Thursday, July 29, 2004

Whole 'Nother World

Speaking of which, I have to say I had no idea that George and Joyce (his wife) were cruise people. I am only exhibiting my own woeful stereotypes here. Because I think a cruise would be awful I am always taken aback when people I like and admire (like George and Joyce) do things I don't like-- they should care anyway!  I am the sort of person who feels put-upon after a short elevator ride with strangers, especially when they make conversation so being on a very large elevator with many strangers for days on end seems Heronimous Bosch-ish to me.  But, I admit I know zippo about cruising.

What I had meant to say was, here I am at the Grand Hyatt in D.C., a hotel I realized I'd been in many times before at various ALAs. It's just around the corner from the convention center. I don't think the OCLC staff have stayed here but I've been in the building. Mind you, I have never been here while there was a karaoke event happening and as the rooms face inward I can hear the wannabe American Idols.

Can you remember the first library conference you went to where a whole new world opened up to you? In my library career, this was the LITA conference in Denver in...hmm, maybe 1993 or 4? These cathartic events are always a combination of your own experience (or lack of), the event itself, your receptiveness to new ideas and the content of the conference.

Well, even if the events don't live up to the billings, I am feeling the same way after a thorough reading of the conference sessions at the World Future conference. A whole new vocabulary -- "enterbrainment", "digitalization", "transmodern", "choice-oriented behavior" and "regenopasal". What fun!

I am thinking ALA and other library orgs need to have "futurist" sections...we  have loads of format and market segment organizations. How about sections and committees who do what we did in the scan, on an ongoing basis?

Cory Doctorow and ebooks

David Leslie works here at OCLC in QA. He was our first commenter, and has posted several thoughtful comments since. He is very interested in using wikis for group work and promises Alice and me a demo of a wiki he'd like to use for project management information. He sent me the email I duplicate below...I had read Cory Doctorow's article ages ago but it was buried in a big file. This is actually a challenge of "responsible blogging." How to make sure that interesting things are shared with the blogosphere? There's so much interesting stuff to talk about!

Here's David's comments about Cory:

One of the most passionate defenders of the ebook is Cory Doctorow. Cory is an author, editor of the influential Boing Boing blog while holding down a gig with the EFF. Cory allows people to freely download his books from his website which is amazing given that these books are also published by Tor, one of the leading science fiction publishers. The link is to a talk Cory gave on the subject of ebooks. In the talk, he discusses the problems that have plagued not the format of ebooks but how they have been marketed. He also notes his views on how copyright is for the most part broken.

Education Environment

I'm in Chicago this week attending a board meeting of Learning Point Associates, an organization dedicated to helping school districts, principals, and teachers improve learning by creating various systems to improve teaching, create more accurate measurement of results, and to allow policymakers to beast their decisions on facts. I got into a very interesting discussion with one of the leadership team of the organization about some of the finding of e-scan. He was telling me about his 17-year old son who plays "Blackhawk Down" online. He has a whole squad that "reports" to him, and he considers his game mates his friends. He has created a whole world that didn't, that couldn't have, existed a few years ago. We pondered what this means for the future of education and learning, and how to teach information literacy to students who already know more about technology than most of their teachers.

Educators are under the gun right now. Under the "No Child Left Behind" law, school administrators for the first time are being legally compelled to produce results or face losing their jobs. Learning Point Associates is trying to help schools prepare for these challenges. As one of my fellow directors, the chief education officer for a large Midwestern state, said yesterday, a school superintendent had told him that in his 37 years of experience he had never seen a school district superintendent fired because his kids weren't learning. They had been fired for poor football results, transportation issues, bad calls on snow days, but never for failure to education. The new law changes that, requiring wholesale personnel changes in schools that consistently fail to produce.

We can argue for years over whether this is appropriate or not, but this is the law, and no one on this board sees the law changing no matter who is elected in November.

