Monthly Archives: March 2011

Libraries in the Clouds – Seriously!

There is an undeniable trend toward cloud computing for many good reasons – compatibility being the primary motivator.

Last week Farhad Manjoo, writing for Slate Future of Innovations wrote about “The Future of the Internet“.

People spend a lot of time and money on apps these days, and many developers are indeed devoting more of their resources to apps than to the Web. Still, I’ve been skeptical of the Web-is-dead idea. The Web has one main advantage over apps: It works everywhere, and that’s important in a post-Windows world. Since our computers, phones, and tablets use different operating systems, we need a single platform to unite them all. Sure, programmers can theoretically write different apps for the iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Palm, and every other gadget that comes along, but that doesn’t seem tenable. Instead, they’ll come to see the advantages of creating content and applications that work across devices. There’s no better uniter than the Web. [Emphasis added.]

So, while all those Millennial library customers are using different smartphones and remote devices, cloud computing can reach all of them. Makes “libraries in the clouds” sound more serious.

According to our good friends at Wikipedia, cloud computing means;

Cloud computing can be compared to the supply of electricity and gas, or the provision of telephone, television and postal services. All of these services are presented to the users in a simple way that is easy to understand without the users needing to know how the services are provided. This simplified view is called an abstraction. Similarly, cloud computing offers computer application developers and users an abstract view of services that simplifies and ignores much of the details and inner workings. A provider’s offering of abstracted Internet services is often called “The Cloud”.

Manjoo also wrote;

Let me be more specific: These days many people store e-mail, photos, and documents in the “cloud.” It’s possible that you get a lot of your entertainment via broadband lines, too (if you listen to Pandora, say, or spend your evenings with Netflix’s streaming service). I predict that this trend will continue, but that we’ll also see something more interesting. Instead of just using the network just to store data, we’ll also rely on faraway servers for their processing power, too. For a taste of this, try OnLive, an Internet-gaming service that I’ve praised a couple times. OnLive lets you run high-def games—the kind that once required a monster PC or console—on rinky-dink hardware.

Obviously, for the 21st Century library this means cloud gaming is in your future. Faster, better quality, and more games. All at a price tag of course, but maybe by the time your library figures it out and your customers demand it, it will be affordable. And don’t forget Facebook – it’s in the clouds, as are Picasa, Wordle, HotMail and Gmail, etc., etc.

One of the most common examples of “cloud computing” for internal organization use is Google Docs. It has been used for staff collaboration and document sharing for many months.

Manjoo goes on to explain an even more attractive cloud computing feature in the near future.

Your devices’ deeper integration with the Internet will change your life even if you don’t do a lot of processor-intensive tasks. One of my favorite ideas about the future of computing is the notion of the “continuous client“—Joshua Topolsky’s view that when we move from gadget to gadget, the stuff we’re doing on one machine should travel with us. If you’ve got Slate and a spreadsheet open on your office computer when you leave for the day, the same windows should show up on your laptop at home, too. Right now, different companies are working on different aspects of this problem. Google’s Chrome OS, which stores all data online, currently offers the most advanced implementation of the continuous client, but it’s far from perfect. I suspect that continuity will be one of the main areas of interface innovation over the next few years. [Emphasis added.]

So what are the fantastic advantages to this cloud computing?

Key characteristics of cloud computing are listed at Wikipedia as;

• Agility improves with users’ ability to rapidly and inexpensively re-provision technological infrastructure resources (update existing or acquire new software).
• Application Programming Interface (API) accessibility to software that enables machines to interact with cloud software in the same way the user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers.
• Cost is claimed to be greatly reduced and in a public cloud delivery model capital expenditure is converted to operational expenditure (spend your limited funds on providing services rather than computer stuff that will become obsolete).
• Device and location independence enable users to access systems using a web browser regardless of their location or what device they are using (e.g., PC, mobile phone, iPad, etc.).
• Reliability is improved if multiple redundant sites are used, which makes well designed cloud computing suitable for business continuity and disaster recovery. (BTW, how is your data disaster recovery plan?)
• Scalability via dynamic (“on-demand”) provisioning of resources on a fine-grained, self-service basis near real-time, without users having to engineer for peak loads.
• Security could improve due to centralization of data, increased security-focused resources, etc., but concerns can persist about loss of control over certain sensitive data, and the lack of security for stored kernels.
• Maintenance of cloud computing applications is easier, because they do not need to be installed on each user’s computer. They are easier to support and to improve, as the changes reach the clients instantly.
• Metering means that cloud computing resources usage should be measurable and should be metered per client and application on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis (meaning the price is also scalable).

