Ten Tech Trends for Librarians 2007
I wanted this post to be out on the day I spoke at the Ontario Library Association with Amanda Etches-Johnson and John Blyberg at the OLITA Top Tech Trends panel, but my dissertation, teaching and life intervene.
So here's this year's list, with a new name: "Trends" instead of "Things." Sure it puts a finer point on it but it also recognizes the changes in my thinking about the essential duties of librarians:
Learn to Learn
Adapt to Change
Scan the Horizon
As we carry out or essential mission of service, stewardship and access, I really want folks in libraries to be able to watch the horizon for trends -- and I told the group that in Toronto: "We can all be trendspotters. We can all watch for trends that impact not only the profession but our specfic communities and user groups." Please ponder these and let me know what you think.
The tools of Web 2.0 create and encourage conversations that are playing out everyday in everyway about all manner of things. People want to talk to each other and the Web has enabled this like never before. Remember your first email discussion list? Your first post and subsequent discussion at a forum? I certainly remember mine - in 1994 I discovered a thriving community online focused on Twin Peaks and a burdgeoning Stevie Nicks community - who knew that now we'd find a community and ongoing conversation for practically every subject under the sun, as well as more ways to play those conversations out in virtual spaces.
A new level of conversations are taking place online, with or without you, so find ways to participate and give folks a place to "talk" in your online realm. This might be something as snazzy as the SOPAC or Hennepin County's catalog comments or it might simply be a Blogger or Wordpress "What's New" blog for your library with comments turned ON.
I'm reminded of the incredible work of Peter Bromberg last summer, especially his Library 2.0 Manifesto posted here: http://eltuo.pbwiki.com/:
L20 is a conversation.
Don’t try to put the conversation in a box.
Conversations do not occur in boxes.
Conversations are organic. They go where they go. They grow where they grow.
The further a conversation goes the better. The wider it grows the better.
Go where the conversation goes or you will cease to be a part of it.
No one controls the conversation.
If you try to control the conversation, it will affect how others perceive you in spite of anything or everything else you are doing.
If you try to control the conversation, you will lose credibility (at best).
Credibility is the coin of the web 2.0 realm.
Read the whole thing if you haven't in a while. It holds up well! Libraries, companies, organizations, groups: if you are implementing a blog or other 2.0 technology, please enable conversations.
I was sitting in my hotel room in Iowa last October, the day a small plane crashed into a New York City highrise. CNN was covering the story and used a stream of incoming images uploaded to Flickr to show the scene. This signaled yet another milemarker on the road toward convergence: devices, technology, societal shift, media, and conversations.
The Convergence Culture Consortium site at MIT offers this definition:
Convergence describes a process rather than an endpoint. More than just technological consolidation, the process of convergence is distinguished by changing consumer flows through the media landscape. It represents a tectonic shift that has altered the relationship between existing technologies, industries, markets, genres and audiences. This altered relationship privileges 'expressions' over 'impressions'; engaged consumers draw together information across multiple media experiences creating new touchpoints for your brands. Convergence culture calls for a re-negotiation of the expectations of media content producers and advertisers, of media producers and audiences.
Pay close attention to the work of Henry Jenkins, including his recent book Convergence Culture. It's beside my bed right now. I'm still pondering these ideas and have a ways to go to completely understand the implications and impact of the interaction of these new and shifting methods of mass communication and people. From Slashdot comes a review of the book with a useful example for understanding this phenomenon:
In one example, he follows the progression of the Harry Potter franchise after Warner Brothers purchased the film rights. In the interest of protecting their trademark, the studio sent out cease-and-desist letters to an online network of pre/teen [largely] girls who had been writing and sharing stories about Harry Potter as a way of learning to improve their writing skills. Rather than desisting, they coordinated a global protest that became a major P.R. headache for Warner Brothers -- who ultimately had to back down. This is likened to the confused message LucasFilms sent its customers when its movie division attempted to litigate control of the Star Wars storyline away from fans, while at the same LucasArts was trying to encourage players of Star Wars Galaxies to explore and expand the Star Wars universe.
Checkout this post at DIY Media as well: "From Youtube to Youniversity."
In my Tech Trends talks, I've used an image of the Apple iPhone for this point. I can make a joke or two about personal technolust versus institutional technolust but it does mean something more. The iPod on some level changed the world. The iPhone will as well: user interface, ease of use, pulling together a seamless experience of voice, data, Web. Watch closely.
