Streaming Killed the DVD Star (or, maybe not)

Over on Stephen’s Lighthouse, Stephen Abrams has a link to a story on a survey charting the rise of time spent going online now equaling television viewing. From this number, a conclusion is drawn that it means that Net TV (aka internet television) is a sure thing. From that, Mr. Abrams offers his own conclusion:

Sooooo, Net TV means more nails in the coffin for the DVD format. Library circ stats beware..

I can’t really address the first conclusion since I’m not privy to the entire contents of the survey. I desperately hope that they didn’t simply compare the numbers and draw a conclusion on the basis of time spent. I would hope that there is something that is not mentioned in the story but is mentioned in the survey that would convey such a fact. Other than that, all I can think is that the numbers supporting online viewership of popular television shows is somehow reason enough to develop Net TV.

When it comes to Mr. Abram’s statement, I find a lot wanting in that conclusion.

First, why does the rise of Net TV mean the demise of the DVD format? Why can’t streaming be a supplemental format to DVD/Blu Ray? You can say it is a matter of convenience, but the picture quality of a streaming movie generally doesn’t match up to DVDs or, for that matter, Blu Ray. Nor does the streaming option give the same bonus options of a DVD/Blu Ray disc, as far as I am aware. At least with a physical disc, you are not subject to the whims of internet traffic. Speaking of which…

Second, where is the infrastructure for supporting this level of streaming? It simply doesn’t exist at the moment. And there isn’t a corporate will to make it so; in fact, there is resistance to this kind of high volume traffic. (Net neutrality, anyone?) Nevermind the internet infrastructure that exists in the rural areas of the United States (or lack thereof), but you can make the same case even for populated areas of the world. It simply doesn’t exist. DVD/Blu Ray circulation statistics may go down for areas in which the populations can (1) afford the streaming service, (2) afford the internet service to support this, and (3) afford the computers/equipment required to run all this, but it’s going to be slow going for the less affluent areas. While I would concede that the demise of the DVD might be prolonged, I can see the emergence of an ‘entertainment divide’ between those that can afford such equipment and services and those who can afford lesser versions.

Third, and for the sake of ‘library traditionalists’, why would the demise of the DVD/Blu Ray necessarily a bad thing? It gets libraries out of the so-called ‘infotainment’ business and re-allocates those resources back towards promoting literacies and information evaluation instruction. You can easily annex the argument that libraries shouldn’t be in the entertainment business as justification for the difference in circulation statistics due to falling DVD borrowing. Call it an experiment, call it a phase, or whatever you want, declare it over, and then move on to working to promote literacy, education, or other core value you want to subscribe to.

(That is, of course, unless we can find a way to act as a middleman to stream video to library users ourselves. But I digress.)

The author of the Fast Company article says that Net TV is coming as if it was marching down the street right now waiting for you to run to the curb to greet it. While I am certain it is going to be developed, it is a combined matter of timing and implementation that requires a number of people (read: corporations) to come to the table. It is not impossible, but like one of the cryptic Magic 8 Balls answers, this one seems to be coming up as “Ask Again Later”. Personally, I think it will be with us in the next five years, but on a limited by bandwidth basis. I hope I’m wrong, but under the current conditions, it looks like a bit grim.

This might be more nails for the DVD coffin, but it looks like the coffin is awfully big.

As the Wikileaks Turns… Ctd.

From The Atlantic:

Corporate control over speech is nothing new. Authors and journalists in the pre-digital age were dependent on publishers willing to disseminate their work — without publishing support, they were mere street corner pamphleteers. As free speech advocates might have said a quarter-century ago, "Offline Speech is Only as Strong as the Weakest Intermediary;" and, in fact, media critics have been writing about the dangers of marketplace censorship and media conglomeration for years. Still, recent demonstrations of corporate power over WikiLeaks seemed to resonate with the force of revelation, mocking any lingering illusions of the Internet as a frontier free from corporate as well as state control.

The author, Wendy Kaminer, goes on to make some excellent points about the power of corporations in influencing online speech. From being able to offer powerhouse platforms for writers to their interconnectedness with government to acting on their own corporate interests, free expression on the internet has more than governments to contend with when it comes to online speech. It’s not simply a matter of finding a free expression country, but always contending with corporations who own webspace or network nodes being supportive of free expression as well.

