library as experience factory

@whitneytrettien tweeted:

We’ve churned out plenty of new information — more than any of us can digest. Time to produce new experiences.

This bumped up in my head with a Boston Globe gallery of free stuff to do in Boston that I was reading today, and thoughts from economist and personal intellectual hero Tyler Cowen, who repeatedly trumpets the value of experiences over things (as an economist, Cowen knows a thing or two about value; as a world traveler, foodie, art collector, avid reader, and music lover, he must also know from experiences…). And that all bumped up against the conversational theme in libraryland (passim) that one of libraries’ big advantages, vis-a-vis Google, is local knowledge. Which got me to thinking…

Would it not be awesome if my local public library were an experience factory? Doing community outreach to find and (yes) catalog and make available and facilitate local experiences, connecting the places and people willing to share them? Not just storytime in the library, not just a book group that meets there, but …but the curation and advertisement of possibility within the whole of the library community. What if I could go there and not just check out a book or a DVD but…dinner with someone wanting to launch a local restaurant? or a canoe trip on some local river? or performance art? “Checking out” isn’t even the right metaphor for this, but…

But yes. I would like my library to catalog the local awesome and make it available to me. Even (maybe especially) if the awesome isn’t within the library’s walls.

9 thoughts on “library as experience factory

  1. That sounds fascinating. And great. An outstanding, important expansion on the various bulletin boards that tend to be in the entryway of many libraries.

    Question: how would this be better over an online solution, say, or somesuch?


    1. I’m not sure.

      I think libraries could offer curation and depth of local knowledge, which would be better than what meetup would have (I think, having not used it myself). On the other hand, as we all know, having a better technology is no guarantee of adoption; it may be that meetup’s convenience or brand recognition or critical mass make it better, or at least good-enough-er to forestall this sort of competition.

      I think I am not the best person to elaborate on how this might work, though.


  2. I am pretty sure that Portland has a library that allows you to check out free passes to local institutions. When we went to visit my friend Adam there, I think four of us got into their cool Japanese gardens for free.


    1. Yes, my local library lets us check out museum passes too, and I’ve done that sometimes, and that’s good, but…not as ambitious as I’m thinking? Like, great, that lets people interact with existing institutions in familiar ways, but I’m thinking something more…facilitative. Peer-to-peer.

      That said I should check out the local library and see if there are any passes worth reserving for the near future.


    2. I think what I’m trying to say is…when I’m sitting around thinking, “I want an idea for something awesome to do! I wonder where I can get that kind of idea?”, I never think “at my library”.[*] Maybe that should change.

      [*] I mean, there are some worthwhile things I think of doing there. Getting some books. Letting V look at the yittle tiny fish. Checking out a museum pass. But it’s not the place I look for unspecified but mind-blowing awesome.


  3. I worked in a local library for many years. While it attempted to be an experience factory / community center / site for networking interesting people with interesting ideas, it would often succumb to placating it presumably most active patrons: the elderly, the educated. The young city kids who came in to play Flash games on the computer were a nuisance to be just barely tolerated; the elderly ladies shipped on buses for their James Pattersons were considered the library’s “real” audience. None of this was explicit — just implicit in the kinds of programs offered (gardening, string music, “how to learn how to use a computer”).

    The homeless used the library as a safe, cool place to relax — why couldn’t it be mobilizing them? The kids use the computers because they don’t have them at home — exploit this! Network, activate, experience, show, produce; resist the boring, encourage what will shake the Patterson ladies up. I can dream.


    1. To be cynical — the Patterson ladies are the most reliable voters of the lot; from a funding perspective there’s probably a case for calling them the library’s “real,” primary constituency.


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