Monthly Archives: February 2011

Social Networking Takes Hollywood


Well, not quite. Mashable called “The Social Network” Oscar award wins ‘disappointing’, but it did win three of the eight Oscars for which it was nominated – nominations that included Best Picture, Best Actor and Best Director. “Fincher’s movie, a fictionalized account of the rise of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, still won three Oscars. Writer Aaron Sorkin, also known for West Wing and A Few Good Men, won Best Adapted Screenplay (it was based on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires”), while Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor won Best Original Score for the movie’s haunting music. The movie also won an award for Best Film Editing.”

Point being – social networking has taken a main stream role in our society. Ceremonies Co-Host James Franco came on stage flashing his smartphone, verifying as promised that he would be Tweeting during the awards ceremony. When social networking comes to big time Hollywood “entertainment”, you know it has arrived in the main stream of our culture.

I’ve commented on TV sit-coms using iPad as the “must have” gift, and youth texting being a topic as well. But, this past weekend I was catching up on recorded episodes of Gray’s Anatomy, and one episode especially caught my imagination (February 3 episode Don’t Deceive Me (Please Don’t Go)). It dealt with the advantages of using Twitter in the workplace – in the hospital OR actually.

OK, like the Chief of Surgery, one might think Twitter would be intrusive and totally out of place in an operating room setting. But, the writers presented a scenario that made its use not only appropriate, but highly beneficial. The result was that those “observing” the surgery were able to offer useful information – one even offered life saving assistance.

Now that’s the kind of technology use we like to see. And, you say ‘That’s just Hollywood entertainment.Surgeons send ‘tweets’ from operating room happened two years ago. Seven months later CBS reported in “Twitter Opens a Door to Operating Room” that “Twitter is opening doors to the sterile confines of operating rooms, paving the way for families – and anyone else for that matter – to follow a patient’s progress as they go under the knife.”

Is it possible that the use of Twitter in a library workplace could save lives? Who knows, but it is certain that Twitter and other social networking can change lives, change the way librarians do business, and change how customers perceive the library. It is up to us librarians to figure out how to use social networking to our benefit and that of our customers.

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Youth and Technology


I’ve been saying for some time that the conditions of change are different this time.

While in the dentist’s office this morning I saw the Time Magazine cover “The Generation Changing the World”. The author writes “…there are two fundamental reasons the tensions that have been let loose in the Middle East over the past few weeks are unlikely to disappear, and they encompass two of the most powerful forces changing the world today: youth and technology.” [Emphasis added.]

Let me state unequivocally that this is NOT a political commentary. I am simply illustrating a comparison between my views on the external factors influencing the librarian profession and world events.

In 1995 when the WWW became accessible to the general public, librarians were very concerned that it would cause reference services to become obsolete. As I’ve noted,

… the paradigm shift we all discussed 15 years ago … was a result of the introduction of the Internet and WWW into the average American office, university, school and home. That shift was essentially about delivery of library services. There wasn’t much change in philosophy of library and information science, but it changed delivery of library information from on-site to on-line. The concern that the WWW would replace librarians was exaggerated and didn’t materialize, because we retained our role as “information specialists” who knew the How and What of information retrieval and evaluation better than others. Everything evolves, from card catalogs to OPAC, but that shift was mostly about delivery.

The most profound factor is the change evolving among youth toward information literacy that will challenge librarians’ “information specialists” role. Within the next 10 years librarians will not be the ONLY “information specialists” who are able to retrieve and assess information. (Are We in a 21st Century Library Paradigm Shift?)

Today, youth and technology are the reasons that the librarian profession will be changed forever. Youth who are being educated with information, communications and technology literacy will have the capabilities that their parents did not to do their own information searching and selecting. Technology that youth are growing up with that their parents did not have will provide more information, more access to it, more choices of information providers and more information format choices than ever in history.

Are you ready to acknowledge and embrace the changes that youth and technology are causing in the librarian profession?

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“Likenomics” & Library Marketing


Likenomics is a term that describes how personal relationships, individual opinions, powerful storytelling and social capital are helping brands and their products and services to become more believable.”

What does that description mean to you? It says to me – Social Media is a valuable new tool for 21st Century Library marketing.

