Blog June 2013 – Day 8 – Tipping point

For those who have worked in libraries for a while, you have been through several tipping points. The point where content formats change over, where the new whiz bang format takes over from the older standard format. Your budgets go into purchasing the new and the old either gradually or dramatically disappears from your shelves. Think audio cassette to CD, video tape to DVD.

Our audio cassettes have disappeared over time, taken over by CDs quite a while ago, but we still have the odd one which is slowly finally disappearing from our shelves. Our videos had been petering out, but the remaining ones were removed in a blanket withdrawal when we went to RFID.

No we are approaching a few more tipping points, but there seems to be a little different.

The first is MP3 CDs.  On the face of it, they would seem the best option for physical audio-books, but the uptake of them has not been as good as we would have thought. Possibly due to misinformation? People thinking that they are not getting a full title, but only a severely bridged copy (due to having only 1 or 2 CDs, instead of the 8-10). So at present, although many more titles are appearing in this format, due to our usage patterns, it looks as though we will be still getting both until we see some more movement in loan patterns to the MP3.

The second is DVD. We do not buy Blu-Ray unless the title we want is only available in that format.  We are seeing more requests for titles in MP3, but are wary of making the leap into this format at this stage. The general consensus is that streaming or downloading will be the next big thing in this arena and depending on the NBN this could be sooner rather than later.  We also realise that the majority of our users are still happy with just DVD, even if they do have Blu-Ray players. So where the tipping point will be here is also hard to say.

In music it is a bit clearer. We have downloadable music through Freegal and as you would expect, the biggest genres are Rock and Pop. This correlates to our lending CD collections, where loans in these genres are dropping, but in other genres are growing. So our CD budget will be adjusted accordingly, with a reduction (but not elimination) of money to be spent in Rock and Pop, particularly on newer releases.  We will still be getting them, but not to the degree that we used to.

And then there is the tipping point that may never come totally, at least in my working lifetime. The tipping point from print to e books. We have just started down this path, but in a big way, responding to the demands of our users. However, even in the broader world outside libraries, e has not tipped past print as yet. When it will, if it will, is yet to be seen.  But it will be an interesting thing to watch over coming years.

What tipping points has your library managed and what others do you see on your library horizon?