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Where New Tech Should Libraries Try Next? 152

Posted by Cliff
from the new-toys-in-the-public-interest dept.
99bottles asks: "I work for a good sized Public Library. The management folks want to have a sit down to discuss what our next tech. undertakings should be. We already offer free wireless, use Voice-over-IP, have self-checkout machines, have dropped Microsoft Office for OpenOffice.org, and are slowly but surely getting Linux to the desktop. It's not like we need to catch up, this is geared toward being unique and at the forefront. One manager believes that a video reference service would be popular, I've tried to convince him that video-phones have been around for decades and no one really wants them. So, I ask you, what would Slashdot readers want to see at the local library?"
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Where New Tech Should Libraries Try Next?

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  • by TykeClone (668449) * <TykeClone@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @07:34PM (#13393548) Homepage Journal
    A grammar checker?
  • eBooks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Usquebaugh (230216) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @07:44PM (#13393598)
    Hi,

            softcopies of your books, would take some organising :-) Print on demand of Project Gutenberg.

            Community bookshare sort of like netflix/netbooks but controlled from the library. People give you there lists and you use the library as the exchange point.

    • Allow me to print out an e-book, and I have to bring the paper back to be recycled into paper for others to print on.

    • I would absolutely second the print on demand of project gutenberg books...charge cost, print 'em out, everyone's happy, right?
    • Re:eBooks (Score:3, Interesting)

      On the subject of eBooks, and on the subject of libraries getting rid of books (as discussed elsewhere)...

      Three hundred pages of digital ink, bound together as a book. And four hundred together, and two hundred, and so forth. When a patron requests a book, plug in the digital ink book of the appropriate size, download the pages (a la Amazon.com's scans), and give him the book.

      Digital ink doesn't require power or other messing with so long as the pages are constant. And if you want, you can have a small watc
      • Best Idea. If all the library systems invested in 3 different competing products then at least one of them would become inexpensive enough... through economies of scale and the forementioned competition for the contracts to supply.

        Then the rest of us could reap the rewards as well, with a new mature e-ink display available on the cheap for our own private libraries....

      • I was just thinking about this the other day, it's a perfect solution to the stacks problem. A copy is always on hamd as long as there is a blank book ready for it.
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @07:48PM (#13393628)
    BOOKS! I'm doing my best not to call you names right now, just so you know. Spending all this money on computers and multimedia stuff is great, but it's always at the expense of having actual BOOKS. I went to the opening of the fancy new Seattle public library, where they spent I don't even _wanna_ know how much money on a really spectacular bit of architecture (modern crap, really, but it impresses the locals), a whole bunch of technology, and when I start perusing the book stacks, well, there's not as much there as one could hope for, by a LOT. Lots of really outdated stuff, major gaps in important works by major authors, not much new stuff (and only 1 or 2 copies of new and in-demand stuff). The Simpsons episode where they go to the library only to find out they've gotten rid of all the books, and are now "multimedia" libary is, of course, a parody, but unfortunately, hits a little too close to home.

    So you've got so much fancy technology now that you don't know what to do next? Take that as a sign.

    More books. C'mon, it's not _that_ hard to figure out, is it?

    Clean out the obsolete computer technology books in your library, while you're at it - they're just taking up room, and they're not of use to people looking for something on the latest technology. Is there really a need for a 1960's book on Fortran?

    Damn, I'm all worked up now - I need some chocolate.

    OH, another thing - spend money on comfy seating. The new Seattle library is ridiculous about that.
    • Is there really a need for a 1960's book on Fortran?

      You never know when you'll need something like that for reference. It may not happen often (or ever), but the day could very well come.

      Other than that, I'd have to agree with your point. Books are a nice thing to have in the library. :)

    • 1960's Fortran (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      First - I wholeheartedly agree that books are what the money should be spent on.

      However, I'd like to at least partially disagree about getting rid of the old 1960's Fortran books. I realize that there is limited space, and there are priorities, but I think part of a library's function should be to serve as a historical archive.

      I happen to find unit record equipment (pre-computer punch card machines) and early computers to be a fascinating topic, frankly much more interesting than what's going on in 2005. It
    • Is there really a need for a 1960's book on Fortran?

      Since differential equation solvers from that era, written in Fortran, are still in use, yeah, I think it would be great if I could use the interlibrary loan to borrow a Fortran text if I ever have to understand the guts of those routines. So I hope some library somewhere is preserving these.

      Besides, where but in Fortran can one experience working with trinary logic conditionals? I still remember those three-tailed decision diamonds.