But outside of partisan arguments, doesn't it seem like there is a marvelous opportunity for public libraries to help here? To be advocates for helping toddlers enter school ready to learn, to help young students read for pleasure, to keep middle schoolers engaged during the summer, to polish the credentials of graduating high schoolers? This is where public librarians could step into the role of true community partners, without changing their mission, without feeling like they've sold out. And they could truly make their communities better.

I'm off the blog for a week or so for some R and R. I'm sure Alane and Alice will keep you informed and challenged in my absence. Or, as Groucho Marx once observed when he was leaving a party, "Outside of the improvement, you'll never notice the difference!" (Boat drinks for everyone!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Alane Goes to Washington, D.C.

Tomorrow, I am heading to Washington, D.C. to attend the World Futures Society conference. 

We often get asked now how we went about researching, compiling and writing the Environmental Scan because people are interested in doing similar work within their own environments as a part of strategic planning processes. And we tell them...but I am going to make you come back later and read how we did it because it deserves its own story.

But I am going to this conference that will be attended by "professional futurists" so that I can learn about techniques and tools that real environmental scanners use. I'll be in 2 full-day classes before attending conference sessions so I should have some interestings things to share... although perhaps not as interesting as Jessamyn's posts to her DNC blog.

Alice has been on vacation in New York city , and George has been incommunicado in meetings for the last two days. Alice may have stories from NYC. She did wonder, in an email to George and me, whether OCLC needed a NYC-based blogger, so she must have had a good time.

Look for a new edition of the OCLC Five Year Information Format Trends report very soon. OCLC published the first one in 2003, and I, along with a bunch of other staff, have been working on the 2004 version. We're just about done--it's down to the incredibly tedious but necessary work of checking commas and triple checking numbers and facts. And I am very grateful for Brad "Mr Chicago Style Manual" Gauder's eagle eye.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Duke iPod follow-up

A few days ago, I posted (as did many other bloggers) a note about Duke University giving all incoming freshmen iPods already loaded with relevant content. Cathy De Rosa, the VP of Marketing and Library Services, mine and Alice's boss, and one of the authors of the Environmental Scan visited Duke University very recently to give a presentation on the Scan. David Ferriero, the University Librarian (and soon to become the Director of the Research Libraries at the New York Public Library), told Cathy in a conversation that the iPod was a library-driven initiative.  Nothing I've seen written on this yet has credited the library. So, Mr. Ferriero, kudos to you and your staff!

Technology and the World's Second Oldest Profession

Yesterday on WNYC's excellent radio program "On the Media" there was a story about the bloggers who have been given press credentials for the Democratic National Conference in Boston this week. This seems to me to be yet another link in the growth of respectability of the web as a news source. One of the people interviewed in the story noted that "the media" have (has?) never been a consistent, monolithic thing. Newspaper reporters fought giving credentials to radio broadcasters. There was a long argument about allowing television to cover conventions live. (Digression: this story made me wonder: if TV had not covered the 1968 Democratic Convention live from Chicago, would Hubert Humphrey have been elected president? It also makes me wonder if some blogger could become Boston's John Chancellor, under attack on the convention floor for trying to cover the news?)
Not everyone with a laptop at Boston may be a blogger, though. An interesting article in today's
Information Week Daily that the wired network at the Fleet Center could be vulnerable to hacking attacks through its wireless network. Every coin has two sides, I guess.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Vivisimo, the 9/11 Commission's final report, wheels and nails.

ResourceShelf notes a really cool thing Vivisimo has done to the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission. "Keyword search the entire 500+ page document and then review the first 200 matching paragraphs in breakable folders. Another useful resource from Vivisimo." According to their web site, Vivisimo's clustering engine categorizes textual information from a single or different content repositories into on-the-fly into meaningful folders.

And there are about 30 universities apparently using the clustering engine....and here is why, according to Vivisimo:

The search function at university websites shows its content as long, insufferable lists of search results. Alumni, prospective students, visitors, and university members view few, if any, pages before their patience with the format is exhausted, so much of what a university has to offer is simply overlooked.

