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January 30, 2006

Decentralization and the Integrator

From MercuryTide comes a brief whitepaper on decentralization.  This is exactly what I was talking about several weeks back when I mentioned our need for an integrator.

This is from their summary, but please go read the whole document:

The web is becoming more and more important to modern life, especially in Western business. This large uptake encourages those with ideas to create exciting new ways to use the web. These ideas are those that important web companies — such as Google, Yahoo, and more recently Microsoft — are putting their money and expertise behind.

By pulling many of the applications that stem from these ideas together it is possible to harness this evolution and use the web as a computing platform. And while the current crop can’t replace your desktop entirely, they certainly want to head in that direction. In the next year or two we will see if they can continue their success and bring a life online closer to reality.

January 26, 2006

Within the inner sanctum

For the past two days Microsoft has been wining and dining a group of tech writers and bloggers and a few luck library-types like myself, and they've been doing it in a fashion only MS can do -- top quality lodging, food, etc... We've been shown many new applications they're planning on rolling out, only a few of which I can discuss since we're under a strict non-disclosure agreement. Michael at TechCrunch has a very good overview of what we can discuss, so I'll point you there for more technicial info. MS has also been listening to our ideas and suggestions and asking us some very good questions regarding their new and exisiting products. All-in-all, it's been a very informative and productive experience.

I'll post more upon my return this weekend.

January 19, 2006

Going to Seattle

Next Tuesday I fly out to Seattle for Microsoft Search Champs v4.  I received an email several weeks ago inviting me to participate and, though I must admit to never having heard of it, after hearing a little about it I was very interested.  I had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, but I’ll share as much as I can after it’s over.  I see that Frederico Oliveira over at WeBreakStuff has said he’s going, as has Richard MacManus from Read/WriteWeb.  These two guys have some of the best Web 2.0 blogs on the net, so I can’t wait to meet them.

Like Frederico, I’m also very anxious to see the new Seattle Public Library’s Central Branch, so I booked my return flight as a red eye just so I can spend the afternoon exploring the library.  The only other thing on my itinerary is a great cup of coffee and taking lots of photos.

January 18, 2006

Photography and the National Archives

I attended a presentation yesterday by James McSweeney, the regional administrator of the National Archives Southeast Region.  The presentation was sponsored by North Georgia Associated Libraries and hosted by the Sequoyah Regional Library System.  The presentation was excellent, and McSweeney gave a wonderful talk about the archive’s new 115,000 square foot facility in Morrow, Georgia, which just opened this past April.

But what really jumped out was the realization that so much of what has been captured on film over the past 75 years may not be captured in the next 75.  McSweeney’s presentation included many photographs by both famous and unknown photographers who were working under the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration (WPA).  There were numerous other federal programs that employed photographers and artists, but WPA was by far the largest.  WPA paid many now famous photographers such as Walker Evans and Berenice Abbott to travel the country and document the social and economic conditions of the time.  The resulting collection of images numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  Those images now serve as historical evidence, and they provide students and researchers with a priceless resource.

But where now?  Those images, all public domain because they were contracted by the U.S. government, will serve as official record for that era.  But what images will students be viewing in another fifty or one-hundred years to look back at this era and learn from?  I’m not so sure that this is a question of archiving so much as it’s a question of copyright and control.  The vaults of AP, Corbis, Agence France-Presse, Magnum, and so many other repositories are full of images reflecting this era.  But those images are copyrighted, and unavailable to use in the same manner as the images in the archive’s collection. 

I am not an archivist.  There may be projects underway that address just this need.  But I am a librarian that is very interested in photography and history, and I hope that there are projects being planned to bring contemporary images into the NARA collection, whether this is through individual or corporate donations of collections, or through the hiring of photographers to travel and document the contemporary U.S. much as they did under WPA.

