I was listening to NPR's All Things Considered on my way back from the store this evening, when the story about Chris Anderson and the Long Tail came on. It was a fascinating discussion, and gave me better insight about what this phenomenon is all about.
One of the thoughts that occurred to me is, that large urban public libraries have been serving the long tail, many years before the concept was articulated. In my main building, we stock about 750,000 items. Most are one of a kind. They include fiction, childrens' books, research works, journals of all types, basically anything that anyone from any niche market would need. Need an article from a helicopter society journal? I found just what a friend of mine needed in our collection. (The irony, he was one of the authors.) Looking for last year's best selling novella by Steve Martin, Shopgirl? I returned that this morning. It is all there. That is the business that some of us have been in.
What I am wrestling with is in the other part of my life: associations. How does the long tail play out for associations like the American Library Association, or even state associations. One of my colleagues posted to the ALA Chapter Relations Office list that the state association is undergoing an examination of its structure. I think we will see more of that.
Suggestions on further reading on associations and the long tail are appreciated as I try to wrap my head around this. I guess that Chris Anderson's book is in my near future.