    • Seriously. Books, books, books (and coffee).

      A great anecdote of the SPL: I recently wanted to browse a mechanic's labor guide to see if my auto mechanic was being straight with me. These are insanely expensive, and your average person would never get enough use out of one to justify the cost. Yet everyone occasionally could use access to it. Perfect library material, right? Well, SPL doesn't have a single one. Not one: any year, any publisher. Bellevue, on the other hand, has a not-quite-so-impressive main
    • by Otter (3800) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @09:41PM (#13394315) Journal
      Absofreakinlutely.

      I grew up ... not poor, but without enough money to buy books nearly as fast as I could read them. I'm where I am today because of a library full of books and it kills me to walk into my local library today and see barely a quarter of what I had as a kid.

      I blame the professionalization of libraries. Just keeping lots of books on the shelves (and helping kids find what they need) was good enough for the elderly female volunteers of the past, but beneath the dignity of a librarian with an MS in Library Science. So the library becomes a cross between an Internet cafe and a homeless shelter.

      • I'm studying to get an MS in Library science at the UNC SILS program. Any library that I ever run will have LOTS of books. Sure, a few cheap Linux-based computers for 'net access. But books.

        And what's with the silence? Who really _reads_ books at the library anymore? Now who reads books at their local coffee shop? I'm not saying that libraries should start having live music, but some piped in music instead of the oppressive silence would be fantastic.
        • by portscan (140282) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @12:17PM (#13398246)
          i think the silence is wonderful. there is so much noise everywhere else, why shouldn't the library be quiet? if you want a noisy place to read, go ANYEWHERE ELSE ON THE FREAKIN' PLANET. if you want a quiet place to read, study, or browse, well then go to the library. plus, many libraries have separate sections for group work, snack vending, audiovisual, or something else where the noise restrictions are less stringent. i really like the quiet of the library (almost as much as i like the books).
    • Spending a local library's budget on books? What an odd concept.

      My local library has (I kid you not) a big screen TV and several game consoles. *sigh*.

      • As much as I love books (see earlier rant in this story). Video games deserve to be ranked just a highly in our culture as movies. But the problem is that video games are less accessible than movies are. So I'm all for public libraries allowing their patrons access to cultural media that they would otherwise be deprived of.

        Isn't that what libraries are all about? Smoothing the difference between the haves and have-nots?
    • "Spending all this money on computers and multimedia stuff is great, but it's always at the expense of having actual BOOKS."
      I guess that's where you're wrong.
      Library meetings don't go: "hey, we have some money left, let's go buy some books." these things are budgeted.
      My point is that libraries provide acces to information and I salute them for keeping up with modern times.
      The main thing I like about modern libraries is that they provide free internet access.
      I believe that in a good democracy every citize
    • you're right. i went to my local library a few weeks ago trying to find particular, pretty mainstream books on computer science and a little logic/math. not only did they not have the books, but they didn't have anything in the genre. oh well, perhaps i was being nieve.
    • Amen. I tried for three months to check out Calculus Made Easy. In the entire library system (22 libraries, which includes the University of Wisconsin) there wasn't an available copy of a book that is over a century old and still in print for $30.
    • If you've read the news articles on the subject you'll find that SPL's budget comes with lots of strings attached--the building was funded by a special levy that could only be used for construction projects, staff salaries are part of a complicated City of Seattle schedule, etc. It's not a big suprise that suburbs have better selection in many cases--they've got better and more flexible funding and more homogenous communities to reach.
    • by DoctaWatson (38667) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @02:01AM (#13395603)
      Libraries are notoriously easy to steal from, and popular (and expensive) technical manuals are among the most commonly stolen, and the most quickly obsolete.

      Many libraries can't or don't want to bother with the costs associated with these kinds of materials, so they either don't carry them, have them scanned for online e-book checkout, or have them only on a limited access basis.

      Public libraries in particular are usually founded with a mandate to promote community literacy and are less likely to carry highly technical specialized materials. They tend to focus their collections on best-sellers (which is also commonly stolen) and recreational reading programs, not only to keep illiteracy rates low but also to make sure that their services are used enough to justify their existence.

      If you want to see more technical books at your public library, and you have the means to do so, I highly recommend offering a donation of up-to-date books (or just cold hard cash). Don't give them the outdated stuff, they're more likely to toss it than actually get it processed and shelved. Better yet, convince a publisher like O'Reilly to make the donation.

