Monthly Archives: June 2010

The Future of Librarians?

Here’s a fascinating article circulating around cyberspace.

New York Times
By Clive Thompson, June 14, 2010

“For the last three years, I.B.M. scientists have been developing what they expect will be the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,” as computer scientists call it — and respond with a precise, factual answer. In other words, it must do more than what search engines like Google and Bing do, which is merely point to a document where you might find the answer. It has to pluck out the correct answer itself. Technologists have long regarded this sort of artificial intelligence as a holy grail, because it would allow machines to converse more naturally with people, letting us ask questions instead of typing keywords. Software firms and university scientists have produced question-answering systems for years, but these have mostly been limited to simply phrased questions. Nobody ever tackled “Jeopardy!” because experts assumed that even for the latest artificial intelligence, the game was simply too hard: the clues are too puzzling and allusive, and the breadth of trivia is too wide. With Watson, I.B.M. claims it has cracked the problem – ….”

Read the full article and think about it.

What do you think about the future of librarians in general in the next 10 years?
Will this only impact reference librarians? Why?
Will this impact libraries in general? How?

NOT RHETORICAL QUESTIONS. Please provide your comments.

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21st Century Library Strategies

So, how do you get from where your library is now, to become a 21st Century Library? Good question. Huge question, but one that deserves an answer. Simple answer: develop a strategy.

Hopefully, your library is using a strategic plan to guide your activities and resource allocation to support those activities, which in turn accomplish objectives, goals and eventually your library mission. The below diagram outlines the essential elements of a quality strategic plan.

Strategic Plan Model

Strategic Plan Model

So, having a strategic plan that points the way toward a vision of your 21st Century Library seems kinda like a no-brainer. But (you say), “What are the goals, objectives and activities of a 21st Century Library?” To which I say, “That is for you to decide.” But, seriously, what other approach would you use? (Not a rhetorical question!)

If someone has a better approach to beginning to move toward becoming a 21st Century Library, I would love to hear it. A strategic plan provides ALL of the elements necessary to make it happen, not just allow it to happen, but to MAKE it happen. Without a strategic plan any organization will flounder because they have no rudder to guide their activities toward a goal, no system to allocate critically limited resources to complete activities that achieve goals and objectives that ultimately achieve the mission. Allocating resources here and there as current pressures sway decisions leads nowhere, except to the expenditure of those resources without accomplishing any specific goals. Think about it.

I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has already done any of this hard work, or has done it another way.
Please share.

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Are We in a 21st Century Library Paradigm Shift?

Good question! What do you library professionals think?

In my opinion we are. However, it is different from the paradigm shift we all discussed 15 years ago that 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.

Today there are different factors influencing the library profession that make a paradigm shift inevitable and essential, based on my assessment of the literature. 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. (See 21st Century Library Issues – Revisited.)

As I wrote, I support increased information literacy because it contributes to a fundamental library tenant; to make a better informed citizenry.

I certainly agree with you that; “… this new data world will need sherpas. And that should be us.” It should be us, but it seems unlikely when you consider the 21st Century Skills movement in education, and look closely at what elementary school kids are being taught regarding ICT (Information, Communications and Technology).
Access and Evaluate Information
•Access information efficiently (time) and effectively (sources)
•Evaluate information critically and competently
Use and Manage Information
•Use information accurately and creatively for the issue or problem at hand
•Manage the flow of information from a wide variety of sources
•Apply a fundamental understanding of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of information

See also my Changes in Our Librarian Education for the 21st Century post.

Here is some more food for thought based on some information that one of my colleagues put together. We can use some help filling in the 21st Century Paradigm elements.
Defining the 21st Century Library Paradigm

To be continued…………………………

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“21st Century Skills & Utah Libraries” Presentation Video

While I promised readers a link to the archived Wimba recording of my “21st Century Skills & Utah Libraries” presentation at the Utah Library Association Conference on May 14th, alas it was not to be. As I said during the presentation, the definition of the word “frenemy” must include the word “technology”. When it works it’s awesome. When it doesn’t work it’s frustrating at best, a curse at worst. Our technician’s explanation is below.

“Due to the restricted internet connection at the convention site, we were unable to sustain a live broadcast and archiving simultaneously so we opted to offer the live broadcast only. We were unable to create any archives under the circumstances.”

However, we are still hopeful that the videographer recording of the presentation will be able to be uploaded to the USL website in the near future for viewing. Please check back.

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