where the heart is

Seattle Public Library recently replaced their traditional reference desk with a “mixing chamber,” host to roaming wireless-enabled librarians and more than 200 public access terminals.

Skokie Public Library, serving a growing suburb outside of Chicago, uses an electronic reader service to deliver email with daily five-minute book samples and online book discussions.

The Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library recently placed an information center, complete with Spanish print collection, a sound station with AV equipment, and three public access terminals in a local homeless shelter.

Tonganoxie Public Library in Kansas, serving a rural community of only 3,400, showcases their service to local teens through their library profile on My Space.

Not to mention the whole SecondLife thing…

Urban, rural, large, and small – these public libraries all face the same challenge: serving up meaningful resources to patrons, wherever they are and whatever their need. It occurs to me that they are all examples of disaggregated library services – each offered up, perhaps, as solutions to the public’s need (and growing demand) for integrated content experiences. Is there a paradox there?

Librarians willing to migrate themselves and their services out into patron managed spaces (whether they’re online or down the street) create a whole new experience for library users – are they users we may not reach otherwise? When delivered within the context of an individuals own community or social network, maybe library services become more approachable, accessible, and meaningful – I guess we’ll see.
Wherever they’re offered, the result (for our professional community) is a new “diaspora” of library professionals. Scattered throughout the personal spaces of the patrons themselves – maybe we’re closer to them than ever before – but what’s lost (if anything) by being so far away from “home”? Those of you who are “out there” – how is it for you? Do you ever get homesick for the down-home comforts of a good old-fashioned library service or space?