Monthly Archives: June 2013

Can We Get Real Facts, Please

Since being exposed to research and statistical analysis during my doctoral program, I have been a skeptic of much of what is reported as “research findings.” The political polls are especially troubling when one considers that national trends are based on responses of about 2,000 individuals polled. That’s 2,000 who are supposedly representative of the 300+ MILLION. Seriously? Recently I listened to a Pew Research Center analyst spout library use results from one survey of just Philadelphia Public Library patrons and make assertions that these results were representative of library use nation-wide. BULL! Attempting to generalize the interests and behaviors of one city to the entire nation is just bad research at worst, cheap research at best.

Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project Report “Younger Americans’ Library Habits and Expectations” released June 25 reports the following.

Younger Americans—those ages 16-29—exhibit a fascinating mix of habits and preferences when it comes to reading, libraries, and technology. Almost all Americans under age 30 are online, and they are more likely than older patrons to use libraries’ computer and internet connections; however, they are also still closely bound to print, as three-quarters (75%) of younger Americans say they have read at least one book in print in the past year, compared with 64% of adults ages 30 and older.

At the end of the “Summary of Findings” section of this report website, under “About this research,” is their description of the survey – “This report contains findings from a survey of 2,252 Americans ages 16 and above between October 15 and November 10, 2012.” It totally boggles my mind that serious researchers would even consider basing NATIONAL trends, let alone make profession-wide recommendations based on a sample of only 2,252 people. We’re talking over 17,000 public libraries, with BILLIONS of library visits, and countless other academic and school libraries that are supposed to accept these findings as gospel? Seriously? I don’t, and I would advise anyone to seriously questions such results, and recommendations.

The thing that sparked my ire was that media publications have picked up the highlights of this Pew Report and drawn their own conclusions that the general public will accept as gospel also. Younger Americans still use public libraries, survey finds was the Los Angeles Times spin on this Pew Study.

Think teens and twenty-somethings who are used to looking up everything on smartphones have little use for the public library?
Think again.
“E-reading is still fairly new,” Zickuhr [one of the authors of the report] said. “We’re not seeing very high rates of e-reading amongst younger adults. But that could rise and affect the image of the library.”

Not only does this media reporting sound contradictory, it doesn’t really track with events and other data. And, if that were true, would Douglas County (CO) Library System be making a significant investment to create their own cloud for eBooks? AND THAT WAS TWO YEARS AGO!!

Even Pew contradicts itself, because the report includes this – “As with other age groups, younger Americans were significantly more likely to have read an e-book during 2012 than a year earlier.” So, is eBook reading among youth significant or not? Who can tell from this reporting by Pew or the media.

The San Francisco Chronicle blog, reported their headline Study: Younger folks are reading books, using libraries after all and included the following.

The stereotype: Younger Americans no longer visit public libraries and have all but abandoned paper books in favor of digital media.

Reality check: Young Americans are actually more likely than older Americans to have read a printed book in the past year and are more likely than their elders to use a library.

The Pew Study did not report that youth are reading their one book a year at the library – another fallacy of the research. AND, the youth come to the library to use the computers more than older adults, not that youth just use the library more. It is ALWAYS what they don’t tell you that really puts research in its proper perspective.

So what? you may ask. Media gets stuff wrong all the time, and sensationalizes laundry soap.

We’re talking about the future of our libraries. If the public – that includes those who make funding decisions – believes that youth are really using BOOKS, then why fund technology? Why fund eReaders? Why fund conversion to digital collections? Why fund anything new or innovative? “The library hasn’t really changed and all you hypersensitive librarians who think you’re going to be out of a job are wrong.” creates a mentality that change is not coming so why worry, or prepare. THAT is a very dangerous mentality toward libraries.

Change is here and now! Libraries MUST be innovative and understand THEIR users, not rely on questionable research results.


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Communities Don’t Know What They Want Their Library To Be

According to Eli Neiburger during his remarks to the ILEAD USA group June 18. He was making the keynote address to the group of ILEAD participants in Illinois, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, and Utah – The Inverted Library: Harnessing the Creative Power of the Internet Generation to Reinvent Library Services. He covered a lot of topics, but this one was the one that resonated most to me. It represents our opportunity to demonstrate to our communities WHAT THEIR LIBRARY CAN BE!

Neiburger believes that libraries are in a transition period, much like early 20th Century technology of the Industrial Age. For example, some communities developed refrigeration by working through first ice harvesting and storage for dispensing in warm weather, to creating ice for regional dispensing, to bulk local dispensing of ice for home “ice boxes,” to eventually electric in-home refrigeration. Neiburger believes that we are still in the beginning of this Information Age when very limited parts of the world are experiencing the information revolution – relatively speaking – and technology is advancing faster than anyone can envision where it will end. Where it took decades for everyone to get refrigeration, 90-some percent now have it, and it appears to be the logical end of the development of that consumer technology. The rapid advance and continuous change of personal access to information – not necessarily communication, since texting and video are very prevalent – is what makes the present period in the Information Age a transition phase toward the end technology – whatever form that takes. Neiburger contends that chasing after technology at this time is a waste of resources because it changes too rapidly.

