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September 30, 2006

Michael Stephens on The Culture of Trust

The best libraries of the future will be those that...will seek to make that personal, emotional connection with users. It might be online, it might be in person, it might even be at Panera Bread. Walk through your library today and look at the story your library is telling with its space, signage, and ambience. Share yourself. Be human. Feel good about the difference you can make in your role as a guide for your users through this crazy, information-inundated world.

The Culture of Trust: One Year in the Life of Library 2.0, by Michael Stephens on ALA TechSource.

Rebecca Miller on The MySpace Gap

If more of us in Libraryland, and I mean everyone from students to directors, considered MySpace and the like our places, we'd use them to influence the public's perception of libraries, pick up trends, sense the needs of patrons, and participate in communities beyond our walls in yet another way. We'd see these sites not as dangerous places but as the growing part of our lives that they have become.

The MySpace Gap, by Rebecca Miller, Library Journal, 15 September 2006.

Politics Anyone?

By the oldest trick in the political book — the whipping up of a panic, in which any dissenting voice could be dismissed as “soft” or even “traitorous” — powers had been ceded by the people that would never be returned...
...Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of 9/11. The vote by the Senate on Thursday to suspend the right of habeas corpus for terrorism detainees, denying them their right to challenge their detention in court; the careful wording about torture, which forbids only the inducement of “serious” physical and mental suffering to obtain information; the admissibility of evidence obtained in the United States without a search warrant; the licensing of the president to declare a legal resident of the United States an enemy combatant — all this represents an historic shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the executive.
Pirates of the Mediterranean by Robert Harris, in today's New York Times.


September 23, 2006

"I'll be blasted if we will be last!"

See Michael Golrick's excellent post Why Is Library 2.0 So Hard? over on "Thoughts from a Library Administrator".  In speaking about libraries getting online and using Flickr for outreach:

I, as the administrator, and the one whose job is on the line, am willing to take a risk here. Why are others so risk averse? It costs us very little. Other libraries are doing it without problem, we are not first, and I'll be blasted if we will be last!


September 20, 2006

The Evolution of Online Office Applications

Nicholas Carr over on Rough Type has an excellent examination of evolving web-based office applications. He sees the evolution of web-based office apps as:

  • Office 1.0 (1980s): a set of discrete and often incompatible applications for word processing, spreadsheets, presentation creation, and simple database management. Archetype: Lotus 1-2-3.
  • Office 2.0 (1990 - present): integrated suites of PPAs, with expanded, if still limited, collaboration capabilities. Archetype: Microsoft Office.
  • Office 3.0 (present - early 2010s): hybrid desktop/web suites incorporating internet-based tools and interfaces to facilitate collaboration and web publishing.
  • Office 4.0 (c. early 2010s): fully web-based suites.

I really like his argument:

It's been widely assumed, among the tech-forward Web 2.0 crowd, that it will be the end users who will drive the adoption of purely web-based office apps - and that corporate IT departments will be the obstructionists. I think it will actually play out in the opposite way.

Whatever the flaws of Microsoft Office, most end users are comfortable with it - and they have little motivation to overturn the apple cart. What is absolutely unacceptable to them is to take a step backward in functionality... 

What will be attractive to end users - at least a sizable number of them - is to extend the usefulness of the traditional office suite through the addition of web-based tools and interfaces. The key is to extend both functionality and interoperability without taking away any of the capabilities that users currently rely on or expect...

What we're entering, then, is a transitional generation for office apps, involving a desktop/web hybrid. This generation will last for a number of years, with more and more application functionality moving onto the web as network capabilities, standards, and connectivity continue to advance. At some point, and almost seamlessly, from the user's perspective, the apps will become more or less fully web-based and we'll have reached the era of what I call Office 4.0 (and what others currently call Office 2.0). Driving the shift will be the desire of companies, filtered through their IT staffs, to dramatically simplify their IT infrastructure. Mature web-based apps don't require local hardware, or local installation and maintenance, or local trouble-shooting, or local upgrading - they reduce costs and increase flexibility. These considerations are largely invisible to end users, but they're very important to companies and will become increasingly important as the IT world shifts to what might be called utility-class computing.

Carr's post comes just as Zoho has announced a really cool new feature called Quickread which lets Zoho users open Word documents through Zoho without needing Word or any other word-processing software installed locally, this includes opening email attachments with Word docs via Zoho. Want to let your library customers open Word documents even though you don't have Word on the library computers? Here's an answer.

