Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Librarians as Nomads.

America has finally realized the wealthy man's dream: the rich get richer while the rest of us fight over the table scraps. It seems that China is also learning this lesson. With more people than anyone could possibly afford to put to work, the world's rich have the luxury of being able to pick and choose where in China to build and manufacture goods. So when the wages in one part of China get too high to make manufacturing profitable, the rich just pack it all up and move it to a cheaper location.

And I see this as the future of librarianshit. Oops. Was that a typo? I guess we'll never know.

But the future of libraries will come from profitability. But since libraries run on public funds, that profitability is derived from cost savings. The future of libraries will be determined by huge decreases in funding.

For cost savings, the library of the future will be designed like an open air picnic pavilion with a concrete floor and a metal roof. Metal benches line the center in rows. These benches can be converted into vertical planes with the pull of a lever to keep people from sleeping on them at night. A central drain allows for easy cleaning by hosing the whole place down at closing time. There are no books, but there is wifi. Library patrons can speak or chat with a librarian through their portable device or laptop. There are no printers.

There are no magazines. There are no bathrooms. Unless you count the drain.

The Library (and bathroom) of the Future.

Other than the missing toilets, I don't think most people would know the difference between the new library and the old. They might miss being able to steal our stapler.

But librarians will take jobs as they come, as independent contractors. Some lucky ones will work from home, chatting with library users across the country and guiding them to the nearest Cracker Barrel or HoJo's.

But most of will travel around to areas that can afford to pay for our services. Budgets will be slashed to the bone, but some places will find a few bucks here or there. We'll present computer classes and read at storytime and generally raise the local average IQ about 25 points for those few months for some township that won a grant. People will say, "Oh, I'm supposed to cover my nose with that tissue when I blow my snot out" because of the librarian's cultural influence.

And like the storied hobo signs of the past, librarians will use "librarian signs" to tell others of their experiences in each location. Found in chalk at the town border, 641.5 means "good cooking." A 364.1 means "trouble." 346.73078 means "their checks bounce; get paid in cash."

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