March 24, 2008

UGLi Field Trip

On Friday the staff of the UGLi piled in maize and blue mini vans and traveled to the new Border's. I'm directionally challenged so I couldn't tell you where it is, but it is in Ann Arbor somewhere. Anyway, the store is a test case for their new "concept stores." Basically, the store is just a really big, really technologically advanced bookstore with lots of flashy stuff.

From the moment I walked in, I felt like I was in a computer store, and got overwhelmed. The store manager who gave us a tour must have read my mind when he said, "this space used to be a CompUSA." The store did have some neat shelving and seating, and some clever organizational ideas. But, the big screen t.v.s on the walls made me feel like I was in Best Buy. The store has a technology area that includes a space where customers can make their own CD mixes and download e-books. The thing that really got me was "the Long Pen," which is this teleconferencing device where you can meet an author and they can sign your book. You can see the author over the screen, they can see you, and then you put your book under the machine and the author signs their name on their thinkpad. The "Long Pen" then signs your book, stroke for stroke. It was weird. I have wonderfully awkward memories of meeting authors and basically tripping over myself (not to brag but I ran into David Sedaris in Paris and it was visibly shocking for me). It's refreshingly human to not be able to just turn off a camera and hide sometimes. Plus, if robots start signing our books for us, where will it end? It's so sci-fi.

In the discussion that followed the tour, many of the librarians declared they were uncomfortable with the store. I whole heartedly agreed.

You can see more photos on the UGLi flickr site:

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