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Redefining Theme Parks

Kind Reader sent this article about a library in Florida that’s being designed by a theme park company, and it sounds just as bad as you might think. It’s going to be called a Cybrary, so the town is finally catching up on jokes librarians were making 20 years ago. Very cutting edge.

It doesn’t help that almost everyone involved sounds like they’ve been taken over by a corporate robot.

The city manager claims that they’re “redefining what the library is,” which of course they’re not. They’re just building a mini-theme park and putting a few books in it. That’s not redefining anything, unless it’s theme parks.

He also says that, “When you think about bettering this thing called a library, which has been around since before 300 B.C, do you turn to the library scientists — the librarians — to create a fresh and new thing, or do you turn to people who have expertise in the areas of entertainment and attraction?”

Well, that’s certainly a good question, even though public libraries haven’t been around anywhere near that long. Another way to ask the question is: if you want something that’s an entertaining attraction instead of being a library, do you ask librarians or builders of entertaining attractions? The answer is obvious.

And boy will it be entertaining! “Think e-books, librarians in unique costumes and a verbose robot welcoming you to the building.” I pity the poor cybrarians who have to wear “unique” costumes and the patrons who have to endure verbose robots. And ebooks! So cutting edge!

The theme park company CEO is just as excited. “It’s like, why can’t Mary Poppins be your Cybrarian?” Like, I dunno!

“What if children weren’t hushed but rather encouraged and inspired to really want to read, to learn, to explore new places to really engage?” Like, have you ever visited storytime?

“We are brainstorming ways to gamify the library experience and make kids — and adults — actually want to take a trip to the library.” Oh, good grief.

The mayor is also very excited. “It’s like a sensory overload that will teach kids and get them back in the library.” When has sensory overload ever taught kids anything? Sensory overload is a good way to stop their brains from processing anything at all. It’s almost like none of this makes any sense.

What was the motivation for this $16 million project? It must have been the result of some careful study, right? “The city’s desire to bring the Cybrary to life was sparked when council members asked 20 high school students if they had been to the library in the past two years. Only two students raised their hands.”

That’s a pretty thorough investigation. According to the CEO, “These are Homestead’s smartest and brightest who laughed and said they had nothing for them there.” How do we know they were the smartest and brightest? Maybe the smartest and brightest were busying reading library books instead of talking to city council members. Seems like a better use of their time.

“We want to capitalize on the strengths of what the traditional library has been, but we want to focus on making it cooler and gamifying it; making it a place where children find fascination and fun and have a dynamic place to go. A place where they can do all these fantastic things — including checking out a book.”

There’s “gamify” again. Children have been finding fascination and fun at libraries for decades, but it’ll be better if it’s cool and gamified fun. And is checking out a book really a “fantastic” thing?

Everything’s fantastic and tremendous. They all sound like a certain controversial elected official I saw on the news the other day.

At least it’s nice that they’re providing all this gamified fun for the whole family for free, because equal access to library services is an important tradition.

Oh, wait, never mind. “It’s still undecided which attractions and services will be free and what Homestead residents will have free access to that nonresidents won’t.” The books and the verbose robot will probably be free. The augmented reality whatnot…who knows.

The mayor claims that “Most of it will be free but there are going to be aspects of it that there will probably be a charge for.”

But according to the CEO “one goal is to have the Cybrary bring in revenue to the city.” They’re going to have to charge for a lot to meet that goal.

Unless! “The city even trademarked the ‘Cybrary’ brand.” Oooh, that’s clever.

“We’re hoping it can be a flagship, the first of its kind. Before you know it libraries across the country will want a Cybrary in their community…. This could bring in a fixed revenue stream for the city. Imagine what that would do for Homestead and its people.”

Good luck with that. I Googled “cybrary” and found there are already a lot of Cybrarys out there, but I’m sure Homestead, FL, population 66,498 with a median household income of $26,775, has the resources to spend on a losing battle to make sure those other Cybrarys can’t use the name anymore.

Unless they just mean that their “Cybrary,” instead of meaning all the things it currently means, is just the brand name of some themed attractions with a few books thrown in. Does that really sound like the kind of thing other cities would want to spend millions of dollars on, plus have to pay Homestead?

Don’t think about that. Just “imagine what that would do.” Imagineers™ AND cybrarians™? How can any of this go wrong?

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Comments

  1. This idea is quite interesting in the larger scope of things. I’d imagine as technology and humanity progresses this would be more of the norm. At least maybe in big cities. But I do think the normal, typical library will never go away. And I don’t want it to. This ‘Cybrary’ seems less of a library and more of a book store in a mall. I’m wondering where that movie theater fits in in this?

  2. sciencereader says:

    “It’s going to be called a Cybrary, so the town is finally catching up on jokes librarians were making 20 years ago.
    More than 20 years ago! “Cybrary” and “cybrarian” were quite the buzzwords when I got my first librarian job in 1991.

  3. This can’t be real. It…just…can’t. :-(

    The question I have is “What’s the point?” Why did they think that a lack of student usage of the library was bad? Did they spend any time following through with that thought to examine the presuppositions?

    I would guess that without thinking about it they sense that a library and all it has to offer is very important it is sad that not as many teenagers are using it as they had hoped. With that in mind, it seems strange that the next impulse is to change the library so that it’s not really a library to attract more teenagers/people. But, will that in anyway address the vague disappointment they are experiencing?

    If we turn the library into a library/lazer tag emporium and more teenagers visit, will we have actually addressed anything? Physical bodies in a physical place seems to be all they are interested in.

  4. Florida: making Texas look better by comparison since 1845.

    • Some person attended one too many comic-cons. What the hell were the library director and board doing while the city manager and mayor were dreaming this up?

    • Dude, Texas is the best state! Come on! ha ha

  5. Urgh…I don’t know where to begin. Brought to you by…people who have never read a book in their lives, apparently.

  6. What a silly idea! Sounds like these folks don’t understand libraries at all. You hit the nail on the head this time, & gave me a good chuckle!

  7. Trying to find the thread between teenagers who don’t use the books in the library and the homeless who don’t use the books in the library. Maybe the homeless do read. But renaming the library with an out-dated term only serves administrators desperate to be creative about the problem of the library without stating the obvious which is that the problem with the library is that students don’t read. And why is that? Because if you’re in a cybrary you should be doing something cyber so students watch netflix, text on smartphones to meet up in the hallway, and download papers on the book they were supposed to read. Am I going anywhere here? Don’t think so. Doesn’t look like America can be great anytime soon if Americans of all ages don’t read again.

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