This description of “likenomics” comes from the presentation “15 Marketing & Social Media Trends To Watch In 2011” by Rohit Bhargava, “award winning author of Personality Not Included, a founding member of the Ogilvy 360 Digital Influence team, and Adjunct Professor of Global Marketing at Georgetown University. The term “likenomics” has been attributed to Bhargava.

An explanation according to amplify, “an agency offering end to end advocacy, marketing and public relations services for associations, non-profits and small businesses”, at “Likenomics: The Economics of Digital Advocacy”, states that “likenomics” is:

… the acknowledgement that social capital is one of the most valuable assets that individuals and organizations can possess in today’s online environment. We all know that it’s simple to post something online, but it’s not so easy to gain and maintain the respect and popularity that is needed to really see your efforts explode (in a good way).

The most direct connection of likenomics is seen every day on Facebook, where ‘liking’ something drops it into your news feed and in front of all of your friends – it turns individuals from passive consumers into advocates for your brand. How’s that for exponential coverage: one like = 200 impressions. Not so bad.

In fact, Facebook knows exactly how valuable ‘liking’ something is – and they’ve decided to take advantage of it by providing sponsored stories. With sponsored stories, when a user interacts with your brand on Facebook (whether through a Like, Check-in, Wall Post or Custom App) your brand will appear twice: in the user’s News Feed, and in a sponsored ad that features that user’s name.

Because consumers trust their friends and peers more than anyone else Facebook is letting you profile them as advocates for your brand – improving ad recall, awareness and purchase intent.

Would you like to turn your library supporters “from passive consumers into advocates for your brand”? Do you have stories worth getting sponsored on Facebook, and being shown to hundreds and thousands of potential customers? Do you have supporters whose endorsement would make your library more “believable”?

Are you acquiring social capital for your library and spending it among your Millennial customers? What are you doing to increase your social capital and to improve your value within the community?

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Goals & Objectives within the 21st Century Library Model


The information in the original Post has been included in Chapter 7 – Goals and Objectives of my new book – “Crash Course in Strategic Planning

“A visionary strategic plan is monumentally important to becoming a good library, but it is critical to providing a library that is highly relevant to a 21st Century community. Becoming a highly relevant library in the future environment of your community is venturing into totally unknown territory because there are so many unknown and unfamiliar factors and influences involved as stated throughout this book. Since these factors and influences are changing so rapidly, attempting to accomplish the necessary goals and objectives of a 21st Century library without a strategic plan is unimaginable. Where would you begin? What activities would you select to receive those critically limited resources, or would you just allow staff to randomly do their own thing? How will you know when you’ve achieved any goals or objectives leading toward your mission?

Some librarians think planning strategically or otherwise is a tired old library standard with which everybody is familiar but really can just be ignored. Unfortunately, it’s not something to be ignored when it comes to a strategic plan to guide your public library into this uncertain 21st Century environment. There is too much at stake, including the survival of your library, to simply keep pursuing business as usual and hope for the best.” [Pg. 41]

(Matthews, Stephen. Matthews, Kimberly. (2013). Crash course in strategic planning. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.)

Our book is now available from Libraries Unlimited. Visit their website for more information and an opportunity to order the book.

Thank you for your interest and support of the 21st Century Library Blog.

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And The Winner Is…..


The information seeker in 2015.

While Watson was victorious by a significant margin over the two best Jeopardy human experts EVER, the real winner is the information seekers of the future – the 21st Century Library customer. PBS reporter Hari Sreenivasan posted the following coverage of the epic human vs. computer smackdown.

Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter — the least-likely Jeopardy! underdogs ever — found themselves no match Wednesday night for Watson – IBM’s Frankenstein of trivia.

Below his Final Jeopardy! answer about novelist Bram Stoker, Ken Jennings scribbled out a meme which seems a perfect blend of wit and doom. It was a mix of his eloquent nerdiness and his humble recognition in that he represented what may be the finger in the dike, trying to stop the inevitable superiority of artificial intelligence.

With every question, viewers were shown the top three possible answers that Watson had deduced, along with the probability of its accuracy. It was interesting to also note that it appeared that Watson rang in based on that probability level. The higher the probability, the faster the response. Watson never missed an answer that predicted over 90% probability of being correct. Most questions Watson answered correctly and first were high probability – 75% or higher. On other questions, the probability for all three answers was well below 25% probability. The final result was that Watson more than tripled the amount of money won by either human super contestant. (All of Watson’s winnings will be donated to charity. 50% of Jennings’ and Rutter’s winnings will go to charities of their choice.)