      Also, don't bother with request forms or suggestion boxes- speak to a real live librarian and make your case known.
    • Okay, everybody is giving you shit about your fortran comment. Wouldn't you love to go back and change that post to say "Volkswriter 3 Tips and Tricks" Yeah, I thought so.

      Oh, and I agree with all your points, btw. Including the one about chocolate. I just finished dinner, and all I have in the office are these stupic wintergreen mints. Chocolate would finish off the meal so much better. But I digress...
      • Okay, everybody is giving you shit about your fortran comment. Wouldn't you love to go back and change that post to say "Volkswriter 3 Tips and Tricks" Yeah, I thought so.

        Nah, not really. If someone needs to learn some ancient form of Fortran from the 60s for their job, then their employer is more than welcome to buy something off eBay for them. But if I'd used some Windows 1.0 example, I'm sure the Slashdot crowd wouldn't have uttered a peep about that.

        Oh, and I agree with all your points, btw. Including t
    • All right... I'm going to shamelessly drift from the original topic and glom onto your comment about computer books in public libraries. Man, I hope you check past posts.

      I'm a librarian for a public library, and one of the things I do is purchase books for our computer center collection. I'm always on the lookout for ideas on what else we should purchase.

      So... what topics do you tend to look for?

      I admit my forays into purchasing books on things like Snort haven't resulted in a whole lot of circs yet, but
      • I think updated books on things like the LAMP platform would be great, plus new books on X/HTML & CSS, and web design. I've stopped bothering with my local libraries for technical books; they're old and outdated, or seriously way beneath what I need a book for (MS Office for Dummies type things).

        Javascript books, Flash books, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. The application books specifically age VERY quickly after just 2 years or so, and you have to time it well with some things, like PHP. Lots of books we
        • First off, thank you. Second, you need to come to my library. I have most of what you mentioned. :) The more obscure computer science books I don't generally have because they don't circulate much. However, if I can start building a more technical clientele, they might start going out. I'll work on that. Again, thanks.
  • My Library (Score:4, Interesting)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @07:49PM (#13393632)
    Would have a server that mirrored popular open source distros plus stuffs like CPAN.
    • Re:My Library (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bnf (16861)
      Or how about CD's of linux distributions on the shelves?

      Or recent copies of the O'Reily manuals?

      How about the ability to attach patron comments to card catalog entries?

      An updated homepage or info page that shows up on every terminal in the library that displays library news, a web search box and a library search box.

      Offer the feature of email/phone reminders the day before (or whenever) items are due.

      A 'Library Zeitgeist' page like Google's Zeitgeist'. What people are reading/searching for in the last mont
  • 1. A section on developer tools, specifically compilers, language interpreters, etc. Compilers should be a -definite- Library section; and I do mean the actual apps themselves, as well as whatever source code for programming language/development systems have been made available in the library domain.

    2. A section for 'retired architecture', so that I could, in 1000 years time, be sure that I could go to a Library with some media I found in grandads grave, rent some juice, and fire up the ol' memories ..

    This
    • A section for 'retired architecture' probably belongs more to a museum than a library. I don't think librarians' skill sets extend to the kind of mickeymouse procedures needed to keep an Apple ][ single-sided single density floppy drive working, or the periodic cleaning a Trash-Eighty keyboard requires.

      OTOH, a library could develop and maintain a database of hobbyists and businesses who are willing to recover data stored in obsolete formats.

  • by MerlynEmrys67 (583469) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @07:49PM (#13393635)
    Rather than spend the money on strange new technologies that you have to uncover on the internet - why not just provide simple service, a quiet room, and more books to checkout/read.

    I really hate that my library is spending money on computers, wireless, network access... How about spending the money on books, magazine subscriptions, and other things that a library needs to have.

    And frankly - if you still have money left over, why not give it back to your taxpayers instead of finding random ways of spending it

    • And frankly - if you still have money left over, why not give it back to your taxpayers instead of finding random ways of spending it

      Yeah. Then many of those taxpayers could spend the money on cigarettes, beer, and lottery tickets rather than having you try to buy something that could benefit the community for many years.
      • Yeah. Then many of those taxpayers could spend the money on cigarettes, beer, and lottery tickets rather than having you try to buy something that could benefit the community for many years.