January 17, 2006

Better Library Services for More People

From ALA TechSource, Better Library Services for More People

January 13, 2006

Talking with Talis: Library 2.0 Roundtable Discussion

Coming on January 31 will be a roundtable discussion about Library 2.0 on Talking with Talis.  Participating will be Thomas Brevik of Librarian 1.5, Michael Stephens of Tame the Web, T. Scott Plutchak of T. Scott, and myself of where you are right now.

If you have a question for us, send it to Paul Miller at podcasts [at] talis [dot] com before January 29.

Easily Pushing Info Via Text Message

TechCrunch drew my attention to a service by Teleflip that allows you to SMS (text message) anyone’s cell phone without needing to know who their carrier is by simply sending an email to their cell number by adding teleflip.com: 2125551212@teleflip.com. This may sound simple, but it does away with the need to know the receiver’s cell carrier (Teleflip figures that out themselves), which means the sender’s job is much easier.

What really got me thinking was how we could use this in libraries.  Without having to purchase any additional equipment or software, we could use the customer’s cell number (with their permission, of course) to send reminders about holds, late items, etc., by simply entering their cell number (plus @teleflip.com) into the email notification field in our ILS software.  From that point on, all messages would arrive as SMS text messages, right on their cell phone.

But that’s just the beginning.  We could push small amounts of content to target audiences that signup for our services – once a week bestsellers to our rapid readers, upcoming teen events to local teens, baby-and-me events to new moms, and all through a simple email distribution that sends the messages to the customer’s cell as a text message.  The possibilities are great, and certainly worth examining.

Express Your Ceteris Paribus Clauses

Back on January 7, 2006, Mark Lindner, author of “…the thoughts are broken…”, wrote a very interesting piece titled “Knowledge and knowing in library and information science”.  In it he discusses a book by John M. Budd, Knowledge and Knowing in Library and Information Science: a Philosophical Framework, and very eloquently ties it in to his thinking about Library 2.0.  Mark references several posts by Meredith and myself, and in a later comment exchange we discuss what I meant when I wrote a post titled “A Dialogue on L2: The services change, the mission does not".

I really appreciated Mark’s insightful comments and open dialogue, but, with all that's been written this week, this quote really stood out:

It is amazing how much you'll find yourself in agreement with another when you take the time to expose the assumptions and express your ceteris paribus clauses.

It is thirsty and difficult work though, and is best done face-to-face and over just a few or several pints of libation--something blogs desperately lack.

[comment link

January 11, 2006

Local Governments and Funding

For those public libraries that garner the majority of their funding from local or regional government bodies, getting attention, positive attention, has always been very important, especially when it comes to funding.  Historically we have depended upon the taxpayers, our daily customers/patrons, to place a high value on our services and pass on this appreciation by electing library-friendly politicians.

But this linkage can be slow and is often tenuous.  Happy library users do not always ask campaigning politicians where they stand on library funding issues.  Sometimes the only time a taxpayer notices funding issues is when it’s too late, and a branch has been closed or library staff has been laid off.

The library needs to be noticed and appreciated by those politicians, and we need to be recognized at a deeper level than simply being the institution that lends books and offers story times for kids (I’m not saying these aren’t also vital services, so don’t send me hate mail).  So how can the library get noticed by sitting government officials? 

One way would be to begin a formal program of providing information to the local government authority.  By working with local government leaders, whether it’s a board of commissioners or mayor or other body, the library could coordinate to provide detailed reports on the top two or three issues for an upcoming meeting.  The library could also be “on call” to provide detailed information (issue background reports, perhaps) at the request of any senior government official.  The point here is to make the library an important and formal resource in the eyes of local government officials and get them to remember that the library is a valuable resource for the community.

Since I’ve never started a program like this I’d be very interested to here if there are any libraries who are doing something similar, and if so, how successful they think it is.

What's In a Name?