It’s a quick read, but well worth the time.

Blatant Berry Bloviating

In this month’s Library Journal, John Berry’s latest editorial speaks about the role of ALA in the issues of society. Specifically, the now somewhat infamous ALA Council email list discussion regarding the new Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and the new body scan devices. The short version is a member contacted a Council member regarding the new regulations and if ALA had an opinion on the matter. From there, the situation evolved into one in which there were people on Council who are wondering why ALA is talking about this topic and there are people on Council who are, well, talking about this topic. From the closing of Mr. Berry’s piece:

I [was] ready to run out and do battle with ALA’s conservatives who would tightly bind the ALA agenda to issues they define as “directly related to libraries.” This debate resurfaces frequently.

Most issues fit the description. Consider the billions we are spending on a war in Afghanistan, billions more in Iraq, billions to bail out Wall Street, the auto industry, and to build infrastructure. You can’t tell me that there wouldn’t be more for libraries if those costs of government were lower. You can’t tell me that libraries and librarians will not be safer if we can make our country more secure. You can’t tell me that one candidate for local, state, or federal office would not be better for libraries than another. Despite that fatuous debate over TSA scanning, I still believe, as I have since I first joined ALA, that every issue is a library issue.

(Emphasis mine.)

I would ask a reconciliation between the first sentence and the last sentence of that highlighted paragraph, for one sentiment would appear to usurp the other. And in lieu of a long winded post about what constitutes a library issue, I’d rather embrace the latter sentiment and encourage the ALA councilors who read my blog (I know who some of you are!) to take up a list of issues I have compiled off the top of my head.

  • Arsenic based life forms (how should libraries deal with life forms that have substituted some basic elements for other kinds?)
  • Pluto as a planet (as the ALA represents catalogers, I think it is only fair to the profession that we get this sucker properly classified)
  • The BP oil spill (just like emerging information technologies, no one knows what the long term impact will be but seem to agree that it will be bad)
  • Mine regulation in the United States (because libraries and mining companies have one thing in common: we both have heavy interests in search technology)
  • LeBron James joining the Miami Heat (it’s just like Ranganathan said: ‘every reader his book’. Just substitute the word ‘reader’ with ‘basketball franchise player’ and the word ‘book’ with ‘multi-million dollar sports contract.)
  • Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (a military policy that is commonly confused with the approach many libraries have to advocacy and marketing)

I eagerly await discussions and resolutions on all of these issues. I’d mention Wikileaks and the global digital information distribution, net neutrality as it relates to the Netflix v. Comcast debacle, and pretty much anything that has to do with ebooks, but I don’t want to fill up the Council’s agenda with too many “library issues”.

Uncle Dewey Needs You!

From the ALA legislative action alerts:

MLSA VOTE TOMORROW! Call Now to Support the Museum and Library Services Act!

Good news! The U.S. House of Representatives has scheduled a vote on the Museum and Library Services Act (MLSA) for Tuesday. Your phone calls to Congress are especially important now as your representatives will be making a decision on how they plan to vote on this bill.
Please call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be transferred to your representative’s office. Tell their staffs that passing MLSA is imperative to ensuring libraries can continue providing critical resources and services to their constituents, particularly in this tough economy. Specifically highlighting programs or resources your library provides to the member’s constituents will make your message stronger.

MLSA will ensure that all library programs under the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), including the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), are authorized, therefore equipping IMLS to lead America’s libraries. This bill received bipartisan support from both Republicans and Democrats when it passed the Senate late week, and it will need the same bipartisan support to pass the House. To access the full text of this bill, click here.
Your calls are urgently needed TODAY! If the House fails to pass this legislation when it is on the floor tomorrow, the whole reauthorization process will have to start over after the first of the year. We cannot let that happen.

Click here to find your representatives (if you were sure who they are), get on the phone or email or whatever, and kick some ass on behalf of your community!

And then get the people around you to help out too!

Why Wikileaks Matters to Libraryland

From NPR:

"This is the biggest free speech battle of our lifetimes," says Marcia Hoffman, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "This is the moment when we will see whether publishers can continue to freely distribute truthful political information online."

