Category Archives: Top Tech Trends

LiB on Music in Libraries – “we’re doing it wrong”

I’ve been meaning to post a link to this incredible post by the Librarian in Black. I’ll be using it in my classes from now on as a perfect overview of what’s happening with downloadable music in libraries. If you haven’t read it, be sure to do so and don’t miss the comments. For example:

Overdrive & Alexander Street Music are very similar.  Overdrive users download a music file in a DRM-protected format that will self-encrypt and be unreadable after the designated circulation period (e.g. 3 weeks). Update: Alexander Street Music offers -streaming- access to classical, jazz, and folk. And sadly, the selection is not what most of our users want.  Most people aren’t looking for classical and folk music.  Libraries with these services get very poor use of them (according to my anecdotal discussions with other eResources managers), and frankly, I personally don’t think they’re worth the money we pay for them.  Check your usage stats and do a cost per use calculation.  You’re likely to find you might be paying $5/song.  Ri-freaking-diculous.

Freegal is very different.  The songs are popular ones with a lot of well-known artists in different genres like rock, R&B, and country.  And in a lovely change of pace, the songs are provided as DRM-free MP3s!  But — and I stress the but — the library can only offer these in a very limited fashion because of cost.  The library pays for the number of downloads per year they want to fund.  Then divide that by 52, and there’s your weekly cap.  If you hit the cap, then no users can download anything else for the rest of the week.  As a result, Freegal suggests that you limit the number of songs any one user can download in one week.  For our library in San Jose, that number is 3.  Yep, you get only 3 songs per week, and that’s if you’re lucky enough to log on before we hit our weekly cap. Update/Clarification: SJPL no longer has a weekly cap. So if you want to download an actual album, you have to calendar yourself to come back for at least 4 weeks to get one single album.  How many users are going to do that?  For us to pay for enough songs for our users to access a full album per week, we’d need to spend approximately $500,000 per year.  And that’s not happening, nor should it in my opinion.  That’s a ridiculous proposition for a collection budget.  Is this token offering of popular online music to our users enough to interest them and an attempt at a successful model, or does it merely show that libraries are clueless once again about what our users really want with digital formats?  Again, please check out the cost per use of the service and I can just about guarantee you it’s costing you more to offer songs via Freegal to your users than it would to simply buy them the songs they want directly from iTunes, Amazon, or whatever other service they use. But what other choices do we have?  To do nothing. And that stinks too.

I have never had much interest or faith in what the library vendors are trying to sell libraries to compete with iTunes, Amazon or the like. Most of the time, I consider my music/content consumption as if I were  a consumer, not a librarian. I want things to work and work well. Yes, I admit to my Apple fanboy status but it works for me.  I’ve been well-served by my iTunes and Amazon account for many years. These days Hulu+, Netflix streaming and my satellite dish are serving my consumption needs nicely as I mend my fractured bones.  I’m so happy SJCPL went the iPod route a few years ago. I also tried to use  an iPhone app for downloadable content and never had success accessing the collections at my library. If it’s hard to use, limited in weird ways or doesn’t have “interesting to me” content, I’m gone. iTunes and Amazon fit the bill very nicely – as do the actual physical CDs I purchase from a very small number of artists.

Because I’m no longer working in libraries everyday, I’m glad folks like Sarah are actively sharing their insights with our community. It benefits me as an educator and it will surely benefit librarians who may be considering one of the services or options out there. I hope we can continue thinking, talking and sharing about this issue.

Tech Trends at ALA TechSource

I couldn’t participate in the rescheduled ALA TechSource Webinar but I was able to contribute slides and some text.

Organizational Immersive Learning

This subcategory addresses the outstanding success of the Learning 2.0 model of staff training: free, open, and inclusive. I was going to highlight my Australian research project sponsored by CAVAL. The foundation for this multi-dimensional study comes from the global replication of the program (1000 institutions and counting) and the words of Stephen Abram: ““I believe that this has been one of the most transformational and viral activities to happen globally to libraries in decades.”

Here’s a bit from a draft article my co-investigator Warren Cheetham and I just submitted to the New Review of Academic Librarianship that features a content analysis of focus groups with academic librarians:

What has been the lasting impact on your library after Learning 2.0?

These statements sum up the majority of responses to this question:

  • I am more confident with new technologies now.
  • I am more inclined to explore new technologies now.
  • I am more in the know about these technologies now.

Respondents shared statements concerning their comfort level trying out new sites and tools. One noted:  “It’s nice that it’s encouraged – like the learning through play idea and then get on and poke it and see what it does, hopefully that’s encouraged that behaviour a bit more with everyone so that if you do get stuck in that situation where you follow the instructions and it doesn’t work, you feel a bit more confident to go ‘I wonder what happens if I click this or poke this’…”

Another addressed confidence levels and dealing with change as well: “Yeah, just being receptive to new stuff because change is always a scary thing for a lot of people, it’s scary I know so yeah, that’s why this has been really good.”