"Long, insufferable lists of search results..."  Substitute "university" with "library OPAC" or "FirstSearch" and that would about describe the result, I think.  Seeing I have the bully pulpit here, I have to tell you, dear readers, that I have been a squeaky wheel here at the OCLC Mothership on the matter of using visualization tools and/or content clustering tools like Vivisimo as an alternate way of searching WorldCat and other FirstSearch databases, for, oh, about 2 1/2 years.  The lack of such alternate ways of viewing WorldCat search results will give you a clue as to how much grease this wheel got, so far.

Which reminds me. I went to an OCLC Inclusion Training session yesterday (because we realize that being a global cooperative means more than saying we are) and our Director of HR, Mark Matson, gave this example. In the U.S. and Canada, we use the phrase "the squeaky wheel gets the grease" in an admiring sense...that people who put themselves forward are rewarded. However, in Asian cultures this saying is used: "the nail that sticks up is the one that gets pounded down."  But, I'm thinking that many people might think their work place experiences resemble the Asian proverb more than the North American one?

And I am definitely not remarking on my personal experience of working at OCLC. The very fact of my continuing employment (going on 8 years now) is proof that all nails that stick up here are not pounded down. Mind you, I do have a few pound marks... all well-earned though.  


This is a slightly fuzzy picture of the Smith building at OCLC where George works. Posted by Hello

The Kilgour building at OCLC where Alice and I work.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Seeing Your Service Area with New Eyes

One of the concerns I've had about my fellow librarians over the years is that we have a hard time learning from other disciplines and applying it to our work. The last couple of posts on this blog about learning from retailing about how to present a collection are perfect examples of this.

Last month at the ALA Conference, I saw a demonstration of a product that combines the best of what we learn in libraries with the latest in mapping and GIS technology. Please note, I am not endorsing this product, but I am saying it's a way to think differently about how to use things other people have already learned to improve what we do. demonstrated a system that provides a look at a library's service area to see who (at the street and block level, not at a house-by-house level) is using its facilities. It tells where the concentrations of heaviest use are, and provides sound data to develop ideas about how to site a facility, or when it's time to look for a new location. It works with the data from an integrated library system to provide real time tracking of usage. And the output is strikingly clear maps that plainly show these data points.

This seems to me to be a good medium step for libraries that want to preserve user privacy, but also want to mine their data to look for trends in usage and areas for growth. If they could figure out a way to add in a geographic look at who is hitting your web site and other online resources, they could provide a more complete picture. Until then, this seems like it could be a useful tool.

Content to Go - Duke Gives IPods to Freshmen

"Duke University will give each of its 1,650 incoming freshmen a free iPod this fall as part of an initiative to foster innovative uses of technology in the classroom, the school said Monday." Wired News , July 20, 2004

This goes a long way beyond the licensing of Napster for streaming music that some universities have done on behalf of their students. The iPods will come loaded with content relevant to the students: orientation material and the academic calendar for starters. Duke expects students will download course content, audio books, and even record lectures and take oral notes using voice recorders--and music.

"The university also will create a Web site modeled on the Apple iTunes site from which students can download music and course content from faculty, including language lessons, lectures and audio books. The iTunes site allows users to download music legally...The program fits into university plans to use more technology in teaching, said Tracy Futhey, Duke's vice president for information technology. "This was a project aimed at satisfying those goals through a device that is immensely popular with students," Futhey said. " From here.
As Jonathan Schwartz, Prez and COO of Sun Microsystems (and he's 38) said on his blog: "They ["They" is Ruckus Network. Check them out--very relevant to this post] exemplify one of my basic rules of business: convenience is more powerful than any other competitive weapon. Against all foes, even piracy."

How many libraries are finding ways to satisfy organizational goals with something hugely popular? This isn't a rhetorical question....examples, anyone?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Exploring the retail analogy further

When we need physical food, we go to a Grocery store.
When we need intellectual/social food, we go to a  ______ store.

