If

Many have speculated that the rise of superbook stores like Barnes & Noble or Borders heralded the end of the library.  So far that hasn’t happened.  Both have managed to survive and in some cases even foster a partnership or symbiotic relationship.  Then Google and the Internet in general was surely going to bring down the grand ol’ library of yesteryear.  Made a dent but has it totally demolished libraries, I’d say no.

But what if people found what they were searching for – would they still use your library’s web site?  catalog?  come into the building?  ask the staff?  During a meeting today that was discussing usability, I commented that I really want to know what the remote user is doing on our web site or catalog.  Because we don’t hear from them.  Someone else piped up and said “we only hear from them [meaning the customer] when they can’t find something”.

The main goal for me in usability is to find what isn’t working, what isn’t intuitive, what isn’t user friendly and then fix it.  So if we that, made everything easy to find, would we only see our customers for their reserves (barring going the way of Netflix and mailing everything) or our programs/classes/events?  Sure our die-hard fans would still come in.  But if the goal is to make everything easier to find (discovery and delivery again) would we see an increase of web usage but a decrease in door counts?

I’m not suggesting that we make our web sites or catalogs harder to use to keep customers calling in or asking at the information desks.  I’m just pondering the day when we can actually give the customer everything he is searching for (assuming he is coming in via the web) without having to step foot into a physical building.  I don’t see it as a demise of libraries but just another chapter (pardon the pun) that will require library staff to rethink what it means to not only be a librarian but a library.

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