Access, Schmaccess: Libraries in the Age of Information Ubiquity

Eli Neiburger’s Keynote for NEKLS Tech & Innovation Day 2012.

If many people in the community have access in their pocket or home, that changes things in our libraries.

The web didn’t kill print.

1900- 10 hrs/week consuming media

2010- 80 hrs/week consuming media

1940- peak of reading — TV killed print, not Internet.

Internet didn’t even change the slope in 2000 when it took off.

No precedent.

Massive shift in content being created and viewed online.

But, this is similar to Gutenberg’s time, when scholars declared scholarship was over.

More information is being produced than anyone can ever possibility get to.

Rule 1 of Internet: It’s out there, somewhere, for free. (just takes time)

Douglas Adam’s theory about the natural order of things: anything that was invented before you were 15 is part of the natural order of things. 15-35: is exciting and innovative and revolutionary and new. Post 35 age inventions? Against the order of things.

Napster Breakthrough: 2000. vs. Metallica’s label.

Older adults using the Internet: against the natural order of things. But her grandkids are on the Internet.

Laptops and Email are already out of date. Everything is on a phone (younger generation).

Older generations: they know the value of libraries and knows how to use them. But Google overwhelms them. Thinking in indexes and the way she was taught.

Younger generations: searches are different cognitive. Instead of saying computer, here’s what i’m looking for, what words appear on the page i’m looking for. It’s probability, not indexing.

Web natives vs. web immigrants (trying to search like it’s paper)

it’s not what you know, it’s what who you know knows. Your network. About your social capital online.

Memes are the smallest unit of human culture. (Gaiman (?) culture is anything you don’t have to do).

Memes are viral ideas that spread from one person to another. Cats; Hey Girl (Ryan Gosling); McKayla Maroney;

Some memes are silly; some are powerful.

Memes (like any viruses) vector, host, spread.

Evolution of ideas happening at lightspeed.

My favorite meme.

My other favorite meme. 

Rule #2: Media is meant to be mixed.

Cheezburger network: relying on fair use and media. Giving users opportunities to remix, and also alerting them to intellectual property.

We (librarians) do too much fighting for the rights of the rights holder and not enough for the user.

Knowledge can’t be stolen.

Can you trademark Morse Code? Can you trademark 01 (bits)? Can you trademark QRs (yes)?

Ownership is spreading quickly. New ideas of ownership is being established. Before 1830s, IP law didn’t really exist. Before then, knowledge was knowledge.

Gilbert & Sullivan were two of the first to push copyright.

Downloading something — is like a rubbing of a public physical place.

Photographing The Bean. Artist originally tried to stop the photography of it.

Sciences & Arts — a different approach to knowledge & IP.

Scientists — kn

Rule #3: You can’t control what happens after you post. 

Facebook is as private as a glass house. Very true!

Sharing 01s. Put a paywall up, and that works, until someone shares it freely again.

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube….

You can’t stop information spreading among humans anymore than you can stop influenza from spreading…

Giving a copy (without pay)… this is sharing. When piracy happens someone is dead.

To equate unauthorized duplication with piracy is the equivalent of calling eavesdropping, break-ins.

Nyan Cat

Spontaneous, uncoordinated cooperation, across the internet.

Economics is about value. Helping selves to free value — people don’t see a value in the product.

Flipping of bits value…. True value of digital content is very very very close to zero.

Paying for access or convenience.

Rule #4: The Internet does not break the law of supply & demand.

There is an infinite supply of bits –> Price drops to Zero.

Chris Anderson’s Free is coming to mind…

User experience of using official content is difficult. Unofficial duplicated copy? Easy.

How can you make money as an artist? Content creator?

Not in the access business. In eyeball business.

ClassicGameRoom & PianoGuys (my examples)

Physical items you’ve got to pay for; electronic is free.

Money comes from merchandise and concerts.

Direct selling to customer & cutting out the distributors: the customers get a deal & the creator gets a better deal. Win win except for the big businesses.

Eyeball business: TV broadcasts –> ads.

Newspaper got there.

eBooks? Not there yet. Still a bubble.

Books going digital, for libraries, means severing the relationship with publishers

Beanie babies bubble…

What we’re paying for, is nowhere close to what we’re getting. Like Wylie Coyote, running over the cliff.