Can you fill that blank with "library"?
Are libraries of the future akin to an Information store? Do we want to be?

(I would prefer Knowledge store, myself... dare I say even Wisdom store?)

Fab 5

Okay, now I am really getting excited about this idea.
The Fab 5 could help us:
Kyan the grooming guru can assist with the de-bunning effort
Ted the food and wine connoisseur can make sure our coffee kiosks are up to snuff (or exist!)
Carson, fashion savant, can assist with the sensible shoes stereotype
Jai the culture vulture will surely break us out of the shushing image
Thom, design doctor, can get to work on the retail/physical space ideas we started to explore in the last post.

Who's volunteering? It needs to be in New York or Dallas, apparently...


Scan eye for the Straight Library

One of my colleagues today remarked about a library's physical layout and appearance--and compared it to a retail space. Physical layout and signage is something I would wager that most library staff and users take for granted, once there are enough computers, chairs, materials and librarians....they've done their job, now they just need people.

Not so fast
My colleague shared his first impressions of the space: "dim, disorderly and random."

Not such an auspicious beginning.
He explains that,
"after entering past a circ worker who ignores you, the first thing you encounter isn't a list of the days events, nor a well-designed way-finding system, nor a compelling presentation of the newest additions to the collection. No, what you see are discarded books and magazines, piled up in a wheeled cart, donated by the public.  The unconscious message: This is the place where your books can come to die.  It's like putting the dorkiest fashions no one wants at the front of Banana Republic. "

And it got me to thinking about physical layouts. My own beloved Whetstone (yay Clintonville!) has some lessons to be learned from Easton, shopping mecca of the Midwest. What's wrong with borrowing a few lessons from the Limited playbook? They do signage and branding as good as anyone. (I see they've won awards for it!) We don't have to market lipstick, lingerie, lotions or lassos to take a few lessons down

Lessons from the Limited playbook
  1. Put the fresh, new stuff up front, in an interesting visual display. Rotate it regularly.
  2. Cut the visual clutter--posters for posters sake doesn't cut it.
  3. Designate a community nexus area that is separate from the library per se. You aren't forced through the rock-climbing area every time you walk into Galyan's (a sports store--also a Limited Brand)...but it's available off to the side.
  4. Usability test your way-finding signage. Can a novice user figure out how to locate your highest priority collections--without resorting to the OPAC? Do a walk-through after hours with a nonlibrarian and see what happens.

Retail revenge?
Bookstores seem to have no trouble with the idea of merchandising the knowledge experience. Because they're retail. Somehow we're (libraries) are expected to play in the same space (more on this later)--but we're not willing to admit that this is the model for the rest of our daily hunting-gathering-outside-the-home behavior. Can we use a few retail tactics to lead people to what they're already looking for?

So that leads me back to the title of today's musing...Scan eye for the Straight Library. It hearkens from Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where 5 gay men with subject specialties transform a hapless straight guy into a hip guy who's had a lifestyle makeover.

Can we do a "Scan Eye" makeover on a library?

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Marshall McLuhan

For those of you who've read the Scan, you'll know we lead off with a quote from Mark Federman, who is Chief Strategist and head of McLuhan Management Studies at the McLuhan Program in Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. The quote is from a key note speech he gave at the 2003 Information Highways conference in which Federman encouraged delegates to apply Marshall McLuhan's laws of media to challenge and change conventional concepts in knowledge-based enterprises. McLuhan wrote his most influential works in the 60s and died in 1980 long before the ubiquitous Internet and the Web. So, it is amazing to me to re-read bits and pieces of McLuhan's writing and see how prophetic he was.

