Ten Techie Things for Librarians 2006 (Updated 2)

On January 27th, I spoke at the Panhandle Library Access Network Tech Day. The crowd, facilities and discussion were incredible. We discussed many of these points as well as ways to effectively incorporate and plan for new technologies, such as IM, blogs and wikis. It’s appropriate then to post this list I’ve been working on because I believe these are some things librarians need to be aware of as we move into 2006 and beyond, amid the discussions of Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the future of library services. Last year’s list is here.

These are the things I would want a knowledgeable, tech savvy staff to be aware of and consider/discuss for their libraries. Some may fit, some may not. In strategic planning, long range plan meetings and in any incarnation of the emerging technology committee, I would hope an “in the know” librarian at the table could speak about these things.

These are culled from various blogs, readings, presentations, discussions and pondering. For your consideration:

User Centered Planning & User Perceptions

“Technology and libraries in the 21st century are wedded, and this marriage is a long-lasting one. A library that recognizes how technology can improve services for its community is destined for success. No matter what technologies or services you go with, remember to plan with your users in mind.”

That still holds true in 2006, and now even more so. Since I wrote that paragraph for LJ in the summer of 2004, user involvement is even more important. We must involve library users as soon as possible for most initiatives and planning for new services, new buildings, new formats.

Also, we must be aware of what our users think about information services and libraries. OCLC’s Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources is a milestone in 2005 for me and I hope it will be read and used in 2006 for libraries seeking to understand how people look for information and what they think of the library.

Mine the Perceptions report for data as you rethink, re-energize and adapt services. For example, 51% of folks use IM. What’s the percentage now for libraries offering an IM reference service? I know it’s much more than when Aaron and I wrote about IM last spring but probably not anywhere near the amount of folks in your community, on your campus, in school or in your company or ortganization.

With the new tools at our disposal we can more easily involve users and encourage their participation. How about a concrete examples?

Blyberg seeks to involve patrons with developing plug ins to deliver library services on other web sites.

And Jennifer Rice detailed a pretty scary NOT user-centered experience at OCLC Symposium at Midwinter. Via Jenny:

Convenience (I want what I want, and I want it right NOW); Jennifer hasn’t stepped in a library since college; personal story: tried to get a library card online, but couldn’t, got lost going to the library because the directions on the website were wrong, then she had to wait in line for forms, filled them out, librarians wouldn’t take them because address on form didn’t match her license; would have given up right there if wasn’t speaking here today; was amazed at the databases she could use – need to market more to small businesses; should be more concerned about NetFlix more than Google because of the convenience factor – would pay $20 a month for unlimited books…

How does this make you feel? Are there too many barriers to getting folks access to materials? To me, this story speaks volumes: we need better processes, streamlined access and marketing. And a wise librarian I know said it well: this story should provide a roadmap to better services. I hope it does.

Building Resources & Comments Enabled

Libraries are using blogs to disseminate news, program information and more. In 2005, we saw the next wave of libraries using weblogs to interact with their users and communities. By enabling comments, allowing users to create accounts , and entering into discussions with them, we are taking communication and conversation to the next level.

My cohort colleague Margaret Lincoln creates a blog for students to discuss Night by Elie Wiesel and Infomancy describes toward School Library 2.0.

Enter wikis as well in the last couple of years, with Meredith Farkas leading the way, and take a look at the SJCPL Subject Guides or Butler’s Reference Resources wiki. Librarians are building resources with these tools.

Be aware then of the benefits of using these tools to build your Web presence:

Multiple librarian authors can create content for both blogs & wikis

Librarians and Users can discuss, collaborate and create

There are benefits for internal use as well!

Any library with any level of funding can start a blog and use it successfully, wikis might require a bit more technical expertise but there are resources to help folks get started.

Enabling comments allows us to have conversations with our users and with our staff. People expect to be able to comment! That’s the legacy of message boards, Amazon reviews, blogs, wiki discussions, and the Cluetrain!

Open Source Software & Shared Development

How wonderful is it that developers are providing Open Source tools for us? Software such as WordPress and MediaWiki are changing the way libraries do business. Using Drupal, the folks at Ann Arbor created something very special.

I truly believe we can say goodbye to the days of design companies coming in and pitching Web site services for big bucks. Libraries should instead hire coders and librarians with a background in resource development and the open source movement.

