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December 31, 2005

New Sony e-Book Reader

A new e-book reader is coming from Sony, and this time it’s going to be a hit.  Capable of reading PDF files in addition to Sony’s proprietary e-books, this new reader incorporates technology that makes readability outstanding and battery power extremely efficient.  Harper Collins and Random House plan on announcing over 50,000 available titles, all to be made available on Sony’s new i-Tunes-like storefront.  

Which libraries will be first to strike a deal?


 

December 27, 2005

Public Domain Audio Books -- Wow!

Head on over to LibriVox and see that they’ve been doing with public domain books! LibriVox is busy making audio recordings of public domain titles, and then offering them as open source, public domain, downloads. Wow!

Via TechCrunch.

Writely, we need you!

Let me start by saying that I love Writely.  I’ve been using it for over two months now and it’s the best online collaborative writing tool that exists.  That being said, they need to add at least one feature to make it really useful to library customers – built-in emailing.

Writely is a wonderful tool for customers wanting to craft resumes and cover letters, but sending them to prospective employers is complicated by library OPAC security. Many library OPACs are strictly limited in their abilities and forbid saving files locally except on floppies or USB drives (though some libraries even limit this). For Writely to be really useful in these situations they need to introduce a file emailing function that allows the user to send his Writely document to an outside email address.  When the customer creates a resume all they should need to do is click on “Email this as a Word Doc” and the Writely user’s email address is appended to the outgoing attachment, allowing all replies to go to that user’s personal email account.  Writely already does this with their customer comment form by appending my personal email address to the comment.

Writely, are you listening?

 

(PS: Writeboard already does this but in a more limited way -- they don't append your personal email address.) 

December 23, 2005

Just a Personal Note

So 2006 is almost upon us, and many of my fellow thinkers are doing more creative things than I am, writing lists and making plans for next year.  Some are suffering losses I am all too familiar with, and my heart goes out to them.  I lost my best friend Duncan this past August, and while I do not want to get too personal on this blog, I miss him terribly.  This is the first holiday season in twelve years that he will not be opening presents with us.

But this coming year also has much to look forward to.  My new library will finally be opening sometime this spring, and the local community will, I hope, be very happy to see us.  I think they’re going to like the 20,000 square foot facility and the many services we’ll have on offer.

Also in the first part of the year, I’ve been invited to participate in MSN Search Champs 4 in Seattle in January, so this will be my first opportunity to see the Microsoft campus in Redmond – I’m very excited about this.  I hope it’s okay for me to mention that I’ll be taking part in a SirsiDynix Institute on February 22 – this should also be a lot of fun.  And finally for this spring, March brings my favorite conference, Computers in Libraries, in beautiful Washington DC, where I’ll get to spend some quick moments with Michael Stephens and his band of renegade librarian thinkers. As far as the rest of the year goes, we’ll just have to wait and see.

I hope everyone has a safe holiday season and a healthy and happy 2006.

Change

I and many others have been talking about the merits of Library 2.0 for many months now.  Other thinkers have been pushing Library 2.0-like ideas for many years.  The crux of my argument has always revolved around increasing our user base through the judicious implementation of flexible services and the adoption of new and external technologies and ideas – going after that Long Tail. But what has fueled this latest surge in L2 thought?  Part of me thinks that the wave of Web 2.0 technologies has allowed us, librarians, to think outside the proverbial box and see ways to deliver new services and reach new users.

But what explains the din of conversation about Library 2.0?  I’m going to go out on  a limb here and say that the primary reason so many of us are talking about change is because we fear for the future of our libraries.  It doesn’t take a Harvard MBA to see the financial cycles we all seem to live through – the brief ups and the long downs.  And while our ability to offer internet access has kept our door counts high, we know that as soon as high-speed connectivity reaches a certain saturation point those numbers will begin to drop.  Customers are demanding a wider variety of materials and services, and our inadequate resources are limiting our ability to respond.  We cannot stay the current course and expect to maintain the same level of importance within our communities.  Change is a requirement.

Fortunately, we see many libraries taking the lead and trying new ideas.  We see disruptive technologies being implemented in an effort to stretch resources and maintain services.  But these steps are only a start.  Change will be gradual but it will be far deeper and invasive than many think. Library political hierarchies, operating procedures, procurement philosophies, and success measures will all need to change.  The role we play (or do not play) in our communities will ultimately determine our success or failure.

