Saturday, September 08, 2007

An old Star Trek episode stays on my mind...

I record old Star Treks for my mom and me to watch together on Sunday evenings (they come on at 11:00 Saturday nites). One episode that I keep thinking about found the whole crew drawn to a life on a planet that seemed ideal, but it was a mirage of course. A flowering plant would blow pollen or something in a person's face and from then on, the person was just happy, happy, happy. It took a lot for Captain Kirk to convince everyone that happiness that appeared and felt real was in fact empty and wasteful of the very lives they all were trying to enrich by opting for the feel-good. It turned out that the inhabitants of this utopia had accomplished absolutely nothing in decades of living in bliss.

Seek -- 21st century: It's fallen to Captain Google to prod the oh, so contented libraries to do something with our planet, our assets, our energy, stop mistaking satisfaction with the bliss of, well, of whatever it is we might be blissful about, for real accomplishment. Our satisfaction is an illusion and it's causing us to abandon our ship and ultimately, to give up on our mission.

Google announced a number of things recently that take the form of this prodding, though in the 21st century, this is just how the competitive market system works in this country -- you innovate because if you don't you die. So, it's not like Captain Google really cares about us and our planet, planet library, he's just doing his job, playing his part. He's reminding us that standing still is no accomplishment, even if you are intensely happy standing there.

Let's see, there are new Library Partners in Japan and the US (Cornell); new enhancements to Google Book Search (My Library and User Reviews and Ratings, Popular passages added to book reference pages, Sharing passages from public domain works, Google Books in Google Earth, and Google Book Search video testimonials); and of course, the news that Google will begin selling access to books on line, that is, ebooks. Wow. And everyone is talking about how this might affect publishers. And how might it affect libraries? And what will Google introduce next week? And how many weeks are there in a year?

Ok, I'm getting a bit overwrought here, I know. It's just that it really does look like life in the satisfied, happy library planet is getting a good swift kick. It took a knock-down drag-out to get Spock to come to his senses. Maybe it will take the business-competitive equivalent of that for us as well.

1 comment:

Peter Brantley said...


here you go - a partial answer, posted on my berkeley blog.

libraries re-shaping

Peter B