I've dated women with names I didn't care for – I dare not mention them here since many now have spouses that own firearms. However, did those awful and sometimes unpronounceable names stop me from enjoying their company, learning from them and benefiting from the time we spent together? No, of course not.  So, in that same spirit – a détente, if you will -- I would like to discuss what I have always discussed here and still use the phrase/term/name/label/moniker Library 2.0.  You, dear reader, are free to substitute any name you prefer (but I warn you, don't yell it out at inopportune moments; Library 2.0 will hear you and never let you forget).

January 10, 2006

Substitute the Phrase...

Read the quote below from this excellent post by Dion Hinchcliffe (I'm quickly becoming a fan of his) and simply replace the phrase Web 2.0 with Library 2.0. Very interesting.

Web 2.0 Will Not Peak in 2006 But the Term Will - The interesting schizophrenia we have with the term and the ideas will get resolved. Microsoft went with Live Software instead of Web 2.0 and I've heard numerous other suggestions such as Web.Better, WebWare, Web++, Next Generation of the Web, and even Web 3.0. The term has been much derided and is losing love for sure. But I see almost no one criticizing the ideas behind Web 2.0; the concepts of social software, a read/write Web, entirely Web-based software, free form shared organization, the Web as API & Platform, software as a service, collective intelligence, The Long Tail, radical decentralization and the end of individual servers, and more. These ideas are truly compelling, and more importantly, they fit together and reinforce each other elegantly. This is going to be big stuff folks, but the term may not last out the year. If the right one comes along, expect a sea change almost overnight. (continue with full post)

A Line In the Sand? No.

A very reasoned look at certain aspects of the Library 2.0 discussion, from Dave's Blog, titled Confrontational Aspects of Library 2.0 Discussed.

January 09, 2006

A SirsiDynix Institute Conversation: The 2.0 Meme - Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0

A SirsiDynix Institute Conversation: The 2.0 Meme - Web 2.0, Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0

February 22, 2006   11 a.m. to 12 a.m. Eastern Time

As defined by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976) a meme is "a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation." Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, fashions, and even ways of building websites. A strong meme in the library world right now is the discussion that builds on the broader Internet conversation about Web 2.0—the interactive, hot Web. This conversation has been developing under the series title, Library 2.0. It's a hot conversation and very interesting since the participants have been musing about:

    * What the next generation of our libraries' Web presence might look like

    * How we might get there

    * What are the best components to use

This SirsiDynix Institute is set up as a conversation with three people who are seriously thinking about how to create the next generation of library Web presence - even before we've finished the last generation. Moderated by Stephen Abram, our panel of Michael Casey, Michael Stephens, and John Blyberg will share their insights.


Blyberg Blogs: 11 Reasons why Library 2.0 Exists and Matters

John Blyberg of Ann Arbor District Library has another very interesting post regarding Library 2.0.

L2 is not an option. If we don’t acknowledge the weighty significance of L2, we will not just be running the risk of sliding into obscurity, we just won't be that important to society. We will become the functional equivalent of back-room storage full of green hanging-file-folder boxes... (continue)

Bookbinding, 19th Century Style

You can always depend on Boing Boing to point you to an odd story, and this one from Boston.com is most certainly no exception:

Brown University's library boasts an unusual anatomy book. Tanned and polished to a smooth golden brown, its cover looks and feels no different from any other fine leather.
But here's its secret: the book is bound in human skin.
A number of prestigious libraries -- including Harvard University's -- have such books in their collections. While the idea of making leather from human skin seems bizarre and cruel today, it was not uncommon in centuries past, said Laura Hartman, a rare book cataloger at the National Library of Medicine in Maryland and author of a paper on the subject...  (continue)

January 08, 2006

Web 2.0 Offshoots, Including Library 2.0

An interesting post over on Dion Hinchcliffe's Web 2.0 Blog that looks at Web 2.0's offshoots, including Library 2.0.

