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Seriously this time.  The Minneapolis/Hennepin County public libraries have a great sense of what library as place means (maybe because Minnesotans have to spend so much time indoors…), and I really love this latest idea of putting a planetarium on top of the Central Library.  Why shouldn’t a library also be a museum, community center, science exploratorium, etc.?

Another one to file under the category of “Uh…isn’t that what a library does?”

I’d heard a bit about ChaCha a few months ago in a discussion list talking about freelance ideas (and btw, from that perspective it sounds like kind of a bum deal.  Even the most successful “guides” on the site seem to be paid no more than about $3 an hour for their services.  Whether or not you can do it from the comfort of your own home, that doesn’t seem like the greatest trade of time for money).  Regardless, the whole purpose of the enterprise is questionable.  The idea is that folks with queries can text them in to the ChaCha number and receive a response “within minutes.” An article on describes a group of people sitting at a bar arguing about a trivia question and getting a response to settle it immediately.  The article makes the point that “Every search engine returns thousands of Web sites, but what if you could always get a simple, one-sentence answer to your question?” Ummm…sorry, but that’s what libraries have been doing, for free, forEVER, in the good old-fashioned form of phone reference.  I have often seen bar trivia arguments that have been quickly and authoritatively resolved with one quick call down to the public library.  So now we need these college student slave laborers trolling the web for answers to trivia questions? I don’t think so.  Hopefully people will wise up to this one.

I got a kick out of reading about the proposed library design in Czechoslovakia that ended up getting the Czech National Librarian fired (here’s the full story from the Prague Monitor). I guess that’s a warning that innovative library can be taken too far…It’s one thing to be creative and another thing to look like you’re building the set for Futurama.

Photo courtesy of ALA American Libraries Direct

September 2008