Tuesday, February 05, 2008

"Better Than Free"

Bruce Newell, late of the Montana Library Network and now a member of the OCLC Board of Trustees directed our attention to a fascinating post by Kevin Kelly on The Technium called "Better Than Free," which sets forth the premise, "When copies (basically everything on the Web) are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied."

Kelly then lists eight attributes he believes can be sold in this market, including personalization, interpretation, and findability. He calls these attributes "generatives," because they are attributed which must be grown from scratch, cultivated and nurtured over time. They can't be faked or cloned. In other words, it's not enough to say you provide immediacy, you have to do it, over and over again, over a long period of time without screwing it up.

If we put this into a library context, what can libraries do to add value to their offerings to make them useful in an era when, as we are so often reminded, "everything is on the Web"? It seems to me that using these generatives as criteria, we could begin to think about how to bring our services into the 21st century. How do we improve findability, for example, an area we have claimed as our own but which doesn't seem to measure up to the benchmarks of the new environment?

Also, could we begin to build a reputation in some of these areas? For example, what can we do to improve the personalization of library services? Can we assist in interpretation in ways we have not before?

Kelly is the first person I have read without a vested interest in the current structure to boldly state that aggregators will continue to have a role, reason enough for librarians to want to know more about his ideas!


Alice said...

This is crazy! I was just reading the same Kelly article from Mark Hurst's Good Experience newsletter this morning!!

Is there some kind of IAG nirvana brewing, I wonder?

Hashim Warren said...

Another generative that can be charged for is Community. You can give away content for free, then charge users to be in the "fan club"