It was an impressive and intense demonstration between the capabilities of humans and computers. Not only did Watson have the disadvantage of not being privy to the other contestants’ answers to questions, therefore sometimes repeating the same wrong answer as another contestant, Watson also has the handicap of having to select THE “correct” answer itself without benefit of “reason” – or wisdom, a uniquely human trait.

That was NOT really what the computer architects intended. Watson was designed to deliver a list of potential answers with probability of accuracy from which the human would select the most appropriate answer for their purposes. Place that potential into the context of a reference interview (for want of a better term for the questioning situation), and you have the ideal solution. Give the customer a choice of probable best answers from which to choose. When did ANY customer get better service than that from a reference librarian?

Nobody will deny that the human mind can not be replicated, but it was obvious that purely analytical processes are Watson’s forte. IBM and other agencies are already brainstorming what they could do with Watson. Gov lessons from Jeopardy’s Watson computer challenge quotes Dave McQueeney, VP of Software at IBM as saying; “Many of our customers, especially the government customers, have enormous data sources and they feel there’s tremendous insight available in those data sources if only they had the tools to process them.”

Unfortunately, there are those who are simply focused on the paranoid “computer overlord” aspect they can criticize, or the mechanics of the Jeopardy game. John C. Dvorak, who is obviously in denial and sadly missing the point of this whole demonstration (Watson Is Creaming the Humans. I Cry Foul.), decided the game was rigged in favor of Watson that could “buzz in faster”.

Where has Watson been hiding?
It’s interesting to me that this project is only now becoming a reality. The project was started about four years ago. Has technology really changed that much in the last ten years? I mean the machines may be smaller, but why did it take this long to make this happen? Seriously, how much has processing power and programming changed since 2000?

Was something new invented that I don’t know about? Couldn’t Watson have shown up five years ago or even before that?

Google can answer most of these Jeopardy! questions already, except not as fast. Type a Jeopardy! question into the Google search bar and you’ll have the answer within the first five or six hits. Of course, it usually takes a little reading, and you may have to go to a few Web sites, but the answer is there.

I didn’t realize Google had the capability to process a complete phrase to isolate potential answers, and I’m certain it does not have the capability to rank each with a probability of accuracy. Not to mention that Google, like other search engines, find resources – more information – not provide answers. Naysayers regarding Watson and the potential for the future of information technology should really overcome their computer prejudices and recognize its potential for the future of information seekers.

I view Watson as the potential solution to information overload that is becoming a worse situation rather than better. Dr. Bruce A. Johnson, St. Louis Adult Education Examiner, has asked “When does information become too much for students?.” His observation is that,

Is it possible that students reach a point where they have been given too much information to process? …

When students are reviewing the course materials and resources they are selectively reading the information and processing it from their individual perspective, which is influenced by their background, learning style, belief system, and prior academic experience. … For class assignments students search for resources and often utilize a library to find articles. When presented with a list of possible resources to choose from students must make a choice based upon what they perceive to be the most relevant information. These ongoing approaches to thinking are often selective in nature and not always directed towards a specific learning goal or objective. Students will first choose what information they will accept based upon their perceived needs.

What if a Watson computer could significantly narrow the possible information retrieved from a search, rank those selections based on probability of being a match for the most appropriate and accurate information? Wouldn’t that drastically reduce the information overload? The volume of information is not likely to decrease significantly any time in the future, so having a computer to sort through relevant information, select the most appropriate and even recommend statistically which is best – isn’t that a good thing?

While the future appears bleak for “reference librarian” functions in light of Watson computers, doesn’t it make sense to embrace the change and use it to the benefit of the library customer? (With the same spirit Bunny did with EMERAC.) Isn’t that what we’re all about? Or are we about protecting our jobs and elite “librarian” status? Are we about change and progress in library services? Or are we about trying to preserve the past elite status of librarianship?

Watson is absolutely THE technology to watch for the next five years to see who is the first research university to acquire one. After that – - – - – - –

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Reference Librarian vs. Computer!


