Monthly Archives: July 2014

Libraries Without Shelves & Walls…

Just imagine…

Your public library enables you to access its books by scanning its walls with a smart device it loans you whilst you’re hanging out, so that the library building itself is freed up to offer a host of other space-dependent activities…well, that’s precisely what could flow from forking the digital library introduced to a Bucharest subway station by Vodafone Romania – which is, simply stated, a flat representation of books bearing QR codes on their spines, enabling users to pull out their phone or tablet and scan the QR code to download a book of their choice.


At present, this hinges upon whether the EU Court of Justice moves to agree with the Advocate General that public libraries are free to digitise some of their own book stock. A great deal also depends upon definitions – specifically, whether digital library wall-paper can be developed to function as a ‘dedicated terminal’ – unless libraries loan appropriate devices to their users. Public libraries would also need Wi-Fi – does yours have it already? – unless they opt to make use of a LibraryBox.

Of course, the library without shelves is only liable to take-off where library users are able and willing to read books in libraries themselves – that is, unless they opt to take a print copy away with them (also, part-subject of the AG’s opinion). Is there, then, scope here for new print services to be developed, if we get the copyright and environmental dimensions sorted? Libraries as local publishers – albeit limited to facilitating private research and learning? And, what will happen when libraries without walls emerge later this year – with growing interest in the potential for near field communication (NFC) to facilitate access to your library service anytime, anywhere – in particular, when you’re on the move?

We asked @librarieshacked about the opportunity, following a discussion with @publiclibnews, and they very kindly produced a blogpost on the subject by way of a response. If this is something you’d like to take a closer look at, we’d love to hear from you!

PS thanks, as ever, to @LibraryCamp – in this instance, for flagging the EU situation!

On the Radical Tactics of the Offline Library

In the course of our work, we have called for common libraries as platforms for the production, exchange and consumption of knowledge and know-how – principally, in recognition of our increasingly read/write world, and in seeking to emphasise the scope for the capture and curation of the ‘long tail’ to grow the knowledge base to which we all have access.

However, we recently came across two films which we think others might find interesting:-

  1. The Internet’s Own Boy –
  2. The Radical Tactics of the Offline Library – /

The former concerns Aaron Swartz and, whilst tragic, highlights what a person with a passion for making the world a more transparent place can do if s/he is able to harness support via digital channels and translate that into social action. The Radical Tactics film is also available in long hand and offers a comprehensive ‘history of the library as the locus for copying rather than storing knowledge and know-how’.

The latter helpfully underlines that the UN Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy and to share in scientific advancements and its benefits.” Unfortunately, it also says: “Everyone has the right to protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic of which one is the author.”

There is, then, an ongoing battle for the commons as ‘intellectual property’ in the form of the Open Knowledge project, and despite considerable evidence to support the view that traditional patents and copyright provisions stifle innovation; notably, the BRIC and other developing countries have woken up to the potential to get ahead by embracing peer-to-peer licensing (rather than patents/copyright), so there will be considerable scope to make a strong economic case for open knowledge going forward.

To put this into some kind of local perspective: the UK faces unprecedented reductions in public library service budgets over the next 3-5 years. The Government, for its part, is preparing to recommend a number of actions to address growing concern in the run up to the General Election. In the interim, we are more and more reliant upon Amazon and Google. The former boasts 41% of the book-selling market in the UK today, and just introduced terms in relation to publishers that will enable it to print books that go out of stock on demand from its warehouses, at a time when there are just 1,500 independent book shops left – no book shops at all in many places. Meanwhile, the latter has sought to perpetuate the traditional commodification of knowledge and know-how, albeit through channel shift, whilst reducing the search for knowledge and know-how to a corporately driven ‘question and answer’ machine. This, contrasts sharply with #humansearch services like Ask NYPL.

In effect, then, we are witnessing the wholesale privatisation of knowledge production, exchange and consumption. This is why we’re doing our utmost to establish an open source and community-led alternative: It also explains our interest in approaches to sharing knowledge. We are keen to identify organisations like the Waiting Room and Islington Mill Studios who are self-organising access to knowledge/learning in a host of different ways. So, if you have any examples / suggestions about whom we should look to for further inspiration or, else, approach as potential partners – please do let us know.