These are all advantages from which libraries could benefit. Sound complicated? Have your IT people read this and see if they think it is complicated, or maybe just very smart strategy.

Reinventing libraries and the way we do business are getting easier with more tools available all the time. Librarians simply need to keep in touch with technology developments, figure out how to improve an existing service, or establish a new service, and go for it!

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What IS the Future of Libraries?

I find myself “filtering” most things in the media using my “librarian” filter, and I just realized why. It helps me make sense of events in the context of something that was always a constant. (Note the past tense.) In other words – determining how the moving train affects the train station.

Understanding where libraries used to fit into society, gives me a concept of what society has been for many centuries. Trying to understand how the external environment is impacting the library of that past image, gives me a means to process the changes. This makes more sense to me than trying to analyze how technology and social change impact me and my life personally.

Why? Because individual lives are too ‘personal’ as opposed to institutional. Personal lives are flux. My life is flux. (I assume your life is flux too.) Where I live, where I work, where I travel, what meal I eat tonight – it’s all flux. Life changes. My life has routinely adapted to external factors that are only partially controllable, in order to make it safe, comfortable, enjoyable, and fulfilling. So, trying to use myself as a fixed object against which to measure technology and social change is like nailing silly putty to the wall – time consuming and unproductive. Institutions are more static.

By comparison, people within institutions (like libraries) have more control over how much those external rear-endings impact their institution, but only in terms of how they adapt. BUT, in order to adapt they have to understand the external factors’ influence, what it means to their future, and how to adapt to the changes.

Just consider some of my Blog Posts over this past year. I think it is safe to say that most have dealt with changes impacting our profession. For example;

21st Century Patrons: Generation Y, the Millennials
Millennial Patrons & Social Networking
The Future of Librarians?
“White Spaces” – Another Game Changer!
Future of the pBook – Conflicting Opinions!
The Ghost of Library Future
21st Century Libraries Include “Gadget” Technology
Mobile Technologies Landscape of the 21st Century Library
21st Century Library Technology & Connectivity
Libraries Reinventing Themselves?
Exponential Mobile Technology Growth – Seriously!
A “Perfect Storm” Is Battering Libraries
Change Is Not Coming – IT’S HERE!
Demise of the Local Library? – Probably!
As If Google Wasn’t Making Local Libraries Obsolete Fast Enough…….
Discontinuous Thinking
Reference Librarian vs. Computer!
And The Winner Is…..
Youth and Technology
A Look Into Your Future
Another Look Into Your Future

In fact, I have tried to maintain the thread of changes to the library environment being caused by external factors – technology advances, societal changes, education reform – that are affecting that long-held roll libraries have filled within their community. That roll that is fading away. In some cases where communities have chosen to eliminate their library, it simply disappeared. POOF – GONE

We need to figure out how to retain some relevant roll for community libraries, and figure out what that roll should be.

Maybe it isn’t the same for each community, because the external factors will vary from community to community, but will be very similar in some respects. One recent Comment to the “Community Center” Mindset Post explained how the local library was defining the “community center model” for their library and community – in order to survive and remain relevant. That was their reality solution.

Maybe the roll of libraries is to become a “community center” simply to retain some kind of cultural institution identity, even at the risk of losing their identity as being something more.

Maybe the roll of libraries in the 21st Century is the same everywhere, but the services are significantly different. Customer centered services are inherently defined by the customer, every community is unique, so why should we expect all library services to be the same.

Maybe the 21st Century Library Paradigm Shift is that libraries will be defined by their local community and those librarians running the library more than by the profession, or SLIS, or ALA, or any outside association’s arbitrary standards.

