Daily Archives: December 20, 2010


As a follow-up to my previous Post today, I’ve come across two other examples of technology changes that demonstrate how the access of information will dramatically impact the 21st Century Library.

NPR published Google Book Tool Tracks Cultural Change With Words on December 16 that reported “Perhaps the biggest collection of words ever assembled has just gone online: 500 billion of them”. Called Culturomics.org, Google’s search tool provides interesting results in terms of word usage over centuries. “The Google Labs N-gram Viewer is the first tool of its kind, capable of precisely and rapidly quantifying cultural trends based on massive quantities of data.” [A-users-guide-to-culturomics] This is an example of data made available to EVERYONE to conduct their own primary research, and it does not exist in libraries!

The significance of this to librarians is the “massive quantities of data” and the primary research issues. Google and others are developing computer databases that can and do store and manipulate MASSIVE quantities of data, which means that information is more readily available on more subjects than ever before IN HISTORY – NOT IN LIBRARIES!

To support that computer databases are expanding research capabilities, on the Larry King Live program Saturday, the topic was The War Against Cancer, during which guest Michael Milken explained that cancer research is progressing at an exponential rate because of the massive quantities of data available to researchers. “Computers are a million times faster than they were 10 to 15 years ago. We have the computing capacity now to deal with numbers that we are dealing with number of cells, one trillion calculations a second. So we can test every single thing today. What we only could have dreamed of doing when I started working on cancer research more than 30 years ago, we can do today in an hour or an afternoon. It is a totally different world today.” [Emphasis added.]

Imagine that every study of every kind that has been conducted within the past 10 years has been stored in databases in networked computers, and all that DATA is available to other computers to analyze. Is it anything other than expected that ALL INFORMATION ACCESS will continue to progress at a staggering rate? In my Post The Future of Librarians?, I related the story of IBM’s supercomputer that is “the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday human elocution — “natural language,”.

Isn’t it obvious that technology has changed society dramatically, and that those changes dramatically affect the librarian profession in the way we provide access to information and services? LIBRARY CHANGE IS IMPERATIVE! SERIOUSLY!

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For many months now one of my primary objectives has been to convince librarians (and anyone else reading this Blog) that technology advancements, education reform, and societal changes are impacting the librarian profession, and that change and innovation are imperative if libraries are to survive. There is hardly a day that goes by that the news doesn’t report some changes in one of those three factors that reinforces those assertions.

Yesterday there were two (that I saw) on Fox News. Doctors Testing Warm, Beating Hearts in Transplant reported that doctors have developed a machine that will transport a donor heart at body temperature, with blood circulating and the heart muscle beating. If that’s not amazing, I’m not sure what is (at least for my generation). But the interesting part is that society is at the point where we’re saying, “Well, of course. DUH!” and thinking “That makes perfect sense. It’s about time.” That is a definitive indication that society has changed because now we expect innovation!

The second story dealt with the US military testing smartphones, including “tablets, e-readers and even portable projectors”, on the battlefield. Smartphones Going Into Battle, Army Says reported that the military intends to give soldiers the strategic advantage, “What we’re doing is fundamentally changing how soldiers access knowledge, information, training content and operational data.” Again, this is a “no brainer” today, but it really is revolutionary in terms of real-time information on the battlefield.

The implications of “changing how soldiers access knowledge, information, training content and operational data” are profound. Profound, not only in the benefits to soldiers in harms way, but because the military used to be one of the last sectors of our society to adopt change and new technology. In the 21st Century the military is much more innovative. There has always been an adage that the military is a reflection of society. If there is any truth to that, then society has changed the way it accesses and uses information!

If the military can figure out ways to apply new technology to its mission, are libraries going to lag behind even the military in adopting technology? Isn’t it obvious that society has changed dramatically, and that those changes dramatically affect the librarian profession in the way we provide access to information and services? LIBRARY CHANGE IS IMPERATIVE!

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