Now, if you're like most people, even if you own any of McLuhan's books, you probably haven't read them, just as most of us haven't really read Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, or anything by Jacques Derrida (I was an English grad student once--my pal Rick Martin always managed to sound incredibly 'up' on Derrida to the envy of the rest of us wretches in whatever postmodern lit course we were taking. Over beer once, Rick told us his secret: read the first and last ten pages or so. No one else has read more--probably not even the professor--and, voila, erudition!) because it's hard, epigrammatic, arcane, punny stuff. But, such is McLuhan's influence that many of his aphorisms are part of our cultural language. I found this today and was stunned to see "Information overload equals pattern recognition."

A sampling of McLuhan's favorite aphorisms suggest his rich, playful mind.
  • The medium is the message.
  • The greatest propaganda in the world is our mother tongue.
  • Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.
  • Violence is a lust for compensatory feedback.
  • War is compulsory education. Education is war.
  • Discovery comes from dialogue that begins with the sharing of ignorance.
  • Information overload equals pattern recognition.
  • Artists are the antennae of the race.
  • Electronics turns the earth into a global village.
  • We don't know who discovered water but we're pretty sure it wasn't the fish.
  • If you don't like these ideas, I've got others.

I did a bit of hunting around Google-space and found several references to this, although not a good bibliographic one. It was sometimes expressed as "data overload..." and one reference said McLuhan himself said he'd got it from IBM; another said it came from the Artificial Intelligence community.

Whatevah! The aspect of this that I find so bemuse-worthy is that we called the Scan "Pattern Recognition" in recognition of William Gibson's book of the same name as well as the branch of artificial intelligence research concerned with the classification or description of observations.. There are fans of Gibson's books among those of us involved in creating the Scan, and we thought the whole notion relevant to our goal. And Federman's article, that contained the phrase we now use a lot "what haven't you noticed lately", helped clarify my thinking as I wrestled with setting the stage for the Scan in the Overview. But, I did not know that McLuhan had also used "pattern recognition" and in such a way as to fit right in with the sense of our title.

I love serendipity.

Addendum (added July 21) : I forgot to include this yesterday. It's an interview with Marshall McLuhan, published in Playboy in 1969 (they really did have good interviews--and some people really did buy the magazine for these, not the pictures!) As the intro to the interview notes, "The result [the interview] has considerably more lucidity and clarity than McLuhan's readers are accustomed to--perhaps because the Q. and A. format serves to pin him down by counteracting his habit of mercurially changing the subject in mid-stream of consciousness." Have to agree.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Scan Side Effects

One of the side effects of working on publicizing the OCLC Environmental Scan is that you start to see applications everywhere you turn.
For example, this past weekend, I made a conscious decision to just take the weekend off. My wife (Joyce Leahy---she's the one on the left if you happen to link to this picture) and I are hosting two high school students in our home in July. Sophie is from France and Berte is from Spain, and two nicer young people you've never met. On Saturday, Sophie, Berte, Lace (a friend of the family, a fellow librarian, and a baseball fan, unlike my wife), and I drove down to Cincinnati for the game between the Reds and Cardinals. (As it turns out, Sophie and Berte happen to be baseball fans, and each had played softball at her high school.) Sitting in the Great American Ball Park, my mind wandered to a time when baseball stadiums were not shopping malls with a diamond attached. Oh, don't get me wrong, the place is gorgeous, the sightlines are wonderful, the sound system actually works, and there's enough leg room between the rows. But there are ads everywhere, from the outfield walls (to be expected) to the cupholders in front of you. All of the concession stands are branded. It's not just a hot dog stand, it's The Skyline Chili Coney Stand. In other words, baseball parks are no longer a third place for me --- they are just another commercial space trying to grab walletshare. I'll still enjoy baseball, but for a third place, it's back to Northwest Library.
Then last night, rather than watching the repeat of The Simple Life 2, I retired to my room to read The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency. This book has nothing to do with aggregation versus disaggregation, or third places, or the death of the balanced collection, but it is a wonderful novel and I highly recommend it.