While some might find the statement of this EFF attorney to be a bit of hyperbole, there is an undeniable underlying idea being tested here: the scope of information distribution in the digital age. It is important because what happens now has implications for the dissemination of controversial information in the future. While we in the United States enjoy excellent free speech rights, the rules of expression can changes dramatically outside of the country. This is certainly not a new notion or concept; however, within the international framework of the internet, it creates its own new unique dynamic.

It matters to libraryland for several important reasons. First, in expanding our holdings to include digital collections, we are becoming more reliant on content that is delivered via the internet. While we may not be collecting the kind of sensitive information that Wikileaks has been publishing, the important notion is that there are individuals, corporations, and governments who could potentially exercise control over any point in the connection from the server to the end user. Not only could local officials pull the plug on a server or block traffic, but internet service providers (ISPs) could be pressured into not allowing traffic to move their networks. Or ISPs could regulate the amount and type of traffic that goes through their servers. (Think Comcast vs. Netflix, only with streaming video databases.) While there are ways around such things (mirrors for servers, rerouting of traffic for connections), it is up to the profession to be vigilant for such actions taken against digital information providers. It’s crucial to combat disruptions wherever they might be.

Second, the Wikileaks case represents the adage that once something is online it can be very hard (if not impossible) to fully remove. This is an important lesson as we seek to teach our patrons (especially the up and coming generations) about the implications of the online world in regards to privacy and personal content online. While this is not meant as a stern warning against putting anything online, it is a lesson about being vigilant about what gets put online. The most obvious lessons revolve around embarrassing Facebook updates, pictures of drunkenness and illegal activity, and unauthorized sharing of nude cell phone or digital photographs, but it extends to other potentially reputation damaging online postings. This is about teaching people about the positives and the perils of online life and how to take care of themselves in the new information age. If we are going to show our patrons the wonders of social media, we should do our best to put them on the path to good net citizenship.

Third, and what I consider to be most important point, if we as a profession are interested in the availability of literacy and information to the greatest number of people, we are going to have to fight for it. There are plenty of worthy causes for you to pick from: net neutrality, proprietary ebook platforms and/or formats, rural broadband access, book challenges/removals, unequal vendor pricing schemes and practices, and the granddaddy of them all, funding. While not all in the profession may agree with the practices or publishing of Wikileaks, we do share a common cause in trying to share information that is meant to educate and enlighten. In going forth under this ideal, librarians must be willing to take up the banner and fight for these causes. Not simply for the sake of the library as an institution, but for the best of what is yet to come in a digital information future. What this represents goes well beyond the doors of the library and encompasses the world at large.

For that, we must struggle, toil, and fight the good fight.

#andypoll–12/10/10

On Twitter today, I posted an #andypoll that asked: “Invent a new library word, provide a definition, & use it in a sentence. GO! RT plz!” I didn’t get many replies, but I loved the ones I got so much that I wanted to post them. So, here they are:

  • libraderie: Friendship and goodwill between librarians. “Little makes me happier than the libraderie I have with my colleagues.” (by @gingeringeorgia)
  • Lamenter: A person who constantly complains. “He got fired because he’s a lamenter.” (by @uberlibrarygirl)
  • Transvesselify – to provide timely information in the format (or vessel) most appropriate to the user. "This resource is going to be extremely popular – we need to transvesselify to cater for old and new markets." or "Traditionally that book has always been popular in print, but we need to transvesselify." (by @theREALwikiman)
  • Inforationale: helping students learn the rationale of good information seeking skills. (by @dianekauppi)
  • Virtuarefassist: where students get virtual ref to do their homework. "I used virutarefassist to find the answers." (by @andi33079)
  • e-new: to renew electronic resources from outside the library. “I’m e-newing ‘The Lost City of Z’, excellent!” (by @LibraryCynthia)
  • Smold. The smell of a closed study room during finals. “Even after two days, the smold in room 214 was tangible. Next year we hand out Febreze.” (by @bmljenny)

If anyone wants to add their own word, use the comments to add your own perfectly cromulent word. It embiggens our professional vocabulary!

Selling Myself. Literally. Ctd.

Over the course of a week since I started a Facebook ad for my Facebook Page, I’ve been watching the ad campaign unfold and seeing how it has been doing. These are my results from when the ad started to when I tweaked it on December 8th.

