The Dutch Librarians’ Show

Day Two of the Computers in Libraries conference kicked off this morning with an enjoyable keynote speech* from three traveling Dutch librarians, Erik, Geert and Jaap. Well, keynote is a bit misleading. It was more like a improv talk show conducted in their living room.

I first learned about them and their project last year in the blogs and photostreams of my Flickr friends. I was very happy to see their show today and meet them later. The gist of their American story began last spring when they rented a motor home and traveled America making a very entertaining film about the future of libraries. From New York to North Carolina to Nebraska to California they interviewed people on the street and librarians in their workplaces about the profession, the challenges, and the future. Cleanly edited and mixed with music, the result is slick, insightful, and spiced with humor.

Moreover, it’s good storytelling. “If books go away, what will be left?” they asked at one point. Later, in what could have easily been an answer, they said a library’s “most important collection is the people.” It was fitting that people — not the books or the technology — made up the bulk of their film.

Another wonderful line from the film was uttered by Michael Stephens of Dominican University. Asked what libraries will do for people in the future, Michael said the library “will encourage my heart.” One of his students gave a description of library openness and access that is simply too long to transcribe here but (trust me) it was terrific.

Back on the stage between clips, Erik, Geert and Jaap hosted a few audience members on their couch, offered them cookies and water, and conducted live interviews to carry on the conversation from the film. Laptops; cameras; a fish bowl; assorted coffee table clutter. It was a very casual affair to say the least. Engaging. Fun. Participatory. In my mind, it was exactly what libraries of the future should be. I loved it.

BTW: There was plenty more to tell about the day, but that’s all the energy I’ve got tonight. More later…

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