“Anything one man can imagine, other men can make real.” wrote Jules Verne, (Around the World in Eighty Days) and many people have dreamed of a computer that functions like the human mind only better. Now there is a computer as smart as a reference librarian, and equally as smart as all-time Jeopardy money winner Brad Rutter.

Shades of “Desk Set” you say? No, not even close. But, read on about this 21st Century computer.

Yesterday, ABC News reported in “IBM’s Watson, Brad Rutter Tied After Round One of ‘Jeopardy!’ Match-Up” that at the end of Day 1 of the human vs. computer matchup, Watson was holding its own.

Monday night, all-time “Jeopardy!” champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter faced off against IBM’s super computer Watson in the first round of a three-day “Jeopardy!” challenge.

What I found most ironic was one reporter’s slant on the matchup. Adam Buckman stated in his Comcast Post “Humans more than held their own against a new IBM supercomputer on Night One of this week’s three-day “Man vs. Machine” challenge ….” Apparently, Buckman felt the computer was the favored contestant being challenged by humans. My bet is, MANY people feel the same, and in less than 10 years – they will be more accurate and faster than humans at answering questions.

When “Jeopardy!” first called [Ken Jennings] a couple of years ago to let him know that IBM was working on a supreme game-show machine, Jennings said he was “skeptical.”

As a former computer programmer himself, he said, he knew the computer’s limitations and doubted if IBM actually could pull it off.

But when he watched taped matches of Watson playing against top human contestants, he realized that beating the computer was hardly a foregone conclusion.

“Clearly, it was playing at a very high level. It sort of effortlessly handled the kinds of things I thought computers couldn’t do,” he said. “It could understand wordplay, it could understand things that were more conceptual than a single fact.”

Still, Rutter said, despite its mistakes, Watson is a very powerful computer.

“I think humans will be surprised,” he told ABCNews.com. “Especially because it’s just “Jeopardy!” clues like you see every day on the show. To see a computer actually figuring it out, with all the little twists and turns and puns that they like to get in there, even factoring those in. To see how well Watson is doing, I think might scare some people.”

“Ken and I are representing humanity in this thing but, at the same time, Watson was developed, built, programmed by human beings,” said Rutter. “So I think humanity wins no matter what happens.”

And beyond even that, Jennings said that playing the world’s most sophisticated computer gave him a new appreciation for the humble human brain.

“I was impressed at the end that the human brain — just a few dollars worth of water and salt and protein and whatever else we have in our skulls — that that could hang in there and play at the same level as this jillion-dollar computer the size of a room,” he said. “It says a lot for the human brain that with what we have we can hang with the world’s most powerful computer. It’s sort of a newfound respect for what our heads can do, which we take for granted sometimes.”

Obviously, Jennings was discounting his education, time and effort learning facts and trivia, and practice playing Jeopardy that made him champion, but……….

Flash back a half century to the 1957 film that had a happy ending in which Spencer Tracy the computer inventor, and Katharine Hepburn the reference librarian fell in love. The three of them including EMERAC the punch card driven computer with lots of flashing lights and beeping sounds all lived happily ever after, because the computer helped the reference librarian do more work faster and better. That was Hollywood.

The reality today is that Watson will replace the reference librarian, because this computer has a million times more data in its memory, can respond to reference questions posed in spoken language, and provide a set of possible answers from which the inquirer can choose, with probabilities of accuracy for each answer. When was the last time you heard of a reference librarian giving a library customer several possible answers to a question?

Watch for yourself what Watson can do, and see what IBM has done, then tell me that reference librarians will not be replaced in the next 10 years.

Watch “Jeopardy” and see Watson in action – if you dare.

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Technologies to Watch


Since 2005, the annual Horizon Report has been the most visible aspect of a focused collaboration between the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) and the New Media Consortium … … a comprehensive research venture established in 2002 that identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have a large impact over the coming five years on a variety of sectors around the globe.”
[Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., and Haywood, K., (2011). The 2011 Horizon Report. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.]

Key Trends
The technologies featured in every edition of the Horizon Report are embedded within a contemporary context that reflects the realities of the time, both in the sphere of education and in the world at large. … The highest ranked of those trends had significant agreement among the Advisory Board members, who considered them to be key drivers of educational technology adoptions for the period 2011 through 2015.