Dec8-fb-ad

For such large numbers, it’s so easy to dismiss its actual impact. I think Facebook ads are a lot like Google ads now; they are things that you gloss over while you are on your way to other parts of the screen. My original targeting for the ad was for people who like or have an interest in “libraries” or “librarians”. In mulling it over, that’s not the audience I’m trying to reach which is why I’m not getting the clicks I’m looking for. I wanted to get fellow librarians and I thought about how to narrow it down.

In talking with another librarian about Facebook ads, an inspiration struck me: I’m looking for people who ‘like’ the American Library Association. Chances are pretty good that they are going to be librarians themselves or have an interest in the library world. In reworking the ad, the potential number audience rocketed downwards to roughly 13,000. Excellent. I downwardly adjusted my maximum bid from the suggested one since it was a much smaller audience and based on what the average CPM (cost per impression) runs. So, the ad campaign is much more focused and cheaper than before. But how will it do for yielding results?

The early data is that I’ve gotten the same number of clicks in one day that I got in the first two. I can see that there are a greater number of clicks happening because a friend is shown as having ‘liked’ me. Most excellent! Now I just need to let this new ad stretch its legs over the weekend and see how it does. I have a feeling that the refocus of interests is where it is at; but I do wonder if there are other interests that I should be looking to include in order to reach other library professional who may not ‘like’ the ALA. I’ll have to look for other likes or interests that might be viable ad terms.

It’s certainly something to think about over the next couple of days, but this ad campaign has been a good and fun experiment. And cheap to boot, as indicated above in the graphic; $10 is a bargain for this hands-on lesson, in my estimation. So, we’ll see where it stands next week!

Why I Write

Adrian: Why do you wanna fight?
Rocky: Because I can’t sing or dance.

Rocky (1976)

For me, writing reminds me of the bleeding techniques of early Western medicine; it was a school of thought regarding the draining of excessive humors from the body in order to reach a better state of health. In applying this principle to my blog, it is a matter of giving voice to ideas, thoughts, opinions, and commentary that would otherwise be rattling around my brain pan, demanding to be let out or returned for use by some other higher brain function.

As much as I grew up being a reluctant reader (I basically stopped at Encyclopedia Brown), I have been a reluctant writer as well until the last couple of months. There was always a willpower barrier that required to be overcome to even start a post, nevermind finishing one. For a long time, a writer’s block would mean that all work would come to a screeching halt until the proper wording, phrasing, or transition had been constructed. Frustration would take hold and the post would live as a draft while the roadblock was dealt with.

From my experience, draft status is somewhat of blog post Purgatory, a limbo in which the fate of an entry is measured by the mettle it would require to finish it. Some drafts never move on to Publish status as thoughts and opinions change on the subject or it is found to be wanting of certain support criteria. Others are able to survive the process and appear as a fully formed and properly birthed internet prose. They do serve as a memory lane for me where I can look at some of the ideas I had before that never made it out of this step.

As time has progressed, I’ve gotten better about the writing process. Fewer posts see time in the draft stage and most will make it out into published status in one sitting (albeit a long sitting, but still). To relate it back to the opening metaphor of this post, I have become better at diagnosing which humors are affecting the body and how best to treat them. My personal epiphany has been to shift my mindset and stop treating writing as a solo act and approach it more as a complete series of steps. As a doctor would listen to the symptoms, perform tests, and make a diagnosis, it is a matter of undertaking the process.

And a process it is, I would heartily agree. My brother, a talented fiction writer of his own right, refers to it as ‘laboring in the wordmine’. Writing the words into the computer would appear to be on the easy end of the entire system. Finding the words, expressing the thoughts, the arrangement of sentences within and how they relate to those that precede and those that follow, the flow of the paragraphs, all in service of an overarching concept or story or point. The construction of everything before your eyes right now is the result of writing, adjusting, re-writing, re-phrasing, and re-positioning. I’d offer a calculation as to the time consumed, but it is nothing compared to the urge to get it to be right in one’s own eye.

A friend of mine asked me how I wrote, what motivated me, and why I wrote. There is no way to answer her simply. I hope that this post offers something of a clue towards her questions, but in closing I can offer her this additional explanation. For me, writing is freedom. I can organize and arrange my words and thoughts in ways that make sense in an overactive thought process. I am more honest, more true to myself here than I am speaking or behaving since I can properly express myself in the perfect vacancy of the computer screen. I feel lucky to have this gift, for it makes me feel in tune with other people and with the world.

