Years ago Google published their philosophy as Ten things we know to be true. It has been discussed and shared many times. I wanted to see how well the 10 things apply to libraries.
10 True Things About Libraries
- Focus on the user and all else will follow. True, except that libraries don’t always follow this one. Unfortunately, some of the things done in libraries have more to do with library employees, or the library’s way of doing things, than users. One example, Dewey’s classification system. Though some libraries are looking for ways to address the problems. The lack of focus also shows up in hours and days of operation. I think many people would prefer the library to be open longer on the weekend than mid-week, but that’s usually not the case.
- It’s best to do one thing really, really well. Google does search. What is the one thing that libraries do? I think most people will say loan books (and movies, magazines, etc). Do libraries do it really, really well? Probably not as well as we could.
- Fast is better than slow. I agree completely. And I think this is an area in which libraries need to make a greater effort. It applies to many areas in different ways. It was also one of the original Five Laws of Library Science, “Save the time of the reader.”
- Democracy on the web works. Libraries, mostly, aren’t on the web. Our collections and records don’t turn up in web searches. There are efforts to change this with linked data, but we still have a way to go. Plus, we need to find ways for our users to help.
- You don’t need to be at your desk to need an answer. Completely true and relevant to libraries. You’re mobile and the library, less so. That too should be changing, but how many librarians are a Hangouts call away?
- You can make money without being evil. Libraries aren’t focused on making money, although money does help with things like buildings and books. Libraries could do a better job of making it easy for people to support the library.
- There’s always more information out there. Librarians know this well, only we don’t always approach things in the best possible way. I believe that librarians need to innovate and do more to lead in the information age. It should have been librarians developing search engines, social networks, and other key technologies. Nothing prevents it now. What does the future of the internet look like?
- The need for information crosses all borders. Libraries tend to have narrow borders. A city, county, consortia, or district. We need to work to lower those borders rather than building walls.
- You can be serious without a suit. I think librarians have this nailed. They’re a great quirky, diverse bunch of people who know how to have fun.
- Great just isn’t good enough. True. Librarians need to embrace this and strive for further improvements. Let’s inspire people to become radical supporters of libraries hungry for more! On Google’s page they say “Even if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, finding an answer on the web is our problem, not yours.” Librarians could easily say the same thing, crossing out the web. “Finding an answer is our problem, not yours.” Let’s make it easy for people to find what they want. I always tell people that search is only going to get easier, not harder. Google and all of the other companies are innovating all the time. Librarians need to find new ways for everyone to find and access what they want.
There it is. Google’s philosophy as a lens for libraries. What do you think? How do you see libraries changing?