Again, we need to figure out how to retain a relevant roll for community libraries, figure out what that roll should be, and what it means in terms of library services.


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Harper Collins = 21st Century Scrooge

On a ListServe to which I recently subscribed the following announcement was published. To me, it represents the crux of the issue, as well as the practical response by a state-wide agency to address the issues created by Harper Collins decision to seek greater profits.

Recently many changes have occurred which impact this Consortium, including a new contract offered by OverDrive and, most recently, the announcement that Harper Collins digital titles (purchased after March 7) will expire after being downloaded 26 times.

The pricing model put forth by OverDrive in a contract renewal proposal (in late 2010) was unsustainable because the Application Service and License Fee Schedule showed a 100% increase each year for 4 years. This contract has been withdrawn by OverDrive. The [Organization] is continuing to negotiate contract terms with OverDrive. It seems likely that the [Organization] and OverDrive will come to a mutually beneficial agreement so that the [Organization] Consortium will continue to exist and will continue to offer digital content to [customers]. As this process progresses, I will send you updates.

Regarding the Harper Collin’s decision: because of the potential negative impact of the decision of Harper Collins publishers on customer service, the [Organization] has placed a moratorium on purchasing Harper Collins titles. There are many issues around the “expiration of a title after 26 check-outs,” two of which are of immediate interest, i.e., how patron holds and MARC records will be handled upon expiration of a title. Until these and other issues are addressed, the [Organization] moratorium will remain in place.

I believe that this is in keeping with the desire of the consortium to provide the best customer service possible. Thank you.

Harper Collins obviously revealed their Scrooge core values that have and will ensnare them in messy debate and controversy and could ultimately end in their financial ruin. It is obvious that decision makers at Harper Collins failed to take the big picture into consideration – libraries are a source of potential sales, and more importantly libraries are a focal point of good will. Many companies have doomed themselves by making such blatant commercial decisions that had far more detriment impact than any benefits or profits they imagined. Such is the nature of business when the bottom line becomes more important than service – as Scrooge figured out when his life flashed before his eyes.

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Technology Advances – SERIOUSLY!

For many months in many Posts I’ve been advocating that technology advances are having a significant impact on library services and the fundamental role of libraries, because it is the technology advances that are making the most visible and dramatic changes. From Jeopardy expert computers that will make the reference librarian obsolete to the touch panel glass that will transform libraries physically. Here’s one that seems to have been overlooked. I suggest that it is one that can be added to the list of Technologies to Watch.

I’ve said “nature abhors a vacuum”, and where there is a demand commercial vendors are stepping in to fill that void. Business is more nimble and responds to market demands MUCH faster than any library organization. But librarians MUST keep in touch with our customers just as surely as any business, and respond accordingly with innovative services.

Ever hear of Zediva? “It offers the 100 biggest movies for streaming on the very same day the DVD comes out.” according to a New York Times article written by David Pogue. He writes;

The price is only $2 for one movie or $1 if you buy a 10-pack. There’s no signup fee, no monthly fee, no hardware to buy.

Zediva’s secret is so outrageous, you may think it’s an early April Fool’s prank. But it’s no joke.

At its California data center, Zediva has set up hundreds of DVD players. They’re automated, jukebox-style. You’re not just renting a movie; you’re actually taking control of the player that contains the movie you want. The DVD is simply sending you the audio and video signals, as if it were connected to your home with a really, really long cable.

It’s kind of hilarious to think that this arrangement is the solution to the future of online movies: data centers stacked to the ceiling with DVD players.

While the Comments submitted to this article were mostly positive, there was some opinion that it will never fly for various technology or legal reasons. Time will tell, but the reality is that the demand was so great that Zediva had to halt registrations.

The real point of highlighting this specific new technology to hit the market is that it demonstrates that there are so many more new, innovative and resourceful ideas out there than we can possibly imagine. Change Is Not Coming – IT’S HERE! Libraries MUST recognize that and accept that they either change or they die. It’s that simple!