For me, writing is life. An expression of myself that is both pure and raw. It is myself on display for all who care to gaze. In public or in private, it is the best measure of who I am and what I believe. It doesn’t get any better than that. And that is why I write.

Librarianship Under The Big Tent

My BackTalk article, “We Need Big Tent Librarianship”, is available on the Library Journal website now and will be in print shortly. Before I get into it more, I’d like to thank Josh Hadro and Rebecca Miller at Library Journal for their editing and sounding board support for this piece. I really couldn’t have done it without them.

I really mean that last sentence. For me, this article was the most personal thing I’ve written regarding the profession. It’s one of the closest things to a This I Believe sort of statement, loaded with the hopes and dreams that I have. It might seem odd to some, but it was emotional at times to write it for I was dumping out my heart’s contents onto the page for all of my peers to see. It’s hard to be that vulnerable, but the opportunity to share it on such a platform made the reward worth the risk. So, now you know what lays at my very core when it comes to librarianship.

I’ve said it before on here and in person, but I will repeat it once more. The buildings, technology, services, and materials of the library are all transitional. What interests me, what compels me to write in this blog, and what intrigues me the most when I query my peers about their beliefs and philosophies is what lays at the soul of the profession. We can add video games, Kindles, garden tools, computers, funny t-shirts, video instruction, chat/text, and whatever else is being added to collections all over the world, but it means nothing without our basic dogma and principles. It is the fundamental concept, the basic idea, the primitive notion of the library in an information age that is the most important element; that we are for literacy, we are for all who seek assistance, and that we are information experts in an age of exponential data growth.

I can see from the first comment on the site that someone has asked the next logical question:

If learning more about each other is the first step, what comes next? When comes the step where we act collectively for the sake of endangered libraries and librarians and the people who depend on them?

My gut instinct is to say “soon”, but my brain is saying that this idea has to gain a foothold (grow some roots, one would say) before it can grow. It’s a matter of finding like minded people to build the bridges over the current lacunas that exist. It’s the baby steps of establishing that the underlying concepts of big tent librarianship are a good and worthy ideal. This is not an idea that will march in the streets by next July at the ALA conference, but will need to grow at the person-to-person level. That’s where it needs to be, opening up the mind of one librarian at a time. It’s a matter of not letting chances slide by, but taking them up as a collective challenge to the profession and (more importantly) to the institution of the library itself.

I will have to ruminate on this some more, but for now, I’m just trying to reach one librarian at a time.

“the Amy Winehouse of occupations”

From Counterpunch:

So why have hipsters latched onto librarians?  Because we’re losers, at least in the public’s mind.  Ask anyone with French tip nails and a frappuccino, and they’ll pretty much describe us as the Amy Winehouse of occupations: people with odd hair and odder interests. We’re crazy cat lady of professions, except we don’t smell like cat pee.  Most of the time.  But to those whose idea of the perfect day is having a quote from The Aeneid inked in Latin onto their forearm after scoring the perfect cardigan from Goodwill (preferably one designed for the opposite sex), a librarian is the personification of their post-millennial aspirations: props from friends for being the smarty-pants slacker that they are.   But if you hold such aspirations, you don’t have to go to library school to be a librarian: you can at the very least look and act like a librarian.  Why incur student loan debt and classmates with the demeanor of Dick Cheney without the sparkling repartee when all you need are your English lit books and access to your grandparents’ closet?

I think I owe the author of this piece, Linda Ueki Absher, a drink. Specifically, I’m thinking of a box of wine. I had written about librarian stereotypes as a guest post for Will Manley’s blog over the summer, but Mrs. Absher’s piece on the image of the librarian has taken it to a completely new level of brilliance. It embraces the darkest elements of the librarian stereotype: useless liberal arts degree, the drudgery of public service, and the quirky/deviant nature of the people who aspire to provide information service in this day and age. It’s does in one piece what the Annoyed Librarian can’t do in ten or twenty entries; bring the full on ridiculousness of the hipster librarian, display it in all its glory, and send it on its way like a loved but wayward child.

Yes, we are librarians. We are a fun, hard working, hard drinking, and defiantly curious and quirky bunch. But that’s the way we like it.

(h/t: LISNews)