Technologies to Watch
The six technologies featured in the 2011 Horizon Report are placed along three adoption horizons that indicate likely time frames for their entrance into mainstream use for teaching, learning, or creative inquiry. The near-term horizon assumes the likelihood of entry into the mainstream for institutions within the next twelve months; the mid-term horizon, within two to three years; and the far-term, within four to five years.

On the near-term horizon — … are electronic books and mobiles. … a growing number of institutions are finding ways to take advantage of a technology that nearly all students, faculty, and staff carry.

Electronic books continue to generate strong interest in the consumer sector and are increasingly available on campuses as well. Modern electronic readers support note-taking and research activities, and are beginning to augment these basic functions with new capabilities — from immersive experiences to support for social interaction — that are changing our perception of what it means to read. [Emphasis added.]

Mobiles enable ubiquitous access to information, social networks, tools for learning and productivity, and much more. Mobile devices continue to evolve, but it is the increased access to affordable and reliable networks that is driving this technology now. Mobiles are capable computing devices in their own right — and they are increasingly a user’s first choice for Internet access.

The second adoption horizon [2-3 years] … are augmented reality and game-based learning. Both intersect with practices in mainstream popular culture, both have been considered significant tools for education for many years, and both have made appearances on a number of campuses already. Advances in hardware and software, as well as in a broader acceptance of new methods in teaching, secured the place of these innovations as the top technologies for the mid-term horizon.

Augmented reality refers to the layering of information over a view or representation of the normal world, offering users the ability to access place-based information in ways that are compellingly intuitive. Augmented reality brings a significant potential to supplement information delivered via computers, mobile devices, video, and even the printed book. Much simpler to create and use now than in the past, augmented reality feels at once fresh and new, yet an easy extension of existing expectations and practices.

Game-based learning has grown in recent years as research continues to demonstrate its effectiveness for learning for students of all ages. Games for education span the range from single-player or small-group card and board games all the way to massively multiplayer online games and alternate reality games. Those at the first end of the spectrum are easy to integrate with coursework, and in many institutions they are already an option; but the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration, problem-solving, and procedural thinking. For a variety of reasons, the realization of this potential is still two to three years away.

Looking to the far-term horizon [4-5 years] … are gesture-based computing and learning analytics. Both remain largely speculative and not yet in widespread usage on campuses, but both are also garnering significant interest and increasing exposure.

Gesture-based computing moves the control of computers from a mouse and keyboard to the motions of the body via new input devices. Depicted in science fiction movies for years, gesture-based computing is now more grounded in reality thanks to the recent arrival of interface technologies such as Kinect, SixthSense, and Tamper, which make interactions with computational devices far more intuitive and embodied.

Learning analytics loosely joins a variety of data-gathering tools and analytic techniques to study student engagement, performance, and progress in practice, with the goal of using what is learned to revise curricula, teaching, and assessment in real time. Building on the kinds of information generated by Google Analytics and other similar tools, learning analytics aims to mobilize the power of data-mining tools in the service of learning, and embracing the complexity, diversity, and abundance of information that dynamic learning environments can generate.

Each of these technologies is described in detail in the main body of the report, where a discussion of what the technology is and why it is relevant to teaching, learning, and creative inquiry may also be found. Given the practical focus of the report, a listing of examples of the technology in use, especially in higher education, is a key component of each of the six main topics. Our research indicates that all six of these technologies, taken together, will have a significant impact on learning-focused organizations within the next five years.

If you’re asking yourself – So what? – the answer is that these technologies will continue to change the nature of the library customer, increasing their information literacy, as well as their capabilities with technology. Another example of how technology is changing things is the form that the Horizon Report took this year.

The Horizon Project Navigator. This edition of the Horizon Report kicks off the ninth year of the series and a turning point in the NMC’s Emerging Technologies Initiative, which is dedicated to charting the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry. In each of the preceding years, the Horizon Project process has focused on the creation of a print-based publication (or its pdf analog), one produced through a collaborative process that leveraged the productive potential of a wiki for posting and responding to ideas, RSS feeds for gathering information dynamically, and tagging for collecting and sharing references. The decision to print the NMC report was based on the fact that a physical report remains a powerful tool on many campuses.