September 19, 2006

Management Versus Leadership

Helene Blowers touches upon a topic many in my own system have been discussing lately, leadership versus management. Many, myself included, argue that we have too many managers in today's library profession and not enough leaders. Helene looks at the issue with regard to libraries providing services and says:

It’s hard to select one over the other for you need both management (control of well managed processes) and leadership (guidance and the means to empower) to build and provide excellent library services. Therefore it's not a choice that needs to made, it's a balancing act. And as libraries continue to transform and evolve, the goal should not be to weight the scales evenly, but rather to ensure that we favor the side that empowers the user as much as we can - without falling over.

Nicely said and worth reading the whole post. Perhaps balance is the word of the week? 

September 18, 2006

Carnival of the Infosciences #54

I'm happy to be hosting the 54th edition of the Carnival of Infosciences here at LibraryCrunch. It was a busy week for the Carnival and for me. The Carnival received several excellent submissions (which I'll tell you all about in just a minute), but first a bit about what I did. I traveled to Columbia, South Carolina, on Wednesday to hear Stephen Abram, Jenny Levine and Michael Stephens speak at the South Carolina Public Library Technology Institute. Now, the folks at the South Carolina State Library know how to put on a good show. Kudos to Patti Butcher, South Carolina's State Librarian, and all of her staff. The room was great, the use of tables instead of a mass of chairs created a wonderful social environment, and the food was very good. Even the music played between the speakers was great! This was the first library conference where I've heard the Rolling Stones and REM! But we were there to learn from the speakers, and we learned a lot.

Stephen Abram, always the energetic and daring speaker, let everyone know up front that we have not had much change in the past fifteen years. Yes, you heard correct. As he went on to explain it, while we have seen change we should look back to the change our parents and grandparents lived through -- cars, electricity, radio, television, refrigeration, an entirely new world economy... you get the picture. Thinking about it this way does help to put things into perspective -- and it helps stop the whining about change. Jenny Levine illustrated how libraries can use several technologies to reach new audiences. She explored the use of blogs, RSS feeds, aggregators, Flickr, SuprGlu, Delicious, and other free or cheap tools to spread the library's word. Michael Stephens spoke to Librarian 2.0, which he sees as balancing technolust, building trust and transparency, being a trend spotter, and understanding the value of training. Take a look at Michael's Library Technology Reports for more helpful information.

Curtis Rogers (who can multitask better than anyone) has some video clips of Michael Stephens, Jenny Levine, Stephen Abram and the excellent introduction by SC State Librarian Patti Butcher.

Photos of the day's events can be seen here.

And now, on to the Carnival!

Helene Blowers (who I saw just last month in Charlotte at her most excellent Learning 2.0 kickoff and again got to see this week in Columbia) sent the Carnival a note asking us to look at Leslie Burger's post on the Google Blog. Burger, President of the ALA, wrote about banned books as part of the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week (September 23-30), and she says:

Now Google has joined the party. At google.com/bannedbooks, you can use Google Book Search to explore some of the best novels of the 20th century which have been challenged or banned. And while libraries and bookstores around the country celebrate the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week with special readings, displays, and more, you just might end up with a visit to your local library or bookstore and an old favorite or a new banned book in hand.

Joshua Neff enjoyed Michelle Boule's "Building a Better Beta" over on ALA's TechSource blog so much that he wrote his own response on his blog. I agree with Joshua, Michelle's post was excellent and the idea of "perpetual beta" has always appealed to me. Pushing out beta services does not mean giving our users junk. Perpetual beta means that we consistently revisit these services, seeking to improve them in an effort to reach more users with a better product. Michelle clearly illustrates this when she says:

I am not advocating for libraries to conduct half-formed programs with little thought or planning. Building beta is more about flexibility and allowing the participants—not the creators—to redefine the meaning of the service. Planning beta is about allowing for failure, success, and change.

Joshua follows by saying on his blog:

We know we want to always offer our patrons the best services and programs. We need to be absolutely open about that. We need to include our patrons, because who better to improve services and programs than the people who actually take advantage of them? We need to set ourselves up to smoothly incorporate updates and upgrades, tweaks and adjustments. We need to not worry about being perfect or final.

I think what these two writers are saying is key to the future of libraries. No longer can we look at services as static creatures, devoid of change and enjoying sovereign immunity from user input. Library services will evolve and change or the services and the libraries hosting them simply will not succeed.