Friday, July 16, 2004


Hey hey gang.
Alane's been worried that I've been neglecting you, readers--
But no more!
Where I've been
I've been to Web-launch land and back again. We brought OCLC CAPCON's new Web site up today, on the OCLC global Web platform. As anyone who's launched a new site can tell you, it's a hair-raising process that involves a lot of coffee-drinking, head-scratching and beer-drinking. Usually in that order.
It feels good to launch. And it's good to be back.
At least we didn't have our source code stolen...

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Library Romance

My old friend, Madeleine Lefebvre, head of the library at St. Mary's U in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and current past president of the Canadian Library Association (CLA may not recover from having Madeleine, and then Stephen, as presidents) has started a book project now that she has all that free time away from CLA duties. (That's a joke, Madeleine)
Welcome to, where you can share your true stories about falling in love in a library setting. We are researching stories for a forthcoming book called The Romance of Libraries, and we'd love to hear your story.

We want to hear about both happy and sad romances, requited and unrequited. All submissions used will receive a complimentary copy of the book, to be published in 2005. Pseudonyms will be used to spare your and your loved one's blushes!

The author, a librarian, noticed how many people had met their partners in libraries, or had romantic encounters in libraries or related settings (for example, library school).

She heard a story of a couple who met in a library when studying at the same table. After they married, they bought the table from the library and now use it as their dining table. Stories are coming to light from all over, and now it's your turn!

So, all you library lovers--enter your stories! I have, maybe two, well, maybe three myself...look, I've worked in libraryland a long time, OK?

"Twenty Reasons for...Librarians to Love IM"

Actually the whole title of this article is "Twenty Reasons for Teacher-Librarians to Love IM" but most of the twenty reasons are relevant to any kind of librarian--or even parent.

The author is Stephan Abram, a veritable popcorn machine of ideas and energy. He's the current President of the Canadian Library Association, the VP of Innovation at Sirsi, popular prognosticator at conferences, and co-author of "Born With a Chip", an LJ article that's been noted widely--and which obliquely mentioned the OCLC Scan.

Unfortunately, this article is not available at the Web version of Multimedia & Internet@Schools, only in print. v.11(4) July/August 2004, p.16-18.

Worthwhile blog

The following comment was posted on Worthwhile July 10 in response to a question about working from home--and I was interested because of the reference to "third places".

"People were meant to share meals together. When I start to get cabin fever I instant message someone until I find one or more people that are hungry.

Another great thing is to tell people that although you are working, they are free to stop by anytime. While at the time it can feel like they ruining your productivity, these are the kind of disruptions that we all need to maintain lengthier happiness.

Third places with wifi are the best. They allow you to seamlessly transfer from production to leisure at will. You can simultaneously be working and available to the public around you."

The commenter was Will Pate, a web designer and thoughtful guy. His blog is here. The Worthwhile blog is a multi-authored blog, like this one--although I think Tom Peters and David Weinburger are way more famous than we are.
You have to like a blog that has subject categories such as Passionate Work, Making a Difference and Creativity--well, *you* don't have to...but I like it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Merchandizing Content

Interesting idea from John Blossom at Shore Communications, a research company like Outsell that tracks and analyzes trends in content. Blossom used to work at Outsell, and I like him because he said nice things about the Environmental Scan in an email to me. ;-)

"Content providers of all kinds need to think carefully about how merchandizing concepts that have been so valuable in ecommerce can pump up content usage by users who value ecommerce methods in their daily lives...Even when an item comes out on top on a search results page it's important to place it in the framework of other related content that's going to give it a rich framework for interpretation and use. Reference data, premium content, directories and other kinds of related content can help one to make more informed decisions right on the spot without having to go into further searches."

This is, to me, a different way of saying what we said in the Scan: that it is not enough to deliver just content anymore, that context must somehow come with content. Visualization software is one way of presenting context although it's early days for this as a metasearch tool for library content--needs more on-the-fly personalization, IMO. Maybe some combo of visual search techniques with Amazon-like "if you value this, you'll value that" features.

