Roland Poellinger is the head of eServices at the Munich City Library, the biggest communal library system in Germany. Coming from a totally different field – Roland has a training in philosophy and was a researcher at the Munich Centre for Mathematical Philosophy – it was his experience in science communication that got him interested in working at the library.
“Libraries are all about knowledge and how to make that knowledge accessible. I wanted to do that in a truly relevant way, and that is why I joined the Munich City Library. Now I am in charge of all things digital, ranging from library technology like self-checks and sorters to digital platforms like the website, the library management system, digital archives, and an increasingly important field: statistics and analytics. It is a broad range and IT all through”, Roland says, “Though we are not the IT department.” (laughs)
I picked a topic that is very dear to me and that I have not presented to a larger audience, yet. I labelled my talk Inspiring Convergence where the first part points to our goal of inspiring people. It is what we want to do as a library and it is also in our vision. We want to inspire people to use our materials, to engage in the community, to come back and to make the library a lively place – and their own. We want to do that both in the digital and in the physical space.
The second part, convergence, points to the changing concept of a library’s collection: it is not just books anymore, it is more than that. The library is a place where people can interact with each other, engage in activities, and dive into all the different things the library is offering, may it be digital and physical materials, programmes of all kinds, best seller novels and historical manuscripts, and so on. Instead of presenting those things in different categories, you much rather want to present them in a unified way, grouped around topics and interests.
One other thing that also strongly motivates the digital strategy for the Munich City Library is the changing concept of knowledge. The library is certainly the place to find all kinds of information and answers to all kinds of questions. But what is becoming more and more important is the idea of navigational knowledge, and this points to the core of what a library is all about. Libraries are the one place – and have been very good at this for ages – that can make sense of disconnected things and make cultural assets accessible in a meaningful and relevant way by connecting the dots. That is what I think we as a library are striving for and that’s where the idea of convergence comes in.