From MacWorld comes Analysis: iPhone and the emergence of convergence, in which Glenn Fleischmann writes:
The next step beyond converged calling is convergence of all devices....For instance, if you’re carrying a suspiciously small, touch-sensitive video player—a forthcoming device made by a company based in Cupertino, Calif., say—you could be watching streaming, on-demand video while riding a train home from work using the on-board Wi-Fi now showing up on many transit systems.
As you get off the train, the device switches, without noticeable stutter, to the high-speed cell network. The quality of the video drops down as does the audio, but it doesn’t drop. You walk home, your eyes still locked on the screen, and you step in the door, plop this mystery device in a dock attached to your high-definition television, and the service switches over to the 50 Mbps fiber connection to your home, and the video continues, but now in 1080p with 5.1 surround sound.
How does this impact libraries? A thread running through all of these trends is the idea that the general public to some degree has adopted tools and technologies that allow them to interact with media. This will not stop as prices fall and more folks move to one device for access to information, the collection of data and communication with the world. How will librarians and their services position themselves in this world? Trust me, it won't be by taping a sign on the door of the library!
I'd urge some libraries to get an iPhone and experiment. Use the phone. use it in your library. What do your Web services look like? The catalog? Report out to the rest of us.
Jude at the Hey Jude just posted on a report from the New Media Consortium’s Emerging Technologies Initiative that focuses on expanding the boundaries of teaching, learning and creative expression by creatively applying new tools in new contexts. That report outlines some trends, including User Generated Content:
User-Created Content. It’s all about the audience, and the “audience” is no longer merely listening. User-created content is all around us, from blogs and photostreams to wikibooks and machinima clips.
Today we have YouTube Celebrities famous for their down home content creation. Who knew that launching a blog, podcast, videocast or some other content-producing mechanism could lead to fame in fortune in the converged world?
Libraries can and should tap into this trend. Creating a place for people to come together and make something is important, and much needed. It will level the field with access to technology and community space.
We've been talking about this one a long time now but it is still just as important. Follow the TTW Category "Content (is Conversation)" for a continuing look at this in play and practice in libraries.
Redefining LIS Jobs
At ALA techSource, I opened a series on 2.0 jobs with: Libraries may want to evaluate and redefine certain jobs as we move more and more into a user-centered, user-driven environment, in which primary duties may include creating online tools for collaboration and creation, developing innovative programs, and serving as instructors and "strategy guides" for users. The dilemma: What duties and processes need to roll off job descriptions in order to make room for such tasks? What does this mean for our institutions?
Since then, this has truly become a trend for me. Yes, we've always realigned library jobs to reflect chnages in technology and library services, but this time I think we are seeing an integration of technology, innovation and newer ways to position library jobs for the future.
Meg Canada, Senior Librarian for Innovation and Design at Hennepin County Library recently told me about her newly formed department: "Hennepin County Library's Center for Innovation and Design has three areas of focus: service design, capital projects, and the application of innovative and transformative ideas. My role as Senior Librarian for Innovation and Design is to develop a long term service plan, communicate with internal stakeholders, and develop building programs for capital projects." NICE!
For more proof, look no further than this post at McMaster Univesity Librarian Jeff Trzeciak's blog and a post entitled "Our Transformation Continues:" (I've edited the descriptions for length)
The McMaster Library is going through a very exciting transformation and we’re looking for creative, innovative risk-takers who are eager contribute to our process and to the transformation of our profession.
Digital Strategies Librarian
McMaster University Library is seeking an innovative and technologically knowledgeable librarian who will provide vision and leadership in the development of a digitization strategy or McMaster University Libraries and will lead projects which will develop technologies supporting the delivery of digital library services.
Digital Technologies Librarian
McMaster University Library is seeking an innovative and technologically knowledgeable librarian to manage support for the Horizon ILS and local systems at McMaster University ibrary by developing a responsive, service-oriented structure that will support library users and staff in their use of library systems. The position will contribute to the ongoing development of quality electronic information systems in a rapidly changing environment to meet present and future teaching, study, and research needs of the University by implementing innovative, new technologies.
Teaching and Learning Librarian
McMaster University Libraries is seeking a creative, innovative and experienced librarian to lead the growth and development of its dynamic instruction and information literacy program.