Monday, July 12, 2004

UNESCO list/links to library blogs

I was rummaging around the UNESCO libraries portal looking for something completely different and came across their list to library-related blogs. Some I knew about; some I didn't.

NYU's Camp/Game: Intensive Video Game Creation

This Associated Press item showed up in this morning's Columbus Dispatch and I am fascinated. NYU's School of Continuing and Professional Studies has a program called Entertainment, Technology, Digital Arts and Design and they are offering a summer camp for gamers. "The campers--all guys aged 15-20--will use the Center for Advanced Digital Application's cutting-edge equipment to learn the techniques behind best-selling masterpieces such as Doom, Quake and Madden NFL Football."

So, these are the kind of people we need to work on an information literacy interactive game to make bibliographic instruction as "sticky" as game-playing. If people will spend hours working on solving problems, attaining another game level, beating Tiger Woods on the virtual golf course, and getting all the tiles off the Mah Jongg board, why oh why can't we in the library profession provide a learning environment as compelling and fun? Surely clever people could build gaming environments that reward good information choices and build information literacy, in a way we'd all find more fun? Now, go eat your spinach.

Friday, July 09, 2004

NEA Study - Reading At Risk

Well, I can't figure out how to edit comments so I'll just add a posting. George commented on my last post by drawing our attention to the July 7 release of the NEA study Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America, done on behalf of the NEA by the US Census Bureau.

The Boston Globe in a report on the study says: "The report found a 10 percent overall drop in literary reading -- from 56.9 percent to 46.7 percent of Americans -- since 1982. What that means is that fewer than half of Americans had read a novel, short story, play, or poem in the preceding year." And the Washington Post quotes the chairman of the NEA: "'Reading at Risk' merely documents and quantifies a huge cultural transformation that most Americans have already noted -- our society's massive shift toward electronic media for entertainment and information,' said Dana Gioia, the poet who is NEA chairman, in the preface to the 60-page study."

And if you've looked at the ARL statistics on the precipitous drops in reference and circulation transactions over the last 10+ years, the NEA findings won't be a surprise. So, what's the core business of the library in an era of declining appetites for our traditional services?

Thursday, July 08, 2004

"If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less"

I was going to post on something entirely different but.....the title quote, apparently from General Eric Shinseki, Retired Chief of Staff, US Army, shows up all over the web but I came across it in a Tom Peters interview who has used it as an epigraph in his book Re-imagine! Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age and I am putting it here in response to George's post this morning.

Sheesh! Perhaps the dismal attitudes George remarks on are a factor of inexperience and idealism, and jaded, older librarians such as George and myself have seen looming irrelevance personified in libraries by poor customer service, disinterest and lack of skills in budgeting, marketing and other basics of managing large organizations, and in librarians who seem to have forgotten that libraries are for people to use and as service organizations, libraries must accept and adapt to what those people want in the way of information/knowledge/content delivery.

One of the reactions from an audience member in a presentation Cathy De Rosa gave on the scan was to this needlessly adversarial "Google versus libraries" notion. This nice librarian said: "Patrons may not want to use our services, but they have to. We might not like going to the dentist, but we have to go just the same." I don't know about you all, but I find this pretty horrifying--that we collectively are so sure of the rightness and goodness of how we currently do business we will accept a place in the lives of our communities on the level of treating gum disease or having a root canal.

I really could go on for a long, long time on this because, in my personal non-OCLC sanctioned opinion, the inability or unwillingness to understand and accept the fundamental changes in user information seeking/finding/obtaining behaviour is at the core of the challenges facing our profession. I'll hold back and end with a quote from the Tom Peters interview. "But the bottom line is clear: We cannot turn back the clock. New enemies in new guises are here to stay. New technology is here to stay. New competitors are here to stay. My hope is that we can get beyond "coping" and learn to thrive amidst the volatility of the wild and wooly, horrible and wonderful years to come." Right on, Tom!