Bubble: big chewing gum bubble, slowly deflates

Bubble: like a balloon, under a lot of pressure (housing market, ebooks?)

It’s a phase change. (Water cooled past its cooling points does interesting things)

Cory Doctorow making a killing giving his stuff away.

Journal subscriptions in academic libraries….

Peer review still has value, but not closed journals for profit to younger generations.

How are artists going to make a living? Patronage….

Kickstarter — future of fundraising.

Ex: people paid to make something free something free in different form.

Funders aren’t venture capitalists. Or stock. They are paying up front for an item.

Fundamental truth of the internet: BITS have no VALUE 

Even if the eBook hits the 99c price point and the readers are ubiquitous, libraries lose out.

So what’s left?

Commercial content is a recent interloper to libraries — we’ve only been buying commercial content for 200 years.

The Library of Alexandria wasn’t purchasing content for the community. It was storing the knowledge of the community in the library.

What can we become creators of?

Sharing makes economic sense. When you share something it makes sense economically, unless you live next to a bottomless pit.

If content is a bottomless pit, what’s left?

Physical objects can’t be downloaded: 3D printing; telescope; lenses; musical instruments.

Circulating collections of media makes the opportunity for new collections.

Signal of Liberty newspaper (abolitionist, published in Ann Arbor). This paper didn’t exist on the web, until the Ann Arbor District Library put it on the web.

Not bringing community to the world, but bringing the world to the community.

A children’s librarian interviewing Lois Lowry

We are bringing content to the Web that wouldn’t exist without the library.

Program at the library about making your own digital puppet show.

Teaching people skillsets in media creation.

Lego contests — kids are rarely recognized for excellence, except for in athletics.

Library is being realized as a place for kids to be recognized for their creative excellence.

MakeLab. take apart old pieces of equipment and put it back together in their own way and take it all home themselves.

What would your library look like if you spent half as much on events as on collections?

Kids that are creating creative works are realizing that if they post their creative works to Facebook, Facebook owns it. If the library hosts, presents it, the kids keep the ownership.

Be the place where your patrons receive value, getting things they can’t get anywhere else.

We know we

We can’t just keep providing access to those who can’t afford it. That’s critically important. It’s our secret mission.

What’s our overt mission?

Libraries: we share “stuff”

“Stuff” you want.

“Stuff” you need.

“Stuff” you made

Secret mission: fight for the user. Not the Big SIx.

Do we explain to the user in libraries their fair use rights?

Fair use is a protection against copyright claims.

Summer reading games at Ann Arbor Library

Summer game (removed reading) — everyone read a lot more.

Need to be opposite of school, not extension. At the library, the kids get to follow their interests (what school should be)

Summer reading classic (traditional)

embrace all types of readers; not just recreational ones.


Points: Tagging; comments; contributing.

Badges for interacting with catalog.


Cartoon reviews (still have to read to know what’s going on in the game. not overt)

Gilbert & Sullivan & MarioCart intersection.

Old NewsHound — explore stuff in the library’s newspapers collections.

Engaging young kids with local history like never before.

5,000 players playing this game; leader board. The points can be used to buy library swag in an online shop…

People are going crazy for this stuff.

One of the secret things, this is kids first online shopping experience. Pick it up at the library (like requests/holds).

Models to the kids how to receive value from the public library (knowledge you can get at the library, its used) — that can be traded in. Teaching the kids info literacy skills, that no instruction, lessons, or classes will teach them in a formal setting.

Circulating collections of physical objects: circulating musical items. get lucky and find them. Don’t want to circulate items that are available to rent to compete with rent shops. Library: stays in budget, not turn a profit. Turn value into excess.

Musicians already saying they will use these instruments in the library. $15,000 out of a $1.5 million budget for collections. Experience people can’t get anywhere else.

Circulating telescope…  Weird stuff; charge for lost/stolen, not damaged.

Circulating Energy meters.

Keep circulating physical items.

67 new comments since yesterday on the website.

Patrons passing encrypted notes on the site’s blog

Licensing? Unlimited use, downloads, permanent use. Subscription databases that people want to use, unlimited use, for set period of time (Media and eBooks)

How can tiny libraries do this? (never fully answered, other than below):

Hiding things in your catalog to access them, doesn’t cost anything.


Put the value where the patrons value.

What do libraries look like in the absence of publishing? Average garage band isn’t going to go get signed by a label.