I once used to turn the urban waste dump behind my old East Bay apartment into tranquil, solar-powered salad delivery system. Fast-forward a decade or two and you can see the slightly different, yet similar need that is arising from the gadget frenzy that is only getting worse.

Actually, many public library’s have been delivering computer power, laptop checkout and even courses for some time. But let’s add some Lance Armstrong-strength steroids to this model and see what we can come up with.

But first, what are the gaps that need filling?

  1. Devices are being upgraded and made obsolete at an increasingly fast pace. Why not just provide our users with the lastest and greatest either free or at a small subscription rate…rent by the hour, the week or by the month.
  2. Include in our offerings all kinds of equipment from laptops to tablets, cameras to e-readers, 3D printers to digital drawing tablets…and oh yes! The latest versions of software!!!
  3. And for those that opt for the hourly model, let’s support them by moving their digital content to the cloud…a sort of cloud migration service.
  4. But the cloud is such a drag. There are so many options out there: Evernote, iCloud, Google Drive, Dropbox. How’s your average person supposed to make sure they do it right? How about we librarians come up with consultant staff that can recommend solutions based on the user’s specific needs…ala the Geek Squads and Apple Store models.

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