        As opposed to how long the computers will be good (what 3-4 years ???) - or the wireless access points will still function (who knows). All of these tech toys sure seem like a bunch of frivolous waste to me - Frankly I'd rather allow people the choice of buying beer, saving for their education, or anything that THEY b

        • As opposed to how long the computers will be good (what 3-4 years ???) - or the wireless access points will still function (who knows). All of these tech toys sure seem like a bunch of frivolous waste to me - Frankly I'd rather allow people the choice of buying beer, saving for their education, or anything that THEY believe will add value to their life rather than the government finding things to do with the money that it takes from its citizens

          It's the kind of shortsightedness that you display that makes m
          • And you can't get my point that if the library has met its needs of providing simple content as cheaply as possible - at that point they are wasting MY money.

            If you would like to donate money to a run down relic of a local library feel free - me I would rather have the access at home, and the books that are important to me shipped from Amazon when I need them - frankly, I get better service in both cases, and it doesn't cost nearly as much either (oh wait - you probably are sitting there not paying any tax

            • If you would like to donate money to a run down relic of a local library feel free - me I would rather have the access at home, and the books that are important to me shipped from Amazon when I need them - frankly, I get better service in both cases, and it doesn't cost nearly as much either

              The library is not there just to serve self-centered, middle-class geeks like you. It's also to serve children and people of limited means. I've got my own domain, servers, and an 8 system network. I don't go to the l
    • I feel the need to second your opinon. I was going to make a top-level comment suggesting they remove the electric wiring entirely from the library and just have books, but there's the need for some simple lighting, and perhaps the mechanism for checking out books can remain electronic. And since all the libraries have turned the card catalog slowly into slips of paper to use the back of for writing down the details from the book you want that you've looked up on the terminal that replaced the wood-and-pa
    • Yes--books and periodicals are important. They are expensive to accumulate--in terms of financial cost & in terms of space usage. They also (for the most part) have a high signal-to-noise-ratio. I have been in libraries that have neglected either books or periodicals or both & this is both sad and frustrating.

      However, ANYTHING which can generally inform or entertain the public belongs in a library are good. When I research, I want to have access to large quantities of relevant information &
  • by Anonymous Coward
    English books in libraries so Slashdot editors know the difference between:

    - Its, it's
    - Their, They are, There
    - Where, What

    Perhaps using What instead of Where on a post about technology in Libraries would be a good start.

  • by zogger (617870) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @07:55PM (#13393667) Homepage Journal
    anything that is legally free for the copying. once it has been downloaded on demand by a patron,(or a librarian after first checking license, etc) then the library caches it, so it can pull from the local repository instead of the net. OS disks, other softwares, music,e-books, vids, podcasts, whatever. The deal is, unlike a normal lending library, the patron pays a nominal media dupe fee and gets to KEEP the media.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @07:59PM (#13393690)
    Best feature I ever saw in a library was a "new book room". It had some of the latest stuff, like what you find at Barnes and Noble. It was the only time I ever managed to find up to date computer books as well. Most libraries I know the IT oriented computer books are so old that they are useless.

    They also had a room set aside where you could eat while you read/work, which would often fill up with groups of people working on things even when the rest of the library is empty.

    As for more technology, I agree with the other posts that say stop wasting money. ;p
  • RFID (Score:5, Interesting)

    by diamondmagic (877411) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @08:05PM (#13393715) Homepage
    Add RFID tags to all the books, and a reciver every 5-10 feet or along the bookshelfs. Add compatibility to the lookup system, to tell users where the book REALLY is, and not where it was last filed. Doubles as a security system.
    • Re:RFID (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rhinobird (151521)
      That is one sane and useful use of RFID. Since it is sane and useful, it will never see the light of day.
      • Re:RFID (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, this is exactly the reason that libraries want RFID for their books.

        The potential threat to civil liberties (being able to scan the bookbag of a target after they have left the library) is one of the reasons that many libraries haven't implemented it yet.

    • Re:RFID (Score:3, Informative)

      by shalla (642644)
      My library is partway there. We have an RFID system, and eventually we will be getting small portable scanners that we can use to walk along and notify us if something is misshelved.

      However, the RFID system doesn't work as well as the hype would have you believe. With certain items, you can have a receiver 10" (yes, inches)from it and it won't be able to pick up the tag. So before you start pestering your local library to enable a more complex RFID system, let us get the bugs worked out of the current on
  • My local library, I guess.
  • TAL (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CGP314 (672613) <CGP@ColinGregory ... t minus caffeine> on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @08:08PM (#13393733) Homepage
    Rock Concerts! [thislife.org]


    -Colin [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • Really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by PunkOfLinux (870955) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @08:08PM (#13393736) Homepage
    The most recent book in my local library about Linux is from 2000; the one before that is the red hat manual from 1996. New books are a GOOD thing
  • pr0n! (Score:1, Troll)

    You know you want it...
  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @08:21PM (#13393818) Homepage Journal
    Along with some electronic(portable) dictionaries for the various languages. It's becoming more and more important for Americans to learn a 2nd(or 3rd!) language, and one of the more interesting ways to learn a language is to take an original(and hopefully interesting) text, and an accurately translated text, and use that translation as a guide.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Why not migrate to an open source library management software package like Evergreen [open-ils.org] or Koha [koha.org]? More money for books, more control for you...
  • How grammar is should be improved? Hard reading question that is to be wrong words. Books in libary need so learn grammar better.
  • Are you sure your boss is meaning video phones when he says video reference???