However, in its continuing interest in modeling the advantages of new technologies, over the course of 2010, and with the generous support of the HP, the NMC designed and produced the Horizon Project Navigator (http://navigator.nmc.org), an online database that harnesses the power of technology and social media to create an information and resource hub that is made stronger through the participation of its users. [Emphasis added.]

The Horizon Project Navigator leverages the affordances of social media and computation to offer users access to the same materials — and more — used by the Horizon Project Advisory Board. It is a dynamic, customizable, and powerful tool for individuals who want the ability to chart the landscape of emerging technologies for teaching, learning, and creative inquiry through their own set of needs and interests. The platform provides a fully dynamic online version of the Horizon Report created for the emerging technology professional.

Change is here! Are you ready for it?

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21st Century Librarian Mindset


Last April I published the brief outline of what I called a 21st Century Mindset. It included simply the following four actions. It is one of those catchphrase things that is intended to inspire. I have it hanging close by my desk, and look at it often. When accomplished with heart, purpose, courage, imagination, determination and will, it makes a difference. It will take all of those characteristics and more for librarians to achieve their 21st Century Library.

Since these characteristics are highly important factors in enabling one to achieve becoming a 21st Century librarian, I thought I’d expand on the concepts, and provide some more context to these actions. This is in keeping with the assertion that 21st Century libraries are MORE, and since everything begins with the librarian………………

CARE MORE than others think is WISE.
A 21st Century Librarian is more caring. They care more than others think is wise about the library’s customers, and about every customer’s library experience, because they know how vital it is to instill that loyalty to customers if we expect their loyalty in return. They care more about their role within the library, and the library’s role within the community, because that is how the library will survive – through having a relevant role within the community. They care more about their professional development, and about their profession, because they know the challenges ahead are new and daunting. They care more about preserving their library than others think is wise, because it is hard to manage the future and the challenges ahead for libraries. But, just stop to imagine the alternative to not caring more.

EXPECT MORE than others think is POSSIBLE.
It has long been accepted that children will rise to the level of learning that they understand is expected of them, at least that is what educators have finally figured out. The same principal is applicable to athletes, and generally every type of performance. The same is true of librarians. We should expect more of ourselves and each other than others think is possible, because that is how we will achieve great things within our libraries. THAT is how we preserve our libraries! Do your library customers expect to be ignored when they walk in the doors, because you’re too busy with some housekeeping chore? Do your teens expect to be quieted if they get too loud, because you think libraries are quiet places? Do your colleagues expect to be inspired by you to achieve excellent performance? Do you expect more of yourself than others think is possible?

RISK MORE than others think is SAFE.
Risk is a risky business. There is recklessness on one end, and there is educated risk on the other. Some people never risk anything, because they prefer to hold on to what they think they have rather than lose it. There is a longer poem about Achievement that ends “At length some feet shall stand, On heights yet unattained. Why not thine own? Press on, achieve, achieve.” We seldom know what we can accomplish until we apply our talents with determination. History is filled with accounts of people who beat the odds against them and accomplished great things.

DREAM MORE than others think is PRACTICAL.
Every great thing began with a dream, or vision of what could be. Senator Edward Kennedy eulogized his brother Robert by saying; “As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him: ’Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.’” What is your dream for your 21st Century Library?

CARE MORE – EXPECT MORE – RISK MORE – DREAM MORE
What do the actions in this Mindset mean to you?

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Not WHY?, But WHY! Libraries Are Needed


A comment to my January 27 Post Introducing: A 21st Century Library Model was of such important insight, that I felt it deserved a Post of its own. It is from a Gen X capitol city library director.

I think she has hit on the fundamental basis for establishing the library’s significance in the 21st Century, or any century. That is what the profession has been lacking – a proper explanation of the one fundamental issue on which we can base our indisputable need to exist. This may well be it. I have quoted her comment below (using some editorial license emphasizing particularly important points).

[Begin quote]
“My thought is this: part of [what] I think libraries problem is this vaguery that we attach to our purpose. I was reading on the IFLA [International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions] website and it stated; ‘The public library is a locally based service meeting the needs of the local community and operating within the context of that community.’