Immersive Learning Librarian (aka “Gaming Librarian”)
McMaster University Libraries is seeking a creative, innovative and experienced librarian to provide leadership in establishing McMaster University Library as the premier North American academic library in the implementation of innovative, highly engaging, habitable environments for teaching and learning. This includes the development and support of educationally sound virtual worlds, simulations and games.... The successful candidate will be responsible for conceiving, designing, implementing, operating, and evaluating innovative teaching and learning environments relevant to the campus community.
For sure, I believe we need to teach some serious technology planning in LIS education. How do we implement and take into account bydget, staff, hardware, software, promotion and buy-in? How do we offer the new tech to users? How do we market services in a 2.0 world?
Take a look at Jeff's post about a recent presentation for more of his thinking about university libraries: Presentation to Ottawa Alumni.
Look at this recent posting for an Emergent Technologies Librarian at Eastern Michigan University. Key duty? Explore, evaluate, and encourage the deployment of emergent technologies to engage library users and staff in new ways.
Remember the mess at Kohl's? Here's the thing: 156 million Americans use high-speed cellphone networks that allow them to take pictures like this and post them immediately to a blog where, naturally, they can spread.
We've entered the age of the citizen journalist who can report from practically anywhere a cellular or wifi signal can reach.
For example, Ann Arbor has a Superpatron and Chicago Public Library now has CPL patron, a blog dedicated to exploring the services of CPL. Author Chris Rios writes on his About Page: I love CPL and I am constantly trying to find new and better ways to use its resources to their fullest. I have also found myself frustrated by certain aspects of its functions and services and feel that there is definitely room for improvement. My hope is that employees at CPL will read this blog and a discussion will ensue about what practices are currently working and what practices could be changed or implemented to improve services. I am also hoping that other patrons will read this site and say to themselves, “Hey! That’s a good idea!” and request those services from CPL, or give CPL that pat on the back it needs every once and while. Buy your local branch librarians a gift or bake them some cookies. (It’s good to be nice to your local librarian.) If you are also a CPL patron please send in your stories (good and bad) and suggestions and I’ll be sure to post them up on this blog.
Our trends certainly are feeding into each other! Rios is looking to create a conversation space for folks who use the CPL. My hope is that librarians and staff of CPL would participate as well.
It was also interesting to watch the "citizen journalism" coming out of ALA Midwinter. Did you catch David Lee King's post and video from the trenches?
ALA Midwinter was a big conference - one that had many meetings in many different hotels. To the right is a video of me trying (almost unsuccessfully) to get to a program at the conference. I was confused - the hotel the program was held at, as far as I could tell, didn’t have any signs. As in, any signs providing the name of the hotel! Once I got to the program, it was great.
2. Transparency Tyranny
"As camera and video phones are becoming both ubiquitous and more powerful, reviews of anything and everything will go multimedia. The impact? Well, a picture says more than a thousand words, and a video says more than a thousand pictures ;-) EVERYTHING brands do or don’t do will end up on youtube.com, or on an undoubtedly soon to be launched youtube-clone dedicated to product reviews."
Everything LIBRARIES do or don't have the potential to wind up on a photoblog or videoblog as well.
Cellphone cameras snapping or recording video. Postings uploaded on the fly. What does this mean for libraries? I think we may see more Superpatrons and more blogs devoted to library systems all over. More reviews of libraries and library services will appear on social sites. Conversations will play out amongst users. Hopefully, we'll even see more libraries seeking to make the conversation zone inside library cyberspace.
And no, library, you can't just blog back at them.
This is the social trend. People want to make connections. One way to do that is online. People want to express their humanaity. I weep like a baby when I read stories like this at Flickr. It also comforts me as I see my old guy Jake aging so quickly. There's support not only in the real world of family and friends but in the online as well. And some of these ties can be just a strong or fulfill a need at exactly the right moment.
This is not going away, no matter what the senator from Illinois tries to do. Fred Stutzman, a researcher and student at UNC's Info Science school, argues that in 2007 we'll see social networking grow and change, especially with thriving, established sites like eBay: As the web goes social, individuals in these communities want to meet, learn about, learn from or even date fellow members of these communities. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense for established communities to introduce social and profile aspects to their communities. First, it is a move that will get tech pundits talking, and the cluetrain folks applauding, as it embraces social and conversational aspects of community. Second, it will increase engagement between customers, therefore increasing the amount of time people will spend on the site. It also increases the amount of social capital individuals invest into their relationship with the content site, ultimately making individuals ambassadors of the brands into which they invest time.
