As I continue to work on my new Corporate Libraries study I am running across some interesting items about emerging services and the new ways to keep libraries relevant.  Some of them are inspiring while others are a bit redundant and not exactly new.

A September 2012 article from Library Journal by David Weinberger, “Library as Platform” offers an idea that is being implemented in interesting ways by some forward thinking libraries.  I found my way to the Weinberger article through an article by Louisa Verma, “Using Mobile Technologies to Connect Face-to-Face.”

The article begins with a discussion of Facebook and the creativity that occurred when external developers were given the opportunity to build applications. Taking that thought forward to libraries as platforms, Weinberger encourages readers to think not about software platforms in the vein of Facebook but as a path to developing knowledge and community.

Weinberger states that an important reason to think about libraries as platforms:

It focuses our attention away from the provisioning of resources to the foment those resources engender. A library as platform would give rise to messy, rich networks of people and ideas, continuously sparked and maintained by the library’s resources. A library as platform is more how than where, more hyperlinks than container, more hubbub than hub.

The library as a platform has the potential to “increase its value by providing access to that which is built on it.”  The ability to provide access to everything possible is a lofty goal. When viewed from the corporate library lens, it is not necessarily a good one.  However, creating a path to social knowledge networks may indeed be a valuable service option for some libraries.

AS I read Verma’s article I was impressed by the expansion of the target audience for her mobile technology programs from clinical staff to all staff. This expansion created an environment of  collaboration for the program that grew organically.

I don’t know that library as a platform is going to catch the attention of the library world the way that Web 2.0 did.  However, the concepts Weinberger presents can certainly be used as food for thought when an information professional is struggling with an emerging technology and the need to provide supportive services. Thinking creatively and strategically to continue to provide corporate library service that delivers a value to the end user and that is recognized by the management is the ultimate goal for today’s environment. Service for service’s sake is definitely the bygone age so if library as platform delivers value that impacts the bottom line positively, so be it. Otherwise, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Constance Ard, January 13, 2013