December 15, 2005

ALA TechSource Discussion with Michael Stephens

Michael Stephens IMed me the other day and asked if we could have a brief discussion about Library 2.0 and the path libraries are on.  The results of that discussion are here.  Thanks to Michael Stephens for the opportunity.

December 14, 2005

Peer review study compares Wikipedia and Britannica

The journal Nature takes a look at accuracy in Wikipedia and Britannica and comes up with some interesting findings.

The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopaedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not particularly great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, about three.

Only eight serious errors, such as misinterpretations of important concepts, were detected in the pairs of articles reviewed, four from each encyclopaedia. But reviewers also found many factual errors, omissions or misleading statements: 162 and 123 in Wikipedia and Britannica, respectively.

December 13, 2005

Talis and Library 2.0

Talis is throwing together a round-table to discuss Library 2.0. I’m not sure what to think of this, though I hope that John Blyberg is invited to be a part of their discussion.  Talis has taken a very proactive approach to this L2 discussion, publishing a white paper several weeks ago and blogging regularly about the idea.

Something I’ve been trying to stress (how successfully, I can’t say) is that Library 2.0 is not simply about technology – though L2 does take advantage of many great Web 2.0 applications.  I can understand why a large ILS vendor wants to be a part of the L2 discussion, and I look forward to hearing how they plan to make better L2 technology.  However, there are numerous service aspects of L2 not directly related to technology, so I'm not sure how involved in that part of the L2 discussion an ILS vendor can be.

Talis also seems to be planning a presentation at CIL 2006.  I look forward to sitting in on their discussion.

December 12, 2005

Blyberg's Beautiful Drupal

What a great post John Blyberg has written regarding Ann Arbor District Library’s implementation of Drupal as their content management system!  AADL has been doing amazing things, and I’m not the first to recognize this series of great accomplishments.  Their use of a blog for the main web page is brave but it appears that it’s been very successful – so many of their posts have high numbers of comments.  The sense of community this creates is invaluable.  

I come away with two key bits of advice from his post.  First is to plan and practice.  Blyberg mentions spending at least six months looking at content management systems (CMS) before settling on Drupal (hey John, thanks for doing the legwork!). Built into his plan is the expectation of future change and updating -- vital if our services are to evolve and succeed.

The other key bit of advice?  Have a backup plan that can be quickly implemented.  When rolling out his new CMS he had a quick fallback to the old OPACs.  This is so very important, not just for your customers, but for your own neck as well!  Trying and failing is one thing, trying and failing and shutting down your entire online presence is another thing all together.  Have a backup.

My favorite quote? Easy, it’s this:

There is always going to be the one person who throws a Snickers bar in the pool. The public is not going to hold the library responsible for these people when they hijack a comment thread and become belligerent, rude, or aggressive. Our general policy that we ask our users to adhere to states that they should be respectful and stay on-topic, but there are people who can’t seem to manage that. The best thing, in those circumstances, is to let it go. We moderate profanity and leave content intact (we just add bl**p marks). Users will generally ignore them or dismiss them quickly. My point is, don’t be scared of these people, and don’t let their existence hold your plans hostage.

Yahoo / Flickr / Del.icio.us / Movable Type

Yahoo is on a Web 2.0 buying spree.  Having already acquired Flickr, my favorite photo-sharing website, earlier this year, just this past weekend they announced the purchase of Del.icio.us, my favorite social bookmarking site, and they revealed their plans to distribute Movable Type, my favorite blogging tool.

December 10, 2005

The Constant Connectivity Divide

We hear a lot about most people having home internet access – PEW studies show this.  We also read a lot about this idea of constant connectivity and continuous computing, and the advantages inherent in this level of access.  What we do not yet hear being discussed is this new divide – not of those who do not have internet access from home, but those people who do not have the PDAs, the iPods, the Treos – all of the devices that create this constant connectivity, that allow instant answers, and give users incredible advantages.  How are libraries addressing this?  We provided computers and internet access to this demographic in the ‘80s and ‘90s – the Gates Foundation did much for libraries in this area.  But this newer divide is different.  Can libraries address it?

Santa at Starbucks

Okay, a bit off-target, but I thought you'd all want to know that Santa takes his coffee at Starbucks.  He didn't speak to me -- I think he was in a rush.