However, the future of the library is still in jeopardy because people, telecoms, information brokers and the world in general are trying to make money on that technology march toward the consumer end product, which ultimately will exclude the local library to a great extent. Because the role of the local library in the 20th Century was to “bring the world to the community,” we now must figure out how to transition to make “the 21st Century library bring its community to the world.”

He discussed many programs and services that his library, the Ann Arbor (MI) District Library, offers mostly to youth, but to all “users” as he prefers to call them. He thinks “members” is too exclusive and “customers” too commercial, but believes that everyone can and should be a “user” of the library’s services.

One AADL program that expands the notion of the library as a lending institution is Unusual Stuff to Borrow, which includes items like telescopes, music tools, science to go kits, and Kids Book Clubs to Go kits. Neiburger offered his formula for determining what can reasonably be lent by using the following. Medium cost (less than $400) + Short duration (of use like a one-time need) + Low frequency = Sweet Spot for accessing items to lend to library users. He said that AADL users are on a six month waiting list to borrow a quality telescope, and they will gladly wait that long to use something that they aren’t sure they want to buy, if they could afford it.

Communities don’t know what they want their library to be because the library’s traditional role and function are being replaced by advancing technology of the Information Age. Communities have as many questions about the future as do libraries, which means the opportunity is ripe for libraries to demonstrate to their community what they have the capability to become – WHATEVER THAT IS FOR THEIR COMMUNITY! The age of all libraries looking the same and providing the same collections and services is over. Libraries MUST become something new and valuable to their community, or risk being obsolete and being replaced. Period. End of story. Hopefully, not the end of the library.


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Big Data vs. Little Library

As one of the newest (in terms of public awareness) emerging advances in technology, Big Data is being employed and explored by government, business and even Library of Congress. Leslie Johnston, Acting Director, National Digital Information Infrastructure & Preservation Program, Library of Congress, presented the following information at the Georgetown University Law School Symposium on Big Data last January.

We still have collections. But what we also have is Big Data, which requires us to rethink the infrastructure that is needed to support Big Data services. Our community used to expect researchers to come to us, ask us questions about our collections, and use our digital collections in our environment. Now our collections are, more often than not, self-service.

Obviously, Library of Congress has significant influence on our profession and the complexion of libraries across America. One has to pause and wonder what impact the future of Big Data will have on the small library.

Big Data is described by our friends at Wikipedia as:

Big data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications. The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis, and visualization. The trend to larger data sets is due to the additional information derivable from analysis of a single large set of related data, as compared to separate smaller sets with the same total amount of data, allowing correlations to be found to “spot business trends, determine quality of research, prevent diseases, link legal citations, combat crime, and determine real-time roadway traffic conditions.”

As of 2012, limits on the size of data sets that are feasible to process in a reasonable amount of time were on the order of exabytes [1018bytes] of data. Scientists regularly encounter limitations due to large data sets in many areas, including meteorology, genomics, connectomics, complex physics simulations, and biological and environmental research. The limitations also affect Internet search, finance and business informatics. Data sets grow in size in part because they are increasingly being gathered by ubiquitous information-sensing mobile devices, aerial sensory technologies (remote sensing), software logs, cameras, microphones, radio-frequency identification readers, and wireless sensor networks. The world’s technological per-capita capacity to store information has roughly doubled every 40 months since the 1980s; as of 2012, every day 2.5 quintillion (2.5×1018) bytes of data were created. The challenge for large enterprises is determining who should own big data initiatives that straddle the entire organization.

Big data is difficult to work with using most relational database management systems and desktop statistics and visualization packages, requiring instead “massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers”. …

Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big data sizes are a constantly moving target, as of 2012 ranging from a few dozen terabytes to many petabytes of data in a single data set. The target moves due to constant improvement in traditional DBMS technology as well as new databases like NoSQL and their ability to handle larger amounts of data. With this difficulty, new platforms of “big data” tools are being developed to handle various aspects of large quantities of data.

OK, that was a big quote, but the most important part is that “The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, transfer, analysis, and visualization.” meaning that Big Data is SO FAR beyond the capabilities and considerations of smaller libraries that it may create a huge polarization in library services. “Big data usually includes data sets with sizes beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, curate, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time.”

Curate! Store! Search! Share! Transfer! are ALL functions of librarianship and libraries, and LoC is telling us that Big Data is making them “beyond the ability of commonly used software” to deal with. So where does that leave small libraries without the capability to develop their own digital library services, like Douglas County (CO) Library System’s cloud library project? It leaves them right back in the 20th Century where they have too long been.

The progression of Big Data relative to library collections obviously appears to be toward everything being available over the Internet or other WiFi and mobile devices. Earlier fears about librarians becoming obsolete were not unfounded. Not only are Google, Amazon, and National Digital Library trying to make information more ubiquitous, now Library of Congress is helping promote Big Data that will make small libraries nothing more than remote terminals for Big Data.


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21st Century World Record Library

If 21st Century libraries have the capability to set world records, there is nothing they can’t accomplish!

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