    One thing that could be cool in regards to video reference would be actual video footage that can be used for other stuff, for example if one is making a video production and wants to include footage of the shuttle landing, or various riots or other footage, it would be nice go to the library, find all the video footage you want, burn it to DvD and then go home and use it. I guess it would be more of a stock footage reference
  • I dunno (Score:4, Interesting)

    by dtfinch (661405) * on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @09:34PM (#13394268) Journal
    Simple desktop additions:
    * Wikipedia link.
    * Suggestion box email link.
    * Google Print link (Great full text book search).

    Other stuff:
    * Open source CD's (Linux, BSD, TheOpenCD, etc.) available for checkout, or even ISO's available for burning.
    * CDR's, jumpdrives, minor network equipment, and other information media and technology for sale. Nothing expensive though, unless you have good security. The bookstore at my local university carries all this stuff.
    • * Open source CD's (Linux, BSD, TheOpenCD, etc.) available for checkout, or even ISO's available for burning.

      Don't forget public domain and (CC) content.

  • Your web-PAC should make Library Elf [libraryelf.com] obsolete. I shouldn't be tempted to give a 3rd party my lib card number just to get timely emails of when my holds are in, and how soon everything I have is due.
  • Rant on Libraries: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by chris_mahan (256577)
    Advice for libraries:

    -- Stay open until midnight on friday and saturday night.

    -- Let me borrow the book as long as I want. Like netflix. Or 1 year.

    -- Have a 24 hours pickup/dropoff walk-up counter: I go online, I ask for a book by ISBN, the interlibrary exchange does its thing, and the book is delivered at the location in 24 hours (not 4 weeks), then I get an email: your book is ready. Give me 36 hours to drive by over there and pick it up, on my way home from work, at 9:45 PM, on Tuesday.

    -- Have more books
  • E-INK devices (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Noksagt (69097) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @10:27PM (#13394585) Homepage
    Electronic ink makes e-books not suck. They are high-contrast screens which can be read under bright daylight and use a minimum amount of power (many only use power when "turning pages" (refreshing the display). Read more about the LOC's [umd.edu] use of E-ink.

    It is very much in the early adopter stage. It is hard for a regular US consumer to get a device. I think I might have my SO pick me up a used Sony Librie when she's in Japan. Very cool stuff.
  • by DoctaWatson (38667) on Wednesday August 24, 2005 @10:34PM (#13394640)
    I work in a university library, the largest in my state, and by far the most important technology we've provided (beyond internet accessibility and an online catalog system) has been in the handicap accessibility areas.

    -Get at least one video magnification machine. I think they're called "MERLIN" or something similar. You hold a book under the machine's camera and an enlarged image of the text appears on the monitor for seeing-impaired patrons. Failing that, have a well-maintained collection of magnifying glasses.

    -Get some good, rugged headphones and equip all the computers with some good text-to-speech software. This is also good if your library has a literacy program so your non-reading patrons can actually use the internet.

    -On the non-technical side of things: Use automatic doors, elevators and low shelving, or at least have the librarians offer a free paging service for handicapped patrons. A good collection of braile books is a good idea too.

    The other very useful tech for libraries is a good up-to-date station for printing services. Copiers of all shapes and sizes, a fax machine, networked printers, scanners, memory-card readers and above all people with the know-how to maintain them (they'll break more than anything else). Also a typewriter would be a good purchase if you don't already have one available for public use.

    If there's ever the technology to remotely shut down other people's cell phones- get that too.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      OMG Yes!!! But don't stop there!

      There's a branch near me that has done a lot of good stuff. A dozen large magnifying lenses, opaque projection viewer, audio book listening stations, large print section, low shelves for those portions of the catalog, et cetera.

      Almost all of it is in the basement. That was bad enough. But the elvator broke this week. And even when it is working, the risks to handicapped patrons during an emergency are significant enough to suggest an ADA lawsuit.

