The Arrival of the Stupendous

We can be forgiven for not noticing, but the world changed not long ago.

Sometime after the academics gave up complaining about the apparent commercialization of the internet, and while Wall Street was licking it’s wounds after the first internet boom went bust, the world changed.

Around the time we realized that over 200 million Americans have internet access, that 94 million Americans use the internet ?on an average day, and that 80% of them believe the internet is a reliable source of information, we looked around and found that along with doing their banking, their taxes, and booking tickets for travel and movies, those users were making about five billion web searches each month.

Now that over 62 million households (55%) have internet-connected computers at home, and 87% of youth 12-17 are active online, is it any surprise that children may learn to type before they write? Bloggers are changing the way we get news, but it’s Craigslist that’s killing newspapers’ old cash cow.

And perhaps most amazingly, the internet became not simply a market, a bazaar, it became a component of almost every facet of our lives. Facebook and MySpace were born of this simple desire to be human, with other humans, regardless of medium. A desire that drives, to greater or lesser extents, services like Flickr and 43things.

As Kevin Kelly noted in Wired:

“The accretion of tiny marvels can numb us to the arrival of the stupendous.”

It may seem as unlikely as Norman Bel Geddes realizing his Futurama, or Chesley Bonestell achieving interplanetary flight, but what was once science fiction has become a part of our daily lives. The internet age is here. It is now. We just don’t know what it means yet.

And here’s the library connection: We will all struggle with questions of relevancy in this new world. Inevitably, this will require us to examine our core values and change our services, but the results will be magical. As never before has the technology been available to so connect questions with answers, patrons with libraries.

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