A popular dance song from the 1980s was called, “Let’s Get Physical,” sung by Olivia Newton-John. Here’s a suggestion for a new song title with a technology slant, “Let’s Get Digical.” What’s does digical mean? It means combined physical and digital innovations. Who invented it? Darrell Rigby, in the September 2014 Harvard Business Review issue, describes the ongoing process in the modern world where the physical and the digital realms morph into one, providing users, customers, patrons, the ability to continue the transactional experience both in the physical and/or digital realms while building and sustaining a customer base. It’s a paradigm shift. It’s real and unreal. It’s visible and invisible. Bricks and mortar and algorithms and pixels mashed together. It’s growing faster and faster in more and more innovative ways.
A brief historical explanation: in the beginning, there were brick and mortar businesses. If, back in the day, you needed new shoes or a hammer, one had to travel to the local store along Main Street and buy the item, then return-- perhaps in the new shoes -- back home and that was the cycle of experience. With the advent of telephone technology, that transaction cycle began its slide into the dark ages of pre-Internet life. Time passed. Today, if you need new shoes or a new hammer, there’s Zappos.com, Amazon, and Lowe’s and Home Depot online. But wait--Lowes and Home Depot--they still have brick and mortar venues. What’s going on? Let’s turn to public libraries. They’ve been around for a long time. The Library of Alexandria opened its door sometime during the 3rd century B.C. The British Library in London began in 1753. The Los Angeles Public Library opened its doors in its current location in 1926. If you wanted to check out the latest copy of a new title by Aeschylus or a copy of the Magna Carta, or the latest Charles Dickens novel, one had to go to the public library and check out the book. Time passed. Along came satellites, the computer, the Internet, the World Wide Web, the smartphone, Wi-Fi, algorithms, tablets and iPads, and along came the ability to download e-media to an electronic device.
Example: it’s possible for Los Angeles Public Library patrons to electronically download e-books and e-music to their computers, iPads, and other electronic devices. It’s a great convenience. But in the words of Abraham Lincoln: “There’s never a gain without a loss,” so, too, with the convenience of electronic distribution come challenges. One of those challenges is called, “Discoverability.” This term defines how easy or difficult it is to find information on a website. We’re not talking about the results to a Google search. We’re talking about how far down into a website someone has to “drill” to get to information that’s relevant, whether intentionally relevant or serendipitously so. The most valuable diamonds are discovered deep in the mine. This poses a challenge for people driven to learn. It also presents an opportunity for library users to exploit the skills and knowledge of a librarian. For instance, the Los Angeles Public Library offers numerous databases on a variety of topics, that are designed to help users find a range of sources, from magazines and newspaper articles, to cultural information and business associations. In this modern world where the the digical dance plays on at a faster and faster pace, disrupting and organizing new paradigms of reality morphing, blending with the digital realm, and the physical realm, there’s one professional you can turn to for guidance: your local librarian.