Nicole Engard submitted her post, "Another Reason I Want My MLIS", where she goes over her routine for triaging information from the many blogs she reads. Nicole is in the MLIS program at Drexel and her enthusiasm for the degree and the profession is obvious when she writes:

by getting my MLIS new doors will be open to me. I’ll have the chance to work in positions where I get to do 2 things I love - develop applications & web solutions and help others find and use new tools to make their jobs more productive!

Eric Schnell directs us to his post, "Do Any Librarians Out There Cha-Cha?", about the search engine/service ChaCha. Writing about the guided search option, Eric asks "are any librarians out there a part of the ChaCha underground?" (I love that phrase, ChaCha underground.)

This is the second time this week I've heard someone mention ChaCha, the first being Stephen Abram in Columbia. ChaCha's approach of paying guides to answer questions reminds me of a debate I had with some Microsoft people in Redmond last January. Several librarians, along with other techies, were brought out to Seattle to talk with Microsoft about search. Called SearchChamps, we were shown several new products and asked for our opinions and ideas. I had the opportunity to look at their Live QnA service (still in beta), which uses people to answer other people's questions. I suggested that Microsoft use librarians as part of their base of experts by working with telephone and email reference librarians in order to harness the many answers they provide every day. Imagine Microsoft providing free knowledge management software to library systems in return for the ability to harness all of that knowledge for web search. How useful would that be for your library? I know I'd like it at mine! Anyway, Microsoft didn't like the idea -- I really don't think they "get" the amount of knowledge librarians create and sift through every day. Oh well, perhaps someone else will recognize this as a good idea.

And now for a few things I noticed this week:

Information about the new Microsoft Zune confuses me more than ever. Don't get me wrong, it looks like a good device, but it throws the whole DRM issue right back into our faces. We've subscribed to NetLibrary and Recorded Books and all the services that reply upon Microsoft's "Play for Sure" program and now we face an entirely new DRM structure that does not work with everything we've already invested in. This is insane. Where are the library directors in this debate? Taken as a whole, libraries spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on downloadable audio and video content. If directors were to work together (god forbid) they may actually be able to influence the big two makers of Apple and Microsoft.

Another study of world Internet penetration shows the US in the lead with a penetration rate of 68.7%. That's good, of course, but what does it also mean? Well, it means that over 30% of Americans do not use the Internet, and that's over 90 million people. How are we reaching/serving them?

In Make Subscribing to Blogs Easy, David King (soon to be Digital Branch & Services Manager at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library) reminds us that many librarians and most library users do not know where to look for RSS feeds, nor do they know the terminology of syndication. So, keep it simple. Call it subscribing, move the link to the top of the page, and give them a "how-to" page and show them how it works. Well said, David. We are librarians, after all, and we should be teaching our users how to use this new technology.


Finally, be sure to visit Chris Zammarelli's Libraryola next week for the 55th installment of Carnival of the Infosciences.

Thanks for visiting!

"carnival of the infosciences"
Library 2.0

September 15, 2006

NY Times Reader Beta Launched

NY Times Reader
NY Times Reader
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Register and Download Times Reader

Times Reader FAQ's

September 14, 2006

Join the Carnival!

Well, at least send us your ideas! The Carnival of the Infosciences will be making a stop here next week and we're looking for your favorite recent library blog posts. Please submit your entries via the Carnival submission form, or email me at michael [dot] librarycrunch.com.

September 13, 2006

Curtis Rogers has video of today's speakers.

Stephen Abram / Jenny Levine / Michael Stephens


library 2.0

Jenny, Michael and Stephen

Jenny, Michael and Stephen
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

Today's wonderful speakers.


library 2.0

SCPL Technology Institute

Stephen Abram
Originally uploaded by Michael Casey.

What an excellent day! This morning we heard Stephen Abram and this afternoon we're hearing from Jenny Levine and Michael Stephens. Lots of great information, ideas, encouragement...

See more here.

The Carnival is Coming to Town!!!

The Carnival of the Infosciences will be making a stop here next week. Please submit your entries via the Carnival submission form, or email me at michael [dot] librarycrunch.com.

September 05, 2006

Georgia Public Library Service Launches Evergreen

Congratulations to the Georgia Public Library Service for the successful launch of its new ILS software, Evergreen. Read their press release (MS Word doc) here. Newspaper article here.