Happiness is two monitors.
There’s an opinion piece on the Christian Science Monitor website that’s been making the rounds on Twitter and various RSS feeds. A librarian in Texas by the name of William H. Wisner wrote an opinion piece called “Restore the noble purpose of libraries”. And if I read it correctly, the library needs to (1) restore the silence of the library by removing any technology that makes any noise, including ones carried by patrons; (2) remove any form of visual, audio, or interactive technology from the children’s section; (3) librarians need to learn books to the point of oral recitation, regardless of specialty; (4) comes to grips with the fact that libraries are popular because they are free despite our professional ethics which tout that we provide access to all regardless of their ability to provide supporting payment; and (5) that we stop being “information scientists” and start being scholars again through rote memorization of printed materials so we can once again love and defend our societal purpose.
Or, the funnier way of summarizing his article:
I need to stop prostituting myself, learn Middle English, write humorous non-existent interviews with celebrities who used to date while handing out beverages to make the library “personalized” again and restore the public trust.
Either way you look at it, it’s a strange theory.
To his credit, I will now grin like an idiot while I’m refilling the paper to the printer. While I whore myself to the paper beast, I will relish in the idea that the reason the printer is empty is that people decided to print out timely and relevant information and take it with them. Quite frankly, that’s all the more reason to construct library based mobile applications so that people can reach the same information on their noisy cell phone or noisy laptop. Or more reason for me to teach classes so that people learn how to use all of the library sources from home so they can print on their own paper. Or just embrace a combined format approach that yields the best resource or information regardless of the medium. Or, heck, for that matter, I’ll give them whatever literature work they want in whatever format they want: print, large print, even audio!
By my own admission, I’m not much of a reader. So I will confess that all of these new audio, video, and interactive technologies for children make me pretty jealous. I really had to struggle with reading, not because I was bad at it or suffered a disability, but because it wasn’t as interesting compared to watching or hearing the work. Oh sure, we can dismiss decades worth of studies on the different learning habits of children and just stick with reading. My brain and character certainly aren’t much worse for it after all these years. But I’m not going to work at a library with that kind of children’s section. I’ll be over at the fun library with the games, the videos, and the noisy interaction and enjoy the more progressive learning models.
I’m sad to say that my library doesn’t offer free coffee. Sure, I could lament the fact that people love us because we are free and then proceed to give away something for free, but I’d rather not sully the incredible dividends that taxpayers get from their investment. Nor would I care to disparage all of the free adult and children programming offered that enriches the lives of the patrons who use it. Far be it from me to possibly heap any more disgrace on the dedicated professionals in the field who work longer hours with more responsibilities for stagnant or shrinking wages and benefits because of the love they hold for their patrons and profession. To be fair, I’m sure some of them also offer free coffee.
Mr. Wisner is certainly welcome to his opinion and the enjoyment that he gets from handing out coffee while building relationships by chatting about Proust or Picasso with students and faculty. As for me, you can find me in the future where information architecture and communication networks interact so as to provide seamless content delivery and global sharing of user derived content while providing the highest level of patron interaction and satisfaction. Oh, there will be books there too. Print is not dead, just it’s business model.
(And if you too enjoyed his opinion piece, you can check out the preview of his book “Wither the postmodern library?” on Google Books. If irony was chocolate, this would be Godiva.
This is a quick entry to set something straight. After some searching, I found the tweet that launched a thousand other tweets. The origin of the hashtag #followalibrarian came from “KJ” (@catagator). Here’s her tweet to me that contained this awesome hashtag.
So, I want to give credit where credit is due because the number of librarians I was able to follow because of her awesome idea was huge. Already, this is yielding dividends in articles, blogs posts, and other great sources. I’m looking forward to next Friday’s #followalibrarian. I’ll have to make sure to get my list ready!
To provide the proper context of her tweet to me, I had been asking for recommendations for other people to follow.
My memory might stink, but at least my search skills don’t. =D
The other night, I was checking out the ALA Read poster box set on the ALA site. When I was looking at the results of a Google Image Search for examples of posters (search times: "read poster”) I noticed one thing: all of the people in the posters were holding books. While that might not be a shock to the majority of people reading this post, for me it doesn’t properly represent the underlying concept that it is advocating. Where are the magazines? Where are the blogs? Where are the books on e-reader devices? I mean, I am not saying that someone should be posing with the back of cereal box, but a showcase of the various written formats might be more appropriate in this day and age.
If anyone out there was up for it and had access to the set, I’d gladly pose for a READ poster with my laptop featuring my favorite blog.
An open information bar? Or a theatre of knowledge? of something else? The question is "what is the library of the future in a networked world?"
With this video:
And I watched it again. And then a third time. You get the picture.
In regard to the questions poised, I think an open information bar is an ill-fitting metaphor. While the personalized dispensary aspects of the bar might be more apt to people’s requests for materials, it maintains the traditional patron-librarian-material chain of interaction that has fallen out of favor. Rather than linear, the aspects should represent points on a triangle with all members having equal access to each other. The metaphor’s presence of a barrier to access (i.e. a bar) that is keeping patrons from what they are seeking is unsettling for a future library vision. Although, it certainly does bring new meaning to the phrase “drunk on knowledge”.