Librarians should be very aware of what fosters community. What makes a community pull togteher? What creates human connections online? We can blather on about technologies and tools until we're blue in the collective, conference-attending, presentation-giving face, but the key is to use the social networking tools to foster support, connection and FEELINGs. Check out Casey Bisson's recent post about community as well, which highlights "Esther Dyson’s ten-year-old book, Release 2.1."
Openess & Sharing
At the Trends session in Toronto, John Blyberg spoke so eloquently about openess and sharing:
"Openness is the new trend..it's an open world...are you unable or unwilling to adapt? Sharing content, thoughts and ideas should be the norm."
I coun't agree more. I am fascinated to watch open source software catch on more and more in libraries, acknowledging of course that it's "free as in kittens," as Karen Scheider so deftly put it.
This isn't Vegas folks. And it certainly isn't the Pentagon. The fact that we are building collections and creating services for our users means we should be letting these folks know what we are doing and how we are spending their money. If you are doing it well, you can tell your users a mighty fine story of what benefits and value the library offers. If you are afraid to tell them, you have a problem. Go back and rethink please. I'll wait right here.
I am also fascinated to watch open libraries, or what I call the Hyperlinked Library. Open discussions, open planning and open organizations will hopefully be the mantra of libraries who want to be the best at what they do. look no further than Darien Library in Darien, CT for proof that!
We've been talking about this one awhile as well. My Library 2.0 talks are subtitled "Planning, People & Participation" because all three are key, but participation makes the true difference.
Folks have found that on the Web they can participate in creating content that enhances our lives: rating hotels, noting fabulous dining places, sharing book reviews, etc. The best libraries will recognize participation should carry over to their Web presence as well. A 2.0 tool such as tagging allows folks to participate in shaping the library's resources.
For one example, don't miss the excellent post by Ryan Deschamps blogger at The Other Librarian entitled My Top Ten Library 2.0 No-Brainers that includes this wisdom:
Have a public blog and allow comments
Why is it L2?
Because it invites participation, fair and simple.
Why would my users want it?
Lots of reasons, including but not limited to 1) wanting and input on their library 2) getting answer to questions 3) getting to read interesting comments and how they are responded to 4) feeling like your website is not an automaton but that there are actually people running the show and 5) engaging other library-people in a discussion about their favorite place.
Moderate it all you want, but we are at the age where you need a blog with commenting power.
We should also provide ways for library users to participate physically within the library: planning, focus groups, decision-making, etc. People that are encouraged to participate will care about the library when funding issues appear!
Then, while you're pondering ways to invite participation and encourage your users, don't miss David Lee King's series on said topic!
What types of experience do you offer? What types do you seek out?
7. Common sense
How well do our in person and online experiences shape up? What barriers are you putting up to a good experience for library users? Read Stephanie's full post here.
Online, we'll see more people seek out experience as poart of their Web experience. Stutzman writes: Community will emerge around shared experience. YouTube is a shared experience. You send me a video, I watch it, we talk about it. Millions of people of all ages do this every day. The social web is one of shared experiences, and video is a prime example of this phenomenon. Over the next year, we'll find lots of new ways to have shared social experiences, and there's a good chance that rich media will be centric to these experiences.
And what of you, dear reader? Do you seek experience with new technologies and new ways of providing service? Any chance you get, seek out experience...even if you're crummy at playing video games -- try it anyway! And yes, I owe Jenny and ALA a round on the Dance Pad..I know I know...
Hand in hand with experience, comes PLAY. Let's make this stuff fun. Try Second Life for the experience and to FLY folks! It's just plain fun. Ponder how you'll play this coming year. Will it be your library's Learning 2.0 program? Will it be shooting some fun pics for the library Flickr account? Is it building and participating in a virtual community that lives on your library server devoted to a love of reading, film group or knitting? Whatever it is - HAVE FUN.
Images from Top Technology Trends presentation, most recently given at Simmons College GSLIS for the Student Chapter of ASIST. Download the PDF here: http://www.tametheweb.com/techtrends07/SimmonsTechTrends.pdf