Take a look at the slides for three word clouds of the content analysis from the questions examining the lasting impact and results of Learning 2.0 in libraries. The third is a synthesis of our overall findings so far. I have long suggested that libraries and other organizations adapt this model of continuous, immersive learning and believe our study results will support this view. I hope to expand the research to Europe and the US in the coming months.

Personal Learning Networks in the Cloud

The second subcategory addresses the power of participating in the thriving online communities of librarians and library staff available to all in the “cloud.” The slides detail just one example of benefiting from participating in Twitter – subscribe to folks who inspire you or make you think, follow along, chime in, share. The examples are from a talk I gave where I asked my own PLN what I advice they’d share with the LIS students.

Developing your own PLN can come from subscribing to blogs and news sites, Twitter, Facebook and participating in any number of online learning opportunities. A broad PLN might also include the people you learn from in physical space, your reading in and outside of the profession AND everything you encounter in your day to day. I have some serious “aha!” moments when I encounter cool things are doing with service and information delivery out in the world.

Learning in Flux

Finally, the most important part of the trend is the fact that teaching and learning are also changing – models for delivering education are rapidly adapted to the power of the Web, social technologies and mobile devices. The model of sitting in a lecture hall or classroom once or twice a week is becoming less and less important as devices and delivery methods allow us to engage in learning practically anytime and anywhere.

The slides detail some of the goals I have for my students in our LIS program – the world of libraries and educational institutions will be very different in the coming years for our recent grads. They have great work to do –  I call on new librarians and seasoned professionals to do three things: Support these new models with all of the foundational aspects of what we do, but also be present inside these new virtual learning spaces right along with the professors and students, ever ready to guide them. And – look toward creating flexible and vibrant learning spaces in both the physical and virtual world.

I was asked to describe my future vision of education and library support for an upcoming book on the topic o be published in Australia. Here’s a bit of those iudeas that’ve adapted into recent talks:

The ecology of information created within our own learning networks knows no boundaries. It’s not just the cyber world but also our physical spaces that are adapting and evolving. How will classrooms look in ten years? What will school libraries be then? I envision learning spaces and collaborative hubs with spokes that stretch out across communities. Engaged learning will play out along these spokes – at home, at cafes, in the park, community centers and at libraries and of course in educational institutions. For this to come to fruition, barriers must be thrown down, new methods introduced and constantly improved and old paradigms tossed out. We should, however, always stand firm on the foundations of our missions: for educators and for librarians. Ground yourself there but spread the proverbial wings as wide as you can.

Reprinted from:

Internet Librarian International Interview

I was recently interviewed for an email blast for ILI2010. Hope to see you in London in October! Here’s the text:

Internet Librarian International continues to provide pertinent resources and support for today’s information environments. With the shifting emphasis on information provision; constantly-evolving methods for delivering it; increased demands from users; and tighter than ever budgets, we asked Advisory Board member, Michael Stephens, for his views on the future for library technologies and more … Read the full Internet Librarian International programme here.

I would have to say the advent of participatory technologies has been the single most important technology development for librarians in the last 5 years. Call it the social Web, social networking, 2.0, mobile technology, whatever, but the importance is four-fold:

— The tools/technologies have allowed people to interact in ways online that go beyond simple one way publishing.

— It’s created a sense of community for many people. Look at all the various communities we can participate in online just in our profession.

— These technologies allowed for the creation of Learning 2.0 from Helene Blowers and the people at Charlotte Mecklenberg Library. My current research focus is on the impact and benefits of “23 Things” and what happens in libraries after the completion of the program.

— I see this as the advent of DIY Culture with technology. Open source solutions have put high end development of content and community sites in the hands of everyone

Amplify these with what location-aware services are enabling for people and physical spaces and you have a powerful connector. I am fascinated by the power there is in adding data and knowledge to geographic spaces, turning a community into a large collaboration space. This will change the way we travel, work and play in ways we probably haven’t even imagined. That’s why I want libraries to be playing an active role in user education about all of these technologies as well as creating vibrant info spaces with them and for them.

My current favourite technology innovation?
I am REALLY enjoying my iPad and all its possibilities. I’ve started reading much more via the iPad Kindle app and iBooks reader. I can use my iPhone 4 or iPad to share via Facebook or Twitter, and I can snap a photo or record and edit a movie for upload to YouTube. I think this must mean that my favourite technology right now is mobile technology access to my life-streams and friends – wherever I happen to be.  This speaks to the possibilities for our connected future. As networks improve and devices become more powerful, the opportunities for learning, exploration and connection with friends/family is huge.

As a professor, the potential for delivering course content and interacting with students via a handheld device is very attractive.I can’t imagine the model of driving to a classroom and sitting for 3 hours for a class will be the definitive one much longer. The library supporting the future of learning will have to be just as mobile and just as connected.

