Libraries as the Next Big Pop Culture Phenomenon

new york library reading room photo

Photo via armatoj via Flickr CC

We just noted the rising popularity of e-books as Amazon announced sales of digital books have consistently surpassed sales of hardcover books. However, don't think libraries will turn to ancient ruins quite yet. Pop culture is about to bring them back in a big way. According to those with an eye for trends, libraries might replace cupcakes as the next wave in coolness. NPR's Linda Holmes writes, "Call it a hunch, but it seems to me that the thing is in the air that happens right before something -- families with a million kids, cupcakes, wedding coordinators -- suddenly becomes the thing everyone wants to do happy-fuzzy pop-culture stories about."

She lists a few compelling signs, including that libraries are the scrappy underdogs of community services fighting for funding; librarians "know stuff" and the geeky counter-culture already has a standing invitation to the mainstream party; libraries are green and local, which plays right in to the (thankfully) growing trend toward sustainable living; and libraries give you want you want for free, and let's face it, even if the economy didn't stink right now, we always love us some free stuff.

The NPR piece pushes toward the possibilities of a reality TV show or some hit movie featuring a sexy-meets-adorable librarian as the catalyst for libraries becoming all the rage -- you know, just like what happened to cupcakes after Sex and the City. But there are already advocates, including Pop Goes the Library, a coalition of librarians working to use pop culture to improve library services and popularity. However it happens, if we become half as crazed as hipsters are about their fixies or urbanites are about their iPhones, then we're well on our way to seeing libraries have their long-awaited heyday.

And considering the idea of a library isn't just for books, but also for clothes, bikes, seeds, tools and countless other items, then seeing libraries go pop in such a big way will be good news for product-as-a-service systems helping us live more sustainably.

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