The long tail, vol. 2

How do libraries/Librarians fill roles as New Producers, New Markets, and New Tastemakers?

I think this goes back to something that I mentioned last week when we posted about the Long Tail. As we didn’t exactly read up on these specific concepts, I’m just fudging here, but based on the simple names, I think I can guess well enough.

New producers? As I have mentioned, librarians have been fulfilling this role by making new content out of what already exists. They take books, provide access to and information about them and produce an environment which cherishes reading. These days, it goes much further than books, and the Long Tail becomes evident in that context. Audio, video, digital content (we all know how much librarians love wikis) all of these are beginning to be collected and disseminated through the library in ways that are beneficial to users, and expansive in terms of simply looking beyond the New York Times Bestsellers List, or even Technorati.

New markets? Libraries have long been an alternative “market” if you want to conceive of it in that way. It is less a market, and more of a marketplace. Instead of peddling wares, libraries and the people who inhabit them come together to make a space that is much greater than the sum or cash value of its parts. Free (and, yes, sometimes illegal) sharing of content and ideas is the principle upon which new markets are being founded everyday. Clay Shirky recently pointed out that we don’t know exactly how things are going to shake out, but certainly the mode of information sharing and community participation is active (and completely legitimate) in the library.

New tastemakers? Readers’ advisory, reference service, blogs and now Twitter are all ways that libraries have and continue to provide information to users about what is the latest and greatest, or simply unheard of as yet. I guess what I’m saying here is: grow on, Long Tail, we’ll keep up.


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