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“Community Center” Mindset Fosters Librarian Polarization

Back in early December I Posted Polarization of the Librarian Profession? in which I opined on a Post by effinglibrarian ( Patron Expectations vs. Librarian Expectations in Library Service). He observed that “…it doesn’t matter how much librarians know or do, there always seem to be other librarians who demand that we know and do more. Like it’s a personal offense to them when we aren’t up on the latest, … whatever, whether it’s a new author or a subject or a device or a philosophy.” His comments made me consider the question of polarization within the librarian profession – centered upon each side’s concept of the 21st Century Library.

Well, the topic has surfaced again (which in my mind gives it “legs” – as the phrase was coined a few years ago), this time by Annoyed Librarian for in a March 16 Post Public Library Privilege, which got effinglibrarian going again. Annoyed proposes that;

A few months ago, someone wrote an opinion article for LJ about “big tent” librarianship, arguing that “all librarians are intrinsically connected in their personal motivations for entering the profession” and “are connected by core beliefs across the different library types.” It was written “to combat the illusion of separation that currently exists within the field.”

I read it at the time, and thought, eh, okay, interesting idea. It’s not terribly new, and is pretty much what the ALA has preached for decades with its bills of rights and mission statements and other documents that supposedly cover all libraries. The ALA implies that librarians all have something in common, though the existence of the SLA, MLA, and AALL should tell us something.

I also don’t think librarians are intrinsically connected in their personal motivations for entering the profession.

I also don’t believe the separation that exists among librarians is an illusion. Librarians really are separate, and the problems they face are often not connected. That libraries have some things in common means very little when tacking individual problems.

effinglibrarian used that post as an opportunity to expand on his original Post on the topic when he posted “Libraries, the Universe and Everything” yesterday, in which he opined that;

I’d like to take this time to put forward a grand unifying theory of libraries: Librarians are not unified.

I was reading a discussion of the Annoyed Librarian and some librarians continue to follow the dream of believing in a world where all librarians share the common goals of service to the customer, preservation of materials, intellectual freedom and open access to information.

And they are completely and totally wrong.

His primary premise, as I understood it, is that funding between the private and public sectors are competing for limited dollars, therefore they are inherently on opposite sides of issues.

I wholeheartedly agree with Annoyed that librarians are NOT “connected by core beliefs across the different library types.” In fact, I believe the polarization goes deeper than either of these current reasons posed by my esteemed Blogger colleagues. The division is more closely related to effing’s original reason of “…it doesn’t matter how much librarians know or do, there always seem to be other librarians who demand that we know and do more” because that is at the heart of the polarization – those who think there is nothing new about librarianship in the 21st Century, and those who know this is a new era for librarianship.

I have spent the past year trying to highlight the many and significant changes to the librarian profession, and the environment of technology advances, societal changes and education reform that are promoting those major changes. Those who are accepting the changes and innovating their profession to deal with them are making their library’s successful and are far ahead of those who are ignoring or un-accepting of the changes – and who do so to their own detriment, and that of their library.

I also see that the polarization is based in a professional mindset causing a significant division between those librarians who accept and promote the concept of the local library as a “community center model” (I’ve decided to call it) – versus those who envision their library as the center of the community.

Too often I read and hear the term “community center” applied to the library (even as recently as last week at the IMLS Conference). The troubling part is that librarians who endorse that term may think they are promoting the library as the center of the community – they are not! In fact, “community center model” advocates are endorsing the concept of the library as just another place for citizens to congregate to enjoy whatever activities the community offers for free (in most cases), where teens can stay off the streets, where civic groups can offer classes on various hobbyist subjects, where citizens can come to interact with others of their own age, where librarians act as activity coordinators, and where the community locates its tax-based social activities. The term “community center” to non-librarians means the library is a part of the traditional “Community Center”, which is proliferating across the nation as libraries combine with other community agencies and civic functions.

The 21st Century library that is a center of the community is the place where citizens are attracted to the information offerings to improve their life, and find the knowledgeable assistance they need to solve problems and seek personal fulfillment – whether books, DVDs, video games, music or art. The center of the community library is the place that offers information technology skills, teaches citizens information literacy skills, provides information in a multitude of formats, and where skilled information professionals present services and programs that change people’s lives.