I believe that the future of the library is more like a theatre of knowledge; specifically, an information renaissance faire. Whether it is to put on garb and take part in the experience (your serious library users, loyal patrons) or simply to come and enjoy the sights and sounds (casual users, “I have a report due on Monday” now-and-again patrons), patrons will be able to choose their level of interaction, collaboration, and participation in the library. The immersive experience will allow the patrons to dismiss their preconceived notions of the limits of knowledge and open their minds to the full potential of the information age. Just as a regular renaissance fair invokes a friendly form of make believe rooted in the modern age, the future library should seek to create a comfortable and safe environment for people to act upon their imagination, creativity, and curiosity. This sense of familial connection is what will fuel collaborative intellectual exploration outside of the library through web and mobile applications. These standalone tools will serve as faithful companions, ever present for consultation in the evolving life of a patron. Even if the patron chooses to utilize the library remotely, the information renaissance faire will continue on, presenting and challenging people with a different way to consider the world around them.
Everywhere is here, indeed.
Yesterday, this article about the Top Provocative Tech Trends came across my Google Reader. The short short version of the article would sound like this: go mobile; embrace open source, open content, and user generated content. As to the first, the timing couldn’t possibly be better for my library system as we had been chosen for a text message marketing pilot program. This program has never been done in the United States and, needless to say, we are excited to be a part of it. It appeals to my science background as I get to approach it like a giant experiment. While we are certainly hoping it will work, even any mistakes we make are tiny victories for the learning process. We are aiming to roll this out on the first week of August. (Which, oddly enough, coincides with my week of vacation.) Today, I did an interview with a reporter from the Philadelphia Inquirer about the program; the article will appear in tomorrow’s New Jersey section.
Not to parrot the experts on the Tech panel, but mobile is only going to get bigger and better as the technology cycles churn. Libraries are need to start the steps of moving to where our patrons are and that future is web ready phones, PDAs, and other smart phones. I remember the reporter asking me if one of the goals of the program was to get people to come into the library. My reply was something like this: while we would love to see more people in the library, we’d also love for people to be able to use the library resources no matter where they are. I think this took her slightly aback, but it’s the truth: access counts. And I certainly hope that this program is a baby step into the larger mobile forum for the system. It’s a whole new ballgame, as they say, when you can connect people to the help, service, or materials they want with the ease of a text message.
As to the last three points (since they interrelate), the malleable nature of open source and user generated content will be the fuel of future library experiences. We need the agility of these formats versus the static evolutions of vendor derived content. It’s really that simple. This is a real time information environment; and while I’m sure there is a vendor who can show me that they can do something like that, why even involve them in the first place? There will be no reason to maintain a service request chain that is patron-library-vendor when the best solution will be a locally implemented solution tailored to the problem and the library. It’s a paradigm shift that needs to happen and the sooner the better.
User generated content is where it is at, now and in the foreseeable future. The tools are so simple a child can make and share their creations (and they have). Each software cycle brings us better tools for better interactivity, stoking the collective creative furnaces of users. Just as the library community embraces collaboration across the profession, there is certainly room for our patrons to join this process. People always want more and we certainly should give it to them. As I said earlier, the tools are there. Let’s starting using them.
Today I taught a continuing education class for my fellow library professionals about blogs, microblogging, and RSS feeds. It went very well by my own estimation as I was able to finally use some of the knowledge gleaned from the Pres4Lib conference back in June. Specifically, I made sure I was prepared, relaxed, and tried to make certain I was addressing everyone in attendance. It was hard since I was positioned in the middle of the computer lab with people behind and in front of me. I had some stops and starts, but it happened when the internet was slow to load something or I skipped around on some of my major points or got ahead of what I wanted to say. There was probably more talking off the top of my head than should have been, but my experience with all the sites reminded me of all the ins and outs. The thing I would do next time is make certain I provide a recommendation for each site as it would relate to a patron reference question experience. I did for some sites but not for others, although it ended up getting cleared up at the end.
What made today really nice was lunch. I had stopped to get something to eat from Wawa and went to eat my lunch at our main branch where I was teaching the class. Today was so gorgeous that I decided to park over by the trees on the side of the parking lot. In a quick command decision, rather than sit in the car and listen to the radio while I ate or go inside, I went and sat under the trees. I’ve come to the realization that I may spend too much time “connected”; between Facebook, Twitter, Livejournal, various message boards, email, television, and radio, I am just bombarded with information most of the day. It is a matter of taking the time to shut off everything, to sit with my thoughts, and (as my anxiety counselor might put it), just be.
So there I sat on the grass, under the trees, with my back to the busy road that runs in front of my library, listening to the wind, watching the clouds, and slowly eating my sandwich. It was simply divine; and something I should do more often. And next time, maybe take a picture or two. Oddly enough, it reminded me of something I had heard today. The host of Tell Me More on NPR was chiding a guest who was speaking far over his time allotment and wanted more time with this quip:
"Time is a resource that they are not making any more of, and I am in charge of it.”
Something to think about next time when I am just be-ing.