According to the latest post from the usually incisive, visionary and engaging Seth Godin, the way to deal with the problem of ailing public libraries (or rather their ailing clientele) is to train people to take intellectual initiative. How the hell do you do that I wonder?
True, it's a depressing fact that librarians he spoke to saw most of their 'business' coming from free DVD rentals rather than borrowing books we don't want to / can't own (in my own experience the former British Council premises in Vilnius were exactly that, and they had some good DVDs too, and I believe in Tallinn it was the same). But I don't know if intellectual curiosity, initiative, call it what you will, can be induced.
Certainly the signal "you should read this, it'd be right up your street" was almost always a turn off in my youth. And, well, libraries just aren't sexy, are they? Are you going to sit in a musty room leafing through a rather foxed hardback copy of Foxe's Book of Martyrs, or lug a whole load of heavy books home, or are you gonna read about Tiger Woods' indiscretions on the Internet (read about it on the Internet I mean)?
To be fair Seth does suggest using the Internet as a facility for leaders, or even sherpas as he calls them (but then Sherpa Tensing's success went right to his head I believe) but I don't know how this would work in reality.
It's peaks and troughs with culture as everything else, and I can only assume we're entering or already are in a sort of intellectual dark ages which noone alive is likely to see the end of (or even realize that it was ending if they did).
Still, I'm very much a child of the times, I thought Gabriel Garcia Marquez played for Liverpool...
Seth's Blog-the original internet marketing guru (he'd put it in a much less hackneyed way than that)