      Without knowing firsthan

      • Most of the handicap hardware I mentioned is in my library, and unfortunately on a lowerlevel (basement) floor. Though there are three reliable elevators to it, and there are suitable fire exits, I can still see how it could be a problem.
  • by DualG5GUNZ (762655) *
    Libraries are more than just storage sites (i.e. not blockbuster et al.) for rentable items. They also serve as sanctuaries against the hustle and bustle of everyday life--they are places where you can read the newspaper or catch up on the latest philosophy journals (for instance). However, all too often the hustle and bustle invades the local library destroying the tranquility. For this reason, I would like to see libraries install white noise machines and better soundproofing.
  • Longer hours (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Krellan (107440) <krellan@NosPam.krellan.com> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @03:08AM (#13395766) Homepage Journal
    Personally, I think funds should be spent on longer hours for libraries, before getting the latest computer toys.

    In San Jose, California, we have a new downtown library [sjlibrary.org] that's hooked up like you wouldn't believe. It's not open enough hours for the public to truly use it well, though. Fortunately, the library is jointly owned by the nearby college, and the college funds additional hours during the school year. Extended hours at the library are quite convenient because most downtown parking in San Jose becomes free [sjdowntownparking.com] after 6pm!

    Unfortunately with government projects it's often easier to get money for new construction/projects instead of maintenance. New toys are sexy, and sexiness gets votes.

    If the funding for your library is with strings attached, and those strings have to be spent on new computer technology, I suggest these:

    * Free Wi-Fi everywhere in the library and as far into the surrounding areas as your access points can reach, if you don't already have this.

    * CD-burning kiosks that burn CD's full of public domain books, from the Gutenberg Project and other sources.

    * Similarly, DVD-burning kiosks that burn DVD's full of public domain videos/movies, from the Prelinger Archives and other sources.

    * Book-on-demand printing presses for public domain books, something like this [archive.org]!

    Good luck with your funding!

  • Tablet PC's (Score:2, Informative)

    by dascandy (869781)
    Instead of positioning a dozen computers somewhere at random, allow for people to take a tablet pc at the begin of the library with a modernized version of the library program, connected to a wireless network. Include RFID tags with most books and allow the tablet pc to indicate where to move to find the actual book. Allow the tablet pc to offer you "Find similar books..." for the book you're holding etc.

    Oh, and make sure you have enough tablet pc's :)
  • Have a couple of MythTV backends archiving all of the major news networks, CSPAN, History Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS, etc. Instead of TV-based frontends, have some PC's with CRT's and headphones as frontends.
  • In Sweden apparently they have libraries with self check in /check out. All the books have RFID tags and you drop it in a glass conveyer belt on the way in.
  • The biggest problem with most libraries today is that users have to visit the library to access most of the material. Obviously this is a requirement if people want to access hardcopy materials, but it shouldn't be necessary for softcopy materials. Considering that may publications are now available on CDROM, it would be great if this could be accessed from home (perhaps restricted to users who have valid library cards). There is also a lot of historical and community information that can be easily made

  • Slightly off Topic (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ReidMaynard (161608)
    I know it's slightly off topic, perhaps you should first be addressing the core purpose of a public library, then you have a goal. Now, what technology will help the library institution and the public achive those goals.
  • is where is this Public Library? I'd love to go work there, or live there.
  • Books, and ways to find them.

    While I'm fairly lenient on the definition of "book" (it is 2005, after all), I see reason for a public library to turn itself in to some sort of trendoid wannabe cyber-cafe. This is a repository of knowledge. Keep it that way. Make it really easy to use and you will serve your patrons far better than any of the other suggestions people have put forward.

    ...laura

    • But what do you do when more and more knowledge is available online and not in print? At the acdemic library where I work, there are a number of journals- closer to a true "repository of knowledge," more so than books- that we can only get online. I haven't been in a public library much over the last 10 years, but in our university library, all of our PCs are in just about constant use. Granted, we have 50 PCs and 300 SunRays, and SunRays get a lot less use. On a campus with 10k students... But the campus
  • I work at an acedemic library that serves a mid-sized (10k students) University. The next big thing with a lot of libraries, public and acedemic, is Virtual Reference. In it's simplest form, it is nothing more than a chat/IM system where someone can contact a ref librarian over the web or some other IM system, ask questions and get answers. That could be implemented by you pretty easily with a Jabber server, a web client, and a jabber client running on the librarian's desktops. With other systems, you g

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. -- Woody Allen

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