Should We Innovate The Model for Libraries?

I go to my local library every week. Why? My son’s school requires that he read a book a day so we go through an enormous number of books each school year. The thing is that our city’s budget is so tight that the mayor is talking about reducing hours by 50% from an already lean schedule: Monday, closed; Tuesday, 12:30-8pm; Wednesday, 12:30-5pm; Thursday, 12:30-8pm, Friday, 12:30-5pm; Saturday, 8:30-2:30pm; Sunday, closed.

The schedule works great for people who are retired or stay-at-home parents, but less so for busy working individuals and school-age kids.

Libraries are often staffed by generous volunteers who dedicate their time to help others with their reading needs so the choice to reduce library hours yet by another 50% brings this question: Who will be using libraries in the near future if most of the time they are closed? Who is going to benefit from the resources they hold if they are closed?

The benefit they provide is inside their four walls: quiet space, lots of books, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, etc.

Instead of using the traditional corporate slash and burn budget approach which often leads to commoditized businesses and reduced brand equity/relevance in the consumer mind, maybe there is a better way.

Libraries are essentially destinations that offer “free” book and DVD rentals.

Libraries are also a place that allow a community to bind together.

Libraries are a place for content.

So why not provide premium content for a nominal fee?

  • Movie marathons (watch movies in a series before the opening of the latest installment in theaters)
  • Classic films on a big screen
  • Dinner with a local author at the library (catering company takes care of the logistics)
  • Book club meetings
  • Did You Know series with local experts
  • Holiday themed events like Halloween, complete with readings, movies, crafts, etc.

We need to stop thinking about libraries as buildings with books and look as destinations for great (and unique) content.  What other premium content ideas do you have?

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