Where’s it all headed? My predictions for library technologies in the next few years
We’ll see even more advances with open source, more libraries making the jump to software developed for the common good, and more development of user communities built around library services. I think we’ll also see streamlined services more-focused on user needs and wants – wherever those users happen to be.

Content will continue to shift to a model of direct producer delivery to the end user, cutting out the middleman… I think broadcast has done a good job of diversifying into new methods of delivery. The music industry and even movie business came kicking and screaming. I’m also watching ebooks closely; it just makes so much sense to circulate Kindles, etc. That doesn’t mean libraries won’t have content – they always will. Some of it may be of a different sort. Some of it will be made up of user-contributed content.  I look to libraries like DOK in the Netherlands and libraries in Finland and Sweden for a glimpse at what’s possible with user-generated content and creation spaces.

I’m really looking forward to Internet Librarian International for this reason – interaction, networking and discussion about innovative practice in libraries that will point to the future.

Michael Stephens leads the Internet Librarian International workshop: A Roadmap to the Hyperlinked Library onWednesday 13 October. In addition, he presents Transparency in Hyperlinked Libraries; Hot Topics in Innovation; and Library Futures: Views and Visions for the Future of Libraries & Information Professionals at Internet Librarian International on Friday 15 October.

Library in Your Pocket – Presentation on Mobile Strategies from EDUCAUSE

I’m prepping for my talk on Tuesday at the NY Academic Librarians Conference and I’m thoroughly enjoying clicking through this EDUCAUSE presentation from David Woodbury (North Carolina State University) and Jason Casden (North Carolina State University) from last January! I am sorry it took this long to get to it.

Take a look:

Students are arriving on college campuses with the ability to connect to the web with a diverse array of mobile devices. However, some online services aren’t a good fit for the small screen, and new services can also be developed that take advantage of the mobile user context. Developers of the NCSU Libraries Mobile site ( will share their strategy and techniques for creating a suite of mobile services that are optimized for a majority of mobile web platforms, from iPhones to flip phones. The session will also include a discussion of site usage and promotion as well as plans for future mobile services.

Thanks Education Institute! Trends & Tech for Libraries 2010

A big shout out to the libraries in Canada that participated in my Education Institute talk today. I can’t believe how much we covered in one hour. Exploring trends shaping users information experiences and environments always fires me up. The trends I highlighted today include:

  1. Ubiquitous Social Tools
  2. Personal Learning Networks in the Cloud
  3. Spaces with Heart
  4. Immersive Learning & Play
  5. The Changing Path of Content
  6. Location Aware Information Environments
  7. Transliteracy
  8. Integrated Devices & Tablet Mania
  9. Building a Community of Users
  10. Learning & Teaching in Flux

The slides are available here:

Mobile Devices & Libraries Experts Speak at ALA

Libraries had better prepare for an explosion in the capacity of mobile devices as well as the transformative increase in user capacity and expectations. This was the message conveyed by a panel yesterday at the American Library Association’s (ALA) Annual Conference on Libraries and Mobile Devices: Public Policy Considerations.

After all, explained Jason Griffey, assistant professor and head of Library Information Technology at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, cell phones are the most popular and ubiquitous information device worldwide; in 50 countries, cell phone penetration (phones/person) exceeds 100 percent.

By the end of 2010, he continued, 90 percent of the world’s population will have access to a cell-phone signal. Right now, more than 60 percent of people have a cell-phone subscription, and three-quarters of them use text messaging. That total, 2.4 billion people, is twice the number currently using email.

Further, more people are now accessing the web through mobile devices such as a smartphone. New examples include the always-on Kindle and the growing number of netbooks.

Read the whole article. It provides great coverage of a dynamic session and much food for thought. Griffey, Eli Neiberger and Tom Peters make up the ultra-hot panel of experts assembled to talk about mobile devices and libraries.

What Libraries Can Learn from Facebook

Peter Bromberg wirites:

But I also think that librarians, at times, can be too knee-jerk about privacy issues, and I wonder if while looking at one end of the Facebook dustup (big corporation trampling on privacy rights) we might be missing some important lessons on the other end (big corporation letting customers control their own information in exchange for a highly engaging experience. And Facebook DOES give customers a tremendous, leading edge, amount of control. See: “10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know.)

We all know that people (myself, and probably you included) will share personal information in exchange for a quality experience. We share personal renting and buying habits in exchange for Netflix and Amazon recommendations. We share personal reading habits on GoodReads and LibraryThing to connect with others who share our interests and tastes. We share our credit card numbers with many online vendors in exchange for the convenience of “one-click” ordering.

We know all this, and we personally experience the benefits, but librarians still seem generally loathe to let our customers share their personal information in exchange for anything. We don’t just protect customer privacy, we paternalistically protect it from the customers themselves, rendering them childlike. Our privacy philosophy often reduces down to, “We know better”, or “You can’t be trusted with that–you’ll hurt yourself.”

Well said, Peter! I am really counting on some of the emerging systems like Bibliocommons, the SOPAC and more to help us come to terms with users making connections within our spaces.