Impractical, Unfeasible, Unfundable Ideas for Libraries

Yesterday, I drove to Wichita to present at the Kansas Library Association/Mountain Plains Library Association conference on “Impractical, Unfeasible, Unfundable Ideas for Libraries.” This was a presentation based on one of the best sessions of Library Camp of the West that I participated in. I expanded the premise a bit to be: in these times of economic uncertainty and hardship, now is not the time to give in to despair or to play it safe. Libraries should be daring, bold, willing to dream big, take risks and make mistakes. Rather than stand up and babble for the entire session, with Powerpoint slides to illustrate my blather, I threw out some wild ideas I would like to see in libraries and then solicited ideas from the attendees. Which was easy, because librarians are full of wild ideas they’d like to see.

Here are the major ideas we came up with:

Libraries stop rolling over for vendors

* For ILS vendors, aren’t libraries their only customer base? They should roll over for us!
* What about database vendors? Why don’t they give us more of what we want? (And what DO we want?)?

Libraries go completely open source

* Open source software isn’t always an easy solution or an easy change
* But the ideals of OSS match librarian ideals
* Going open source could push more librarians to be computer problem-solvers

Bill Gates gives computers, software & money to libraries…

* Why not other companies, like FedEx & UPS?
* Why not other entrepreneurs who may share library values? Like Mark Shuttleworth, the sponsor of Ubuntu Linux.

Librarian travel by pneumatic tube to wherever they’re needed!

Databases controlling the space.

Hybrid engines for library vehicles! Or biodeisel engines from Willy Nelson.

Partner with Meals on Wheels.

Choose something in the catalog & the item starts blinking. Spot where item goes blinks when it needs to be reshelved.

Staff-driven climate control.

Like Loews–patrons push a button & “Help wanted!” would sound out, alerting librarians.

Abolish the reference desk! Reference staff should walk around the library, not sit at a desk.

Everything with a number & up to date.

Magic button that reorganizes furniture and puts it back where it belongs after patrons move it.

Streamlined ILL!

Librarians out of the library! Have librarians on cruise ships! in coffee shops!

Technology that decodes “I want the book with the blue cover” question patrons often have.

Flashing neon signs to direct people to restrooms.

Creating added entries in MARC records for “red book” & “blue book”–tagging items in catalog–browsing by cover.

On, you can browse by color. Why not in library catalogs?

Abolish the Dewey Decimal System!

Culture shift to play with things that might not work.

Combine libraries with laundromats & the DMV.

Bars in libraries!

Check out an audiobook at one Kansas library & return it to any other Kansas library.

Nationwide library cards. (Or just get rid of library cards.)

Anything marked as library materials goes through the mail for free.

Heather Braum of NEKLS was one of the attendees who also tweeted during the session.  She posted great notes and got some interesting responses.

What wild, crazy, dreamy ideas do you have for libraries? And how can we make these ideas a reality?

EDIT: The notes from the LCOW session have great ideas, too.


5 thoughts on “Impractical, Unfeasible, Unfundable Ideas for Libraries

  1. I especially like the ideas of: (1) librarians traveling by vacuum tube; and (2) I want to see (I want to be a) ibrarian(s) on cross-country trains.

  2. Josh:
    Even though I am not a reference librarian, working for 20 years in our library gives me some insight into what could or should change.
    I like open source software, hybrid engines for library vehicles, partner with Meals on Wheels, (our outreach patrons would love it), staff-driven climate control, abolish the reference desk, (they could have lap-tops to carry), nationwide library cards.
    If you allow food or drink in the libraries, who would serve and who would do the clean-up?
    Mom (Darlene)
    P.S Every book should have a number so the shelvers know where they go. A book not shelved correctly is a lost book.

  3. Pingback: Post-Conference « lybrarian

  4. We allow food and drink in the library at U Wyoming. The coffee shop people serve, people bring their own stuff in, and everybody cleans up after themselves. *Very* occasionally, somebody will leave trash behind, but that’s rare.


    *Institute workplace napping. Allow people to take 30-45 minutes to recharge, increasing productivity.
    *Make libraries greener and promote them that way. Install recycling drop bins in parking lots (if you have them), use renewable and recycled materials for building and furnishings, etc.
    *Do away with 1 hour limits on internet time. Circulate netbooks for in-library use with no time limit.

  5. As a big fan of naps, I wholeheartedly endorse this suggestion!

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