 

December 07, 2005

A Dialogue on L2: The services change, the mission does not

I received this from Laura Savastinuk today: 

There has been a lot of discussion recently over what is Library 2.0 and what everyone really thinks it means - and that is fantastic.   But, I'm beginning to feel as though we're drowning ourselves in philosophy and forgetting the main point of all this - better library service.  I'm reading where people are debating whether Library 2.0 should it be Library 3.0, Library 4.0, Library 5.0, etc.  If the name is such an issue, why not call it Library X?  And then there are people pondering over what a library really is? Is it a building or an organization or just an idea? And should we talk about 2.0 in terms of libraries or librarians?  Not a bad discussion to have, but I'm worried we're going to lose ourselves by over-analyzing what is really a simple concept.   I just don't want the main point of Library 2.0 to be lost because we're (all) being too detail-specific OR too philosophical, at this stage anyway.  You did say that Library 2.0 (or whatever we call it) is best defined by individual libraries.  If so, then we don't want to bog ourselves down in details that should ultimately be decided by whatever library incorporates this new method of service.  What are your thoughts on that?

 

I agree. We're seeing many of the same questions being tossed at Library 2.0 (L2) as we do at Web 2.0.   This is to be expected. Many want to control the meaning, the definition of L2; all I want is to do is illuminate the goal. We’re all going to see and view L2 differently because we’re all moving at different speeds and we’re at different points along the path to L2.  Our view of L2 is relative to our own situation, but we can agree on certain fundamental goals that Library 2.0 speaks to.

One thing you mention that goes through my mind a lot is, "what is a library?"  I'm not sure we know anymore, and I fear one of the things we're going to see is increasingly diverse interpretations of what a library really is.  There is no way to begin including some of the things that have been discussed as being L2 without thinking that libraries may soon begin deviating from each other's understanding of library.

This, to me, is where a clearly defined mission comes into play.  The tools we use, the services we offer, the staffing models we follow…all of it can change (and needs to change in order to evolve and improve) so long all we do drives us towards serving our mission.  The services change, the mission does not.

December 06, 2005

Whatever tools take us there are the ones we will use

Michael Stephens mentions Library 2.0 and a post from this blog in one of his recent entries.  A comment to that entry takes issue with technology and the role it plays in Library 2.0.  This is my response.

I think the first thing we need to realize is that Library 2.0 is not a fixed target, and every library’s starting point is going to differ.  If you’ve integrated change into every level of your service creation structure then kudos to your system, but most libraries have not reached that point yet, and for them, reaching that stage is a major mile marker on the way to 2.0. 

It’s easy to say that technology is a panacea for all library service woes, but it’s simply not so.  New technologies have been allowing us to provide better and better service for years; it’s just that we’ve been providing that service to the same customer base, without effectively reaching out to that part of the demographic that have never been library users.  Reaching this diverse group – this long tail, if you will – is a fundamental goal of 2.0.

I would never argue that technology’s role is unimportant in reaching new levels of library service delivery – itself a major goal of library 2.0.  But technology must never be viewed as the reason for the change, merely the tool

I think it’s fundamentally flawed to say that technology is to libraries as oxygen is to our lives.  Were technology to disappear (or stop advancing) today, libraries would be able to continue providing critical services and would be able to expand and change to meet the needs of our users (and those we want to be our users), all within the framework of what is available.  This fluidity, this ability to use whatever resources are available, be they high tech or not, in an efficient and effective manner, is what Library 2.0 symbolizes.

Every library has a different starting point.  Every library has a different set of constraints it must operate within – most often financial and political.  And every library has a slightly different mission.  Crafting better and better services, giving customers more and more control over library offerings, and reaching a greater and greater proportion of the population – all while seeking to fulfill that mission -- is the goal of Library 2.0. 

Whatever tools take us there are the ones we will use.  Many of those tools will come from the world of Web 2.0, and many of the tools we use will have nothing to do with technology, but will instead be ways of thinking and philosophical approaches to librarianship.
 

December 05, 2005

What Is Library 2.0???

There has been a lot of discussion about Library 2.0 -- what is it and what role does it play in libraries. This post at MaisonBisson really explains things well. 

For me, Library 2.0 is not about technology.  Library 2.0 seeks to harvest good ideas from outside and use them to deliver improved and new services, often times in an effort to reach a new target population.  Library 2.0 is, at its core, a way of thinking, a way of operating.  It’s a framework for integrating change into all levels of library operationsIt's in our effort to reach this new level of service that we will utilize these new, often times Web 2.0, technologies.