January 06, 2006

Library 2.0: Two Good Discussions

Two recent postings caught my attention and I'd like to point everyone to them.  The first is an interview Michael Stephens did with Michael Golrick over on ALA's TechSource.  Golrick is the City Librarian in Bridgeport, CT.  The other post is Paul Miller's at Panlibus.   I'd like to reprint here something he said:

Personally, I am increasingly of the opinion that we are wasting our time trying to nail down concrete definitions of either Web 2.0 or Library 2.0. Neither is a concrete thing to be narrowly scoped, and the landscape within which both reside is in flux, rendering anything but the most vague definition obsolete soon after it is agreed. We help no one if we conduct flame wars over whether or not some new capability, or some alternative perspective, fits within a definition that was cast in stone far sooner than it should have been.

I think we do understand what Library 2.0 is about (and that it's more than technology!). Of course, some people give more emphasis to some areas than others, and I might personally question the Library 2.0-ness of an X-Box in a library, but consensus does appear to be evolving around participation, openness, the value of the Platform, taking content and services to people rather than expecting people to come to them, and more.

What Michael Golrick and Paul Miller both hit on is the fact that Library 2.0 is not tech-centric but does attempt to take full advantage of the Web 2.0 tools only now becoming available.  Library 2.0 is a model for library service that reaches out to new users (Long Tail), invites customer participation (participatory service), and relies on constant change (perpetual beta).

Finally, let me say how good it makes me feel to know that administrators like Golrick are thinking about Library 2.0 and the possibilities it has to offer.

Freshman Pattern Language


I keep coming back to the way Tim O'Reilly used the idea of a "Pattern Language" to describe Web 2.0 applications in his article "What is Web 2.0." We could come up with some L2 patterns, some of which would be pretty specific in terms of current Web technologies and others that might be more general, such as "rapid response to rapid change (in technology, user expectations, publishing, etc.)."


This comment from Steve Lawson refers to Pattern Language (here's another good explanation ) which Tim O'Reilly uses in his effort to describe (see note below) Web 2.0 .  I will be the first to admit that the use of Pattern Language never occurred to me in relation to understanding and building Library 2.0.  Still, its use could prove interesting and advantageous. 

My first reaction upon looking at O'Reilly's list is to think that many of his terms or "names" are equally applicable to L2; the Long Tail, Users Add Value, and Perpetual Beta all fit within the philosophy of Library 2.0 -- in fact, all are integral players in my interpretation of the Library 2.0 service model.  Of course, the "solution" and "context" of the design patterns will differ from Web 2.0.

I'm game for giving it a try, but I'm depending upon Steve for input and correction!

Here are my two attempts:

Perpetual Beta. Physical (not primarily tech) Services, no matter how well crafted, only reflect the immediate environment of their crafting.  Therefore: Don't create and release services with the expectation that they will last any longer than their first appearance.  Engage your users, treat each service appearance as a test, and rate or survey users to see how the services compare over time and to other services. 

Participatory Service.  The definition of success for any library technology offering, including ILS applications, is written by its contemporary user community.  Therefore: Only buy and design electronic services which allow for customer feedback and design participation, and facilitate quick change, whether that's done through the vendor (I hope not) or the library's inhouse coder.

(Note: I will NOT say O'Reilly's trying to define Web 2.0.  Everyone's trying too hard right now to define everything into a tiny kernel of nothingness.)

January 05, 2006

We Need a Web 2.0 Integrator

Pulling it all together – that’s going to be a big hurdle in the near future.  When libraries begin thinking of integrating Web 2.0 applications we face an issue I rarely see discussed; ease of use.  We all agree that there are many Web 2.0 apps and Web 2.0-like services that we want to offer our customers, but what we’ve failed to discuss is our ability to offer these services to our users in a smooth and highly usable way.

Let’s use an example.  Let’s say my library wants to integrate, on its OPACs, just the following three items:

  • Flickr for image sharing and tagging
  • Delicious for tagging and bookmarks
  • Netvibes for RSS aggregation

How are we going to do that?  We can link to these items individually in some prominent way, but our users will need to create accounts and unique screen names for each service.  Flickr won’t present too much of a problem since users will be able to tag library images and browse other library-user’s images.  But finding other library user’s images may be difficult unless those users systematically identify their images with a common tag.

