Some great quotes, some interesting stats, though when I was finished I was left with three over-riding thoughts:
Libraries are benefiting from the economic slowdown
Audiences are fragmenting and the idea of touchstone works is being eroded
Librarians think they might just replace publishers
Later in our phone conversation, Ms. Reardon did start to talk like the new guard at the gates. It was good to hear backbone in the library business—the same strength that I heard in the response of the librarian at New York Public Library. Speaking about the historic difference in how people use libraries, Ms. Reardon said, “The biggest shift for us is just how quickly information is at our fingertips. You used to go to the shelf, and you used to go to the Encyclopedia. So all of those reference materials, and all that stuff that used to be behind a librarians desk, all this very possessive nature that we had is gone now. What we [libraries] still own is that understanding in finding quality information, and that’s just our world, and we do it better than anybody.”
I was on Nadine O’Regan’s The Kiosk show last Saturday discussing the impact of the economic crisis on the Arts. Critic and journalist Sara Keating was in studio with me and Angela Dorgan of First Music Contact (they of Hard Working Class Heroes) was on the line (the snow caused some travel trouble) and we had a lively discussion about whether or not the Arts had felt the positive impact of the Celtic Tiger or whether artists had largely been left behind.
On balance I was with Sara in much of what she said about the growth of Arts administration versus the funding for artists themselves and I think that comes through in my little rant about focusing funds on bursaries and direct funding to artists as the develop their skills.
However, I think myself and Angela were on the same page over the reality that most artists, writers, musicians, actors or playwrights make very little money, in good times or bad so the recession will hardly impact them. It’s one of the reasons why a reduction in the artists exemption doesn’t bother me too much.
There are a few publishers who get this and do, in fact, have the people and systems to have a decent chance of pulling it off. Most that I can think of, Harlequin excepted, have their roots in the magazine business where these skills are like mother’s milk. Amazon certainly understands it as well.
While you’re busy building your community, don”t forget the object of the exercise is to make money from its members. Otherwise, you’re in Dragon Country.