It would be a huge improvement in the 21st Century librarian profession if all librarians understood the distinction between the role of the library in the local community as a “community center”, which will some day obliterate the identity of the library entirely, and the library as the “center of the community” which will perpetuate its vital role in the community indefinitely.


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Texting vs. Morse Code

It is said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it seems that technology is actually in the hands of the user.

Text Messaging VS Morse Code

What do you think?

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Library Braintrust

If there ever was a braintrust of library leadership in the United States – this was it! The participants included 20 state librarians, 16 deputy/assistant state librarians, and library directors from American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and PERL (Pacific Resources for Education and Learning based in Honolulu, HI), about 150 total participants. I was among the remaining group of staff who help their state library agency administer the LSTA Grant program.

The occasion was the Institute of Museum and Library Services hosted “Grants to States Conference 2011” to discuss how libraries may spend the $161.3M in federal funds “distributed to the states, the District of Columbia, [and] U.S. territories”.

For two and a half days in mid-March, IMLS has hosted, at their expense, a conference of state library administrative agency (SLAA) representatives to solicit their assistance. IMLS’ mission is “to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas” and it is “the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries”.

This was the largest combination of library brainpower, talent and influence it has ever been my privilege to be among, and it included the recent Presidential appointee IMLS Director Susan Hildreth, former Seattle Public Library director, former California State Librarian. That goes for the rest of the IMLS staff who are equally amazing! More than any federal agency I ever encountered – IMLS ROCKS!

From the very opening remarks by Director Hildreth, it was evident that IMLS considered the states’ librarians to be their partners in this new era of federal funding to libraries. As if that wasn’t revolutionary enough, they solicited our expertise and opinions on some pretty weighty issues. Congress has given IMLS new direction regarding areas upon which libraries should focus these federal resources, and IMLS seriously solicited librarians’ input on issues regarding “Barriers” to and “Opportunities” for achieving library program objectives in all states and territories.

For two days we broke into smaller working groups to consider issues such as;
• Building/Sustaining Information Resources
• Targeting Library and Information Services
• Strengthening the Library Workforce
• Integrating Services

Working groups brainstormed and strategized about these topics to provide IMLS with valuable information upon which they will base their new system for reporting our successes with IMLS funds. They are sincerely interested in telling a cohesive “library story” at the national level that will substantiate the value of local libraries, as well as provide accountability and transparency to this invaluable program.

IMHO, this was THE MOST PRODUCTIVE librarian event in which I have ever participated, it was for THE MOST WORTHWHILE GOALS I have ever imagined in connection with helping libraries grow, and it was conducted by THE MOST LIBRARY SUPPORTIVE national organization I have ever experienced.

This and following IMLS events will help guarantee a national perspective on library accomplishments that can subsequently be presented to library funders at all levels. Stay tuned for more detailed information on this hallmark event for libraries.

NOTE: For anyone not familiar with the LSTA Grant program:

For more than 50 years the LSTA [Library Services and Technology Act] Grants to States Program and its predecessors have supported the delivery of library services in the United States. Few public sector agencies in the country have been as responsive as libraries to the extreme shifts brought on by the information age. Rapid changes in information technology resulted in significant reorganization of library work and major changes to library service in public, academic, school, and research settings. Over this period libraries expanded their traditional mission of collecting and circulating physical holdings to one that also provides access to computers, software, and a host of new services, including an ever-increasing pool of digital information services.

The Grants to States Program is the largest grant program run by IMLS; it provides funds to State Library Administrative Agencies (SLAA) using a population-based formula. SLAAs may use federal funds to support statewide initiatives and services; they also may distribute the funds through subgrant competitions or cooperative agreements to public, academic, research, school, and special libraries in their state. The program has the benefit of building the capacity of states to develop statewide plans for library services and to evaluate those services every five years.

The overall purposes of the Library Services and Technology Act are to
 promote improvement in library services in all types of libraries in order to better serve the people of the United States,
 facilitate access to resources in all types of libraries for the purpose of cultivating an educated and informed citizenry, and
 encourage resource sharing among all types of libraries for the purpose of achieving economical and efficient delivery of library services to the public.

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