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Libraries: Part of the Here and Now

Libraries have been in the news recently. And we look pretty good.

First, Amazon.com announced it is now selling more electronic books – e-books – than hardcover books. In July, the company says it sold 180 Kindle e-books for every 100 hardcover versions.

The growing affordability of digital readers and the popularity of e-entertainment – books, audiobooks, movies – have boosted library business, too.

That is, business at “customer-driven” libraries. The Springfield-Greene County Library District has more than 6,000 downloadables available for free from the website thelibrary.org. There’s a tutorial online at Download Zone, or pick up a how-to bookmark at any branch library.

Second…A hip Old Spice TV ad campaign has unleashed a wave of feel-good exposure for libraries. So much so, NPR.org blogger Linda Holmes wonders whether libraries might just be the next pop-culture wave -- after cupcakes.

What’s it all about? Old Spice hired a new, handsome pitchman to try to convince the public that Old Spice is not your father’s aftershave splash.

After a Twitter request for him to say something nice about libraries, the shirtless Old Spice fellow did a parody of his own ad, hawking the virtues of libraries. It was an instant YouTube hit, especially among librarians.  

A Brigham Young University parody of the Old Spice ads followed on YouTube and has well surpassed 1 million views.  

Blogger Holmes notes that library-cool goes back even further -- a Librarians Do Gaga video went viral after an NPR Does Gaga video. Then  Vanity Fair and other publications came to libraries’ defense after a news story questioned whether libraries are necessary.  

Holmes explains why libraries have earned their place at the edge of a pop-culture moment, if that’s what this is: Libraries defend everyone’s unfettered access to information and literature, libraries have “free stuff” and librarians know stuff, libraries are environmentally friendly – recycling by lending books, libraries belong to the community, and they’re open to all the public.

Some things Holmes didn’t mention, and what Amazon.com can’t do: Your library also offers free computer skills training, free computer use, helps you borrow a book from more than 9,000 U.S. libraries, helps parents and children be better readers, offers free live music programs – we could go on.

So, if this is the edge of libraries’ pop-culture moment, we think we like it.

 

Kathleen O’Dell is community relations director for the Springfield-Greene County Library District. She can be reached at kathleeno@thelibrary.org.

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