The Future Ain't What It Used to Be

I subscribe to a couple of listservs intended for newer librarians and library school students, and it's sometimes depressing to see some of their posts. Today there was a post on nextgenlib-l tearing apart the "Ten Things Google Has Found to Be True." It's basically an attack on Google because it makes money, provides information quickly, and is governed by how people use it. Another post in the same digest rails against libraries trying to learn anything from the private sector about customer service. Depressing.

It's almost funny to read these lists, because a lot of the posts focus on kvetching that older librarians with their old fashioned ideas (like me, I guess) won't get out of the way and allow the younger generation to lead us right back to the 1950s. *sigh*

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Thwarted Innovation: what happened to e-learning and why

One of OCLC's corporate librarians, Larry Olszewski, ferreted out this report for me. You'll recall the Scan includes a short piece on e-learning in the Research and Learning Landscape. We suggested that e-learning could be a disruptive technology in education. This new study from University of Pennsylvania researchers, Robert Zemsky and William F. Massey, doesn't exactly turn our assumption upside-down but does suggest e-learning as it is conceived currently is a solution for problem that doesn't exist--or isn't acknowledged. I haven't read the whole report yet (76 pages) but the summary suggests it will be intriguing. I'll quote a bit:
"If we build it they will come--not so. The kids will take to e-learning like ducks to water--not quite. E-learning will force a change in the way we teach--not by a long shot. The hard fact is that e-learning took off before people really knew how to use it."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

The Trends Continue

Today's title comes from the article ARL Statistics 2001-02: Research Library Trends. Maybe it's just me ( the way, where are my co-bloggers? George? Alice?) but I found that a very amusing heading...what are trends if not continuing? What would a dead trend be called? History?

OK...where were we before the blogless, unconnected weekend? (This consisted of much driving to my husband's cousin's wedding in upper state NY, home again to spend a day with one of my sisters and her family en route home to Ontario after a visit to Kentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park, entertain, and catch up on gardening which must include a trip to the garden store to buy even more stuff to put in the ground)

We were at ALA. Cathy De Rosa and I led a session on Sunday July 25th called "Thinking out Loud" that was a kind of follow-up to the big overview sessions we do. We wanted to hear from people not talk at them--although some attendees clearly were expecting the big overview. It was--for me and Cathy anyway--a great session. We asked people to work in small groups and discuss the top issues relating to libraries, framed by the trends in the Scan. Alice was there and took notes so I'll leave it to her to fill in interesting bits I can't because I am really bad at note-keeping when I'm participating. I get too caught up in the discussions.

Ideas that came to the top: the library as third place (both virtually and physically); incorporate elements of gaming into tools to teach users how to search, find and obtain good quality information; use handheld devices as as way of getting to users where they are. And hasn't Jenny the Shifted Librarian been saying this last point for years now?

I commented a few days ago about the up-beat nature of people attending ALA. This was mirrored by our session attendees. I really see a change in attitude from a few years ago. Much more interest and enthusiasm in doing things differently and much less doom and gloom over the future of [pick your favorite]. It's all good!

Thursday, July 01, 2004

We're All Tired

As you know, Alice, (I don't have a picture of Alice) George and I were all at ALA, and we are, quite frankly, pooped and trying to dig ourselves out of the mounds of things waiting for us back at the OCLC Mother Ship in Dublin, Ohio. We have many more things to tell you about our time at ALA. The consensus of the OCLC staff attending (about 60) was that this was a very good ALA for us. Attendees were up-beat, traffic at the OCLC booth was excellent. We saw many old friends and made new ones. Hope you did too, if you were in very hot Orlando. We did speculate that the heat may have driven people inside so maybe there is method in the madness of having summer ALAs in Orlando and New Orleans, and winter ALAs in Boston and Chicago. Perhaps the Masonic Temple of Exhibitors pays ALA to do this.
Have a great weekend and holiday if you're reading us in the U.S. or Canada.