Further, the library will be unable to craft a method, in Delicious for example, where library bookmarks can live alongside customer-created bookmarks – each user’s account will be isolated from every other user’s account and the library’s account.

The library can create a base OPML file of RSS feeds for Netvibes, but we cannot then update those lists for individual users once those users create their own account and import the OPML file.  There is also no way for the library to select the most popular RSS feeds from library user's Netvibes accounts and place them in any central location.

There are obviously other issues related to integrating such services.  If we want to offer these wonderful tools then we need an integrator – a tool that will allow our users seamless access across the applications we choose to offer.  Until we can address this issue, most libraries will be reluctant to officially offer any of these services and will, instead, choose simply to link to them and never take full advantage of all they have to offer.

January 03, 2006

Born in the Biblioblogsphere

What is Library 2.0?  Does it matter that we have a finite definition?  Michael Stephens over at Tame the Web has a new post that asks us if Library 2.0 is more than technology.  Yes, I think it is.  Stephen M. Cohen over on Library Stuff argues that library 2.0 is merely a continuation of the Baltimore County Public Library’s "Give 'em What they Want" philosophy of service.  Perhaps.  But let’s look at this quote:

See that your library is interesting to the people of the community, the people who own it, the people who maintain it. Deny your people nothing which the bookshop grants them. Make your library at least as attractive as the most attractive retail store in the community. Open your eyes to the cheapness of books at the present day, and to the unimportance, even to the small library, of the loss of an occasional volume; and open them also to the necessity of getting your constituency in actual contact with the books themselves.

This was written by John Cotton Dana and published in Library Journal’s December 1896 edition.  1896.  Was Dana espousing something similar to Library 2.0? Perhaps. Has our battle been going on this long? Absolutely. Will our battle continue for another hundred years? Yep.

I bring this up because I think there’s a misperception that Library 2.0 is trying to be a zero-sum answer to an age-old problem.  It is not.  Library 2.0 is a service philosophy – a theory, if you will – that attempts to guide libraries in their effort to win new users while, at the same time, acknowledging that our current service offerings are insufficient and inflexible.  Built into L2 is the realization that libraries are never really going to be able to reach this level of Platonic ideal that so many of us set as our goal.  But also built into L2 is the understanding that we will never stop trying to reach that level of service, and that we will use every tool at our disposal in our attempt.

Library 2.0 sees the reality of our current user-base and says “not good enough, we can reach more people”.  It seeks to do this through a three-part approach -- reaching out to new users, inviting customer participation, and relying on constant change. Much of this is made possible thanks to new technologies, but the services will only be partially tech-based.

So yes, perhaps L2 is simply a continuation of the ideas of Dana and BCPL and so many other attempts at greater and greater community reach.  But Library 2.0 is not the idea of any one individual.  It was born in the biblioblogsphere in the writings of many diverse thinkers, and while one concise definition will never fit L2, there is a certain understanding that Library 2.0 represents, at a bare minimum, a discussion point around which many will offer ideas and discuss solutions.

We would not be in this place were it not for the technologies that allow us to have this conversation – the blogs and wikis and Web 2.0 tools that facilitate collaboration and discussion.  These tools which allow us to talk about our problems will also play a great role in the solution – these same inclusive tools will be used to reach out to both our fellow librarians and to our users and harness their knowledge in crafting new and improved services.  This newly-formed community will work together to address all of the issues surrounding libraries, and I will continue to argue that Library 2.0 is the best approach to use.

Library 2.0: Is it More than Technology? (YES)

Michael Stephens at Tame the Web makes an interesting post that asks the question, "Defining Library 2.0: Is it More than Technology?"  Yes, it is!  Stephens was nice enough to ask me to comment, so go read what I (and others) had to say!  Thanks for including me in the discussion.