Library schools: what I might suggest to you is creating courses designed to teach the skills demonstrated by the coding librarians and system planners and how about a course devoted to OSS in Librearies? I had one at UNT last year!

ILS vendors: what I would say to you is watch this movement closely and be ready to interact with your clients when they ask questions about development and features.

Ponder Open Source Software for your public computers in libraries. Ponder OSS solutions for IM applications, browsers and more. And watch Evergreen and Koha closely.

Update: From a comment to this post by Solveig Haugland that I think should be in the text!

I’m so glad you posted this, with the reference to open source software.

Open source software is going to have a huge, positive effect on libraries, as well as schools, city and state governments, and many other organizations. You can provide OpenOffice.org office suite software, instead of Microsoft Office, for free to library patrons for use. No limit on the number of licenses; it’s free for as many computers as you can put it on. The computers themselves of course will be cheaper too since you can put Linux on them instead of Microsoft Windows. So that means you can have more computers, for patrons and for library employees.

When the software is free, it opens up so many options for spending the money on more important things. That’s the key.

Keyword: FREE!

The Future of the ILS

This is big stuff. On your reading list under this heading should be Casey Bisson’s post about arguments over the ILS and Blyberg’s Bill of Rights. Read the comments, follow the trackbacks, take the links. This will be an important discussion in the next few years.

I wrote this at ALA TechSource: “We need to open up discussions with the professionals at our ILS vendors, database providers, and subscription services and ask them: “Are you making the best product you can that will work for all of my users no matter where they are?” Inquire about built-in RSS feeds, tagging, and user commenting while you’re at it. The vendors that get it are, hopefully, already communicating future innovations as these.”

Karen noted at the burning HOT Lita Blog: It’s no longer enough to say “the ILS sucks.” It’s “The ILS sucks and this is what we’re doing about it.” It’s not just saying we need to do less cataloging and more tagging, but actually following through with the transformations. It’s saying we need to stop treating library services like a monopoly operation and act as if we have competitors–as indeed we do, as many funding battles in this country have demonstrated. It’s taking the issues to the road, as is happening with Library 2.0.


Are you ready to circulate 4 seasons of 24 on a video iPod? Are you read to answer a reference question via SMS they way Google does? Are you ready for library users expecting your stuff to work on their stuff?

Are you ready to remake and remodel the Audio Visual Department?

Some applications and uses may meet resistance or be of a questionable legal nature.

Be aware and don’t discount converged devices, PDAs, phones, storage media and the next big thing. Examine your policies and procedures. Can users plug in to your PCs? Are we ready for next super hot gadget?

Electronic Resource Management & DRM

Ron Davies gave a wonderful presentation at Internet Librarian International last year highlighting that one of our new professional roles is that of “Electronic Resources Management Librarian.” Any library that has a medium to largish database budget might consider a postion like this. Ron also noted that in any library, to effectively manage ER, all of the following folks have to be actively involved: Acquisitions, Systems, Cataloging and Reference Librarians.

He urged us to perform such tasks as an “overlap analysis” and manage usage statistics well. Have you looked recently to see if you have duplication of coverage for some resources? Is the state database program you’re in providing something comparable to what you are paying for? Is an expensive databse unused?

And boy oh boy are we still dealing with DRM! From WIRED: “This year may be the year that gadget makers finally conquer the living room, replacing DVD players, VCRs and personal video recorders with all-in-one media devices that serve up HDTV, pre-recorded movies and digital music. If so, it will likely also be the year that people learn the meaning of DRM, an acronym the industry says stands for digital rights management, but critics say should stand for digital restrictions mongering.

This plays right into the bits above about devices and the future of music.

For planners and librarians looking forward: it might be a good idea to designate a “DRM Librarian” as well — nothing too official but someone on staff to keep up with what’s happening and be the advisor for meetings. All of us in the biz, however, should have a good grip on DRM. Enter the Librarian in Black and her pointer to an Introduction to DRM.

Mash Ups & Playlists

Check out Wikipedia’s entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashup_%28web_application_hybrid%29

A mashup is a website or web application that seamlessly combines content from more than one source into an integrated experience. Content used in mashups is typically sourced from a third party via a public interface or API. Other methods of sourcing content for mashups include Web feeds (e.g. RSS or Atom) and JavaScript includes. The etymology of this term almost certainly derives from its similar use in pop music. Many people are experimenting with mashups using eBay, Amazon, Google, and Yahoos APIs.