Seriously? What does that mean…how is that helpful? A service meeting WHAT needs? I mean, the sentence could be rewritten for the local butcher shop. “The Snyder Bro. Butcher Shop is a locally based service meeting the needs of the local community and operating within the context of that community.” It is about as useful and meaningful.

Nothing these days seems to say WHAT we do or what need we are fulfilling. Some days I feel like I am the only person still saying The purpose of the free public library is to create an informed citizenry that is capable of participating in self-governance. I thought that was what the American library was for. And, from THAT comes a whole lot of ways to provide that service and to define “What” an informed citizen is. As in, does access to the Sopranos TV show help you self govern? In my mind yes, because it allows you to participate in discussions based in popular culture that lead to communication and conversation about our society, culture, and way of life which ultimately impacts our politics and how we govern ourselves.

At another place on the IFLA website it says: ‘The public library, the local gateway to knowledge, provides a basic condition for lifelong learning, independent decision-making and cultural development of the individual and social groups.’ (IFLA/UNESCO Public Library Manifesto, 1994) Frankly I don’t agree. This mission makes us easily replaceable…which is really something we should avoid. I mean, in this definition you could replace public library with bookstore, Internet, social club, church group…you name it.

Now this statement (oddly also in IFLA–they seem to have some confusion on what they think the library is) is the best…but still not as clear and concise as the one I always use (which also makes us irreplaceable): ‘A public library is an organization established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some other form of community organization. It provides access to knowledge, information and works of the imagination through a range of resources and services and is equally available to all members of the community regardless of race, nationality, age, gender, religion, language, disability, economic and employment status and educational attainment.This one is [also] lacking because it doesn’t say WHY we do this…and THAT is the most crucial piece.

And, as a public library director I fight the constant battle with the politicians, the non-user taxpayers, the staff and frankly some days inside my own head of WHY do we do this…Are we still relevant? What is the point? And, when I consider the 21st century library, I still feel like the HOW needs grounding in the WHY.

During my MBA program they talked a lot about the sustainable business. A company that makes buggy whips or wagon wheels is going to be out of business in short order versus the business that makes accessories for things that transport people. If libraries want to last from century to century then we have to stay grounded in WHY we are unique and then HOW to provide the service in the current landscape. But don’t let the How overshadow the Why. NO ONE does what we do, IF you look at the free and equal access to information for all citizens to create a people capable of sustainable self-government. We take it for granted, but ours is a system dependant upon a populace capable of sustaining itself. The Roman republic only lasted 565 years…we are on year 235.”
[End quote]

If any additional justification for the Director’s argument is needed, it can be found in a quote from President James Madison in a letter written in 1822;
“A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

In the Supreme Court case Houchins v. KQED, Inc., 438 U.S. 1, 438 U.S. 30-32 (1978) Justice Stevens wrote a dissenting opinion in which he quoted Madison:
“The preservation of a full and free flow of information to the general public has long been recognized as a core objective of the First Amendment to the Constitution. . . . In addition to safeguarding the right of one individual to receive what another elects to communicate, the First Amendment serves an essential societal function. Our system of self-government assumes the existence of an informed citizenry.” [Emphasis added.]

The reason libraries are needed is because it is a fundamental right of America’s citizens to have free access to information and knowledge.

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OCLC: Perceptions of Libraries 2010 Report


Good news? Not hardly!

OCLC’s Report to the Membership “Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community” is the latest in a series of such reports on OCLC’s efforts to “learn about the attitudes and habits of the emerging ‘online information consumer’.” Putting the study results in “Context”, OCLC announces;

Not only are Americans using the library and its many services more, they also see increased value of the library for themselves and for their communities. They agree—overwhelmingly—that librarians are valuable. And they believe—overwhelmingly—that libraries equal books.

I sincerely hope I’m not the only one who cringes at this statement, and the archaic perception it represents. That Americans are using their local library more because of the major recession is not news, or in the least bit surprising. But, Americans believe – “overwhelmingly – that libraries equal books.” Is that the perception librarians want their 21st Century customers to have – Libraries = Books? Talk about your damaging library stereotypes!

So, when the recession is past and even more people can afford that smartphone they have put off buying, who is going to be interested in pBooks at the library? When the economy recovers and people return to their normal habits of spending for entertainment, doing less job searching, going to amusement parks instead of the library, using Netflix, reading eBooks, etc., what is going to happen to that library use? This report provides only good news for the MOST shortsighted perspective imaginable.

