I think I have mentioned it before, but I read and write in the Science fiction/ speculative fiction genres. One of the core elements in this genre is the question “What if?” This question has been coming to the fore of my thinking in regards to public libraries recently.
With the pressure on budgets, the Auckland Super City merger, reading charges being reintroduced, the launch of the Ipad and the emerging ebook market amongst other events I have been pondering the long term viability and nature of the public library. For me, the public library should and must have a place in the future community but what shape and form will it take?
After my post this morning on South Taranaki’s library charges Paul Reynolds on Twitter posted this “Is it time to canvass and lobby for a national public library offer with statutory protection? I think it is. Thoughts invited.”
I too have had thoughts on this. We are a small country population wise, but large geographically. Is a National Public Library service viable? What form would it take? Who would pay for it? What would be advantages? Disadvantages?
So here are some thoughts:
A single national public library would have a single membership database. No longer would you need to join different systems if you work in different councils. Nor when you shift.
A single national public library would have a single LMS. This would be bad for vendors, but good for libraries. The merge buying power would be able to produce/buy a top of the line system.
There would also have ramifications for EPIC. One system would mean one subscription to the resources. Potentially the combined buying power would mean a lot more resources available.
This could potentially result in saving across the board.
A single LMS would mean that there would be a lot less cataloguers around the country. You would only one team. It would also impact on the scope of how District Librarians work.
It would also have ramifications for the Interloan system, as all public library systems would be the one and the same. Thoughts would have to be put into how to manage demand and reserves from around the country.
Overall there could be some serious benefits for such a service, there are also a large number of potential pitfalls and problems. Getting all the councils country wide on board would be a huge undertaking.
Is Paul right though? Is it time for this discussion?