This is a good one to know about and understand how it changes folks’ experiences with the Web. And the concept could extend into the physical as well. How might we mash up services and sources in libraries?

And how about a library mash up that becomes a playlist? Read that post from Will Richardson. Give it some thought time. And watch for more and more mixing, mashing, remixing and playlisting coming to a library near you!

Content & Experience

“Do something. Say something. Make something.” Apple Slogan

PEW reported on content. Simply put: people are generating more and more content. The tools are making it easier and easier to podcast, create films, remix and reshape information and share the experience. Look at this report on Generation C. Libraries can play a key role in this.

Readers here know I’m into the idea of digital creation stations and building a space for content creation in the library. This may be a key role we play in giving everyone access to creation tools, a space to play and some training.

Content goes well with experience as well. Check out Infomancy’s take on Library 2.0 & experience: Rich LIBRARY PATRON Experience: Like Web 2.0, L2 has to remain focused on meeting patron needs. The old joke is the network was running fine until a user logged in. An L2 “experience” that meets our needs will put libraries out of business faster than any of the perceived current shortcomings. Also note that, like many of the emerging definitions of Library 2.0 I am glad to see, a “rich” experience should involve online and physical interactions.

David King writes about experience: The exciting part of this concept is the stuff between each of these dimensions. This is where the four realms of experience come into play – that of entertainment, education, escapism, and estheticism.

David will be taking the Experience Library idea to Computers in libraries 2006. be sure to catch his talk!

Gaming is a new experience at libraries as well. The libraries offering gaming programs are providing a social experience for youth and adults that certainly goes against the stereotypes opf library service. Check out Chris Deweese’s post about gaming and his images. That’s some good marketing there with the banners in front of the library! Check out the Gaming Symposium blog and Aaron’s pics too!

And DDR is good for you too!

Web 2.0

Read Stephen Abram’s incredible article!

I think Web 2.0 goes much further than this, actually beyond an application focus. It’s really about the “hot” Web. I am talking here about “hot” in the McLuhanesque sense of the hot and cold or warm and cool aspects of technology. What makes the Web warmer or hotter? Interactivity. Of course the Web is already interactive in a cooler sense. You can click and get results. You can send email and get responses. You can go to Web sites and surf. The old World Wide Web was based on the “Web 1.0” paradigm of Web sites, email, search engines, and surfing. Web 2.0 is about the more human aspects of interactivity. It’s about conversations, interpersonal networking, personalization, and individualism.

Learn about AJAX. Read up on Web 2.0. Take a look at how Web 2.0 has begat other memes carrying the 2.0 designation. Ponder if cracks in the Social Tools are beginning to show. And don’t miss one of the best voices of Web 2.0, Dion Hinchcliffe, and his Ten issues facing Web 2.0.

Librarians & the Heart (the Emotional part of this post)

Putting the personal into what we do! I honestly believe the best libraries of the future will encourgae the heart and librarians will put humanity into the library’s virtual presence.

Stephen Abram noted that libraries are innovating yes but many are not yet moving in a new direction: “However, too many haven’t moved into the next generation strategies. Many fail to recognize that the majority of their use is often coming in virtually and they haven’t rebalanced their strategic efforts. Too many haven’t put the librarian and personal services into their virtual environments.”

Think of your favorite blogs? Don’t they have a bit of that human, emotional element? Do your favorite library authors inspire you with feeling as well as biblio-hotness? This should carry to conferences as well. What presentations really got you going at the last conference you attended? Was there an emotional component? Ponder this: “The Sound of One Room Napping” : Conference speakers need to appeal to the rational side of their audience, of course. Humans are rational beings after all. But our evidence, proof and “facts” need to be placed in context and need to connect and appeal to the emotional too. Some argue that emotion is not necessarily irrational, that intelligence and emotion go hand in hand. And that may be. My point is that facts alone are rarely a sufficient condition for change or impact (though they are a necessary condition).

Alane weighs in on ‘Libraries and the Heart’.

Bonus: Balance, Breathing and Being Zen

Of course, here’s this one again. We can’t forget to take care of ourselves and each other. No ILS, RSS Feed, blog, iPod or Treo is going to take care of our physical, emotional and spiritual selves. That’s up to us and those we love. Don’t miss out on that part too. Just sayin’.

With that, it’s 70′ degrees in the Panhandle and I feel the need to walk on the beach. Best to you all!