Early in the report, authors presented their “Hot Spots” information from 2003, 2005 and 2007 as a prelude to their 2010 data. Their last bullet item was this vague, unsupported assertion.
Positive librarian perceptions impact library funding. The value of the librarian grew even stronger in 2010. This is good for funding. A high correlation exists between funding support for public libraries and positive librarian perceptions.” (Source: From Awareness to Funding: A study of library support in America OCLC, 2008.)

Again, OCLC seems not to recognize the contradictions in their information. The 2008 reference of funding support, based on information collected in 2007, is useless in 2011. Pre- and During- Recession data is totally unrelated. Not to mention, their own referenced 2008 report contains totally contradictory information to this 2010 assertion!

When asked to indicate which of a number of public services they would agree to fund through an increase in local taxes, most elected officials indicated a higher likelihood to support funding initiatives for the fire department, public schools and police department than for the public library. …
1. Most people claim they would support the library at the ballot box—fewer are firmly committed to it.
2. There is a lot that people don’t know about their public library.
3. Library support is only marginally related to visitation. Advocating for library support to library users focuses effort and energy on the wrong target group.
(Pg 1-6) [Emphasis added.]

Undaunted, the authors continue to paint in the most positive terms, the bleakest outlook for libraries.

Libraries in the technology landscape
The technology landscape that continues to empower information consumers has set new expectations for library users. Libraries are responding by offering new services and by joining the online social networks used by their information consumers. Eleven percent (11%) of larger U.S. public libraries have a Facebook site (ALA, April 2010). A search conducted in January 2011 identified more than 15,700 Facebook URLs that include the word “library.” Libraries also have a growing presence on social media sites. In 2007, a YouTube search found 25,700 videos that included “library,” “libraries” or “librarians.” In January 2011, that number has rocketed to 1,010,000 videos, a 3,830% increase.

Apparently David Letterman’s “Bush Library Top Ten” counts as positive growth of libraries on YouTube, as do Mr. Bean Extras – “Library & Bus Stop”, and Jack Vale “Farting In The Library”. Seriously? This is the kind of research OCLC is using to support their assertions of a brilliant outlook for our libraries?

Libraries provide vital technology services to their users both outside and inside the library. Libraries are delivering services to their increasingly mobile communities by offering mobile connections to their Web sites and catalogs. Some are offering mobile ask-a-question services via text messaging. According to an October 2010 survey conducted by Library Journal, 44% of academic libraries and 34% of public libraries offer some type of mobile services.

Libraries are playing a central and increasingly critical role as technology providers for American information consumers.
(Pg 15) [Emphasis added.]

SERIOUSLY? Based on what standard? Providing wireless Internet access? Some type of mobile services? GET REAL! Wi-Fi and Apps are EVERYWHERE!! ALL of the major telecommunications service providers are killing libraries with SMARTPHONES! Apps are pulling library customers AWAY by the millions with their information providing services!

Technology growth is exponential – but not in the library. (Pg 11)

Social networking use is exponential – but not in the library. (Pg 12)

Smartphone sales are through the roof – but not being used by the library. (Pg 13)

eBook use is growing exponentially – but not in the library – while Google makes digital libraries available to every person on earth. (Pg 14)

Page 28 has some really discouraging data.

Technology at the library empowers Americans who have increased their library use …
• Borrowing books, CDs, DVDs, etc., more often
Economically Impacted = 91% Not Impacted = 79%
• Accessing the Internet for free more often
Economically Impacted = 35% Not Impacted = 14%
• Reading magazines more often
Economically Impacted = 29% Not Impacted = 23%
• Using the computer more often
Economically Impacted = 28% Not Impacted = 12%
• Accessing the free Wi-Fi (wireless Internet) more often
Economically Impacted = 24% Not Impacted = 9%

Economically impacted Americans are reading more magazines at the library than they are using the computers, or even accessing Wi-Fi. When the recession is over, where is the good news for 21st Century libraries in this report?
OCLC EXPECTS US ALL TO ACCEPT THAT LIBRARIES TRULY ARE ALL ABOUT BOOKS?

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