Saturday, October 08, 2005

Omar Wasow: Move from "Information to Transformation"

Omar Wasow was the keynoter on Thursday at the Ohio Library Council conference. What a dynamite speaker!

Mr. Wasow is the co-founder of, an online service aimed at African Americans that now has more than 16 million members. He is also a frequent media guest, on CNN, The Tavis Smiley Show, and, perhaps most notably, as the man who taught Oprah how to use computers in a 12-part series on her show.

Mr. Wasow managed to ingratiate himself with me immediately by NOT talking about how much he liked libraries when he was a child. Instead, he related how he had used libraries this spring to wipe out a few incompletes on his college transcript, allowing him to enroll in a Ph.D. program at Harvard which he started last month.

But the bulk of Mr. Wasow's comments were about how libraries must move from a focus on information to one of transformation. He referred several times to the OCLC Environmental Scan, mostly approvingly but occasionally taking us to task for focusing too much on the information role of libraries. (He did note positively our discussion of the library as "third place," but he thought we should have centered on this more.) He applied the concepts laid out in The Experience Economy by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore to libraries, saying that we should pay as much attention to the experience our users have when they use our services as we do to the services themselves. "The experience of being in a library can be as important as the information available," he said. "Part of the magic of libraries is the experience."

Mr. Wasow's last thought was inspired: "Too often, libraries are viewed as a Temple of Books. To succeed, libraries must embrace that they are Temples of Thought!"


Alice said...

And I would just add, thoughts are usually enhanced when talked about, shared, dialogued with other people. Einstein had a lot of people around him, to bounce ideas off of. And e-mail bouncing is fine...
My point is, to be successful as temples of thought, I would like to see *places where talking is encouraged* at my local library.

And Omar Wasow is one of my favorite guests of Tavis!

George said...

I have been taken to the woodshed by my colleague Eric Childress of the Office of Research, who noted I should have used the Open WorldCat reference ( rather than the Amazon reference in my comment.

Consider me properly chastised.

Alane said...

I am envious! I always enjoy listening to Mr Wasow. And I know I would have liked this presentation based on George's summary. Omar is correct. We should have focused more the third place and peoples' expectations of their experiences in public spaces. Since we wrote the Scan, I've read a lot more in this area, including the book mentioned, as well as The Dream Society by Rolf Jensen, and Brand Lands, Hot Spots and Cool Spaces by Christian Mikunda.