Shifts in Reading and Information


I contributed to a Guardian online chat recently that focused on the question: “What does a library look like in 2013?”

During this live chat Sandy Mahal (programme manager, The Reading Agency) made this point:

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that we’re in the middle of one of the biggest changes in reading in human history, experiencing a shift similar in magnitude to the move in Greek times from an oral to a literary culture. Our reading brains are changing, the way we share reading experiences is changing, and of course the book itself is changing dramatically. We’re being challenged to think very differently about what the reading experience is – by things like JK Rowling’s online Pottermore world, Profile’s Frankenstein app which uses reader input and non-linear text. Very little of these multi-platform, literary experiments seem to be making their way into libraries’ reader development work, and of course, there’s ebooks too…we need to take a big, bold step to create a future library service that will keep ahead of developments and cater for and inspire a generation of digital natives.”

And I responded with:

“Possibly the problem here is that libraries are still focusing more on the container of the content (the book) and not the content itself. Not only is the way we read changing, the way we access information is changing too – whether that’s a focus on infographics instead of pure statistics; using multimedia (videos; audio, etc) to provide information, etc – it all needs to be considered, not just focusing on information or even story telling as text in a book or on a page.”

My comment was actually answering a question in my own head, as a lead on, rather than in response to Sandy’s comments. I agree the shift is happening, but we also need to be mindful that the shift won’t just happen in how the written word is presented, as libraries aren’t just about the written word. I’m thinking around this idea from a libraries=information perspective, rather than libraries=reading, as a fair percentage of my library use has been informal learning and information finding. The shift will also happen around how information is presented (video, audio, infographics, etc) and how we interact with it.

I just wondered what other people working in libraries and information based roles thought about this?


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