Thursday, October 28, 2004
But if you like Mexican food, read on:
Chipotle is giving away free burritos, to encourage Americans to vote. How cool!
Of course, I could speculate on the demise of democracy, about how our corporations must bribe people with marketing gimmicks to remind them to exercise their rights of representation...
Instead I'll just say, Rock on Chipotle!
Check it out.
Friday, October 22, 2004
My visit to Connecticut seems like really old news now. I was there on October 7 speaking to the attendees at the annual Connecticut Library Leadership Conference. It's sponsored by the Association of Connecticut Library Boards, (it represents public library boards in the state) the Connecticut State Library and The Connecticut Library Association. I was there at the invitation of Ken Wiggin, the state librarian.
The composition of this audience was at the opposite end of the age spectrum from my British Columbia visit. As is often the case with Board members, many were elderly. I ate lunch with two trustees of a medium sized town's public library who were pleasant company, and who clearly cared a great deal about their library and for whom most of the trends I was going to be speaking about were terra incognito. But they took lots of notes. And one fellow who is overseeing the building of a new library in his area told me he was going to have to rethink having permanently fixed desks in the main area of the library. He thought they may want more flexibility in how the space was used and set up.
And then there was the gentleman who wanted to have an animated exchange with me about the numbers we published in the Scan on how money was allocated to public institutions. In the scan, we have a graph of the aggregated worldwide total for expenditures in sectors such as health, social welfare, education, with military spending added for comparison. He suggested we had skewed the data by not presenting US spending separately. I pointed out that we normally get criticized for doing exactly that, and that we had aimed for a broader view than a strictly US one. He wasn't happy and repeated that we had skewed data. Not sure what part of the political spectrum he represented but there was some political point he wanted to make.
Lorcan Dempsey, VP Research and Chief Strategist at OCLC, and also co-author of the Scan is a guest columnist for CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) in the U.K. In his latest article he discusses "Three Stages of Library Search" in the CILIP Update Magazine.
"Hardly a day goes by without another arrangement between an information provider and Google or Yahoo to expose its collections for search on the web. Everybody wants to be ‘on web’. Google and Yahoo, in turn, are eager to find as many ways as possible of connecting their users to valuable material currently hidden in ‘off-web’ database silos. Most of the digital resources that libraries manage are currently off web: they do not offer themselves up to the Google user. Increasingly, ‘on web’ means available in Google."
And I noted this on Rafat Ali's PaidContent site: "What Amazon is creating, ultimately, is "pull" media -- entertainment as marketing. This is the kind of messaging that's going to succeed in today's niche-focused, consumer controlled environment. " What he's talking about is a blurring of commerce, content and entertainment. Go to the Amazon main page (at least, here in the U.S. it's the first page) and there's a little screen for a video clip of Jon Stewart talking about his latest book, America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. I watched it immediately--it's funny and short. And perhaps it's no coincidence that the book is Amazon's best seller right now.
Could libraries add some of this "pull" media to their web sites?
And noted in "Above the Fold" from NewsScan Daily (here's their web site and subscription info--it's free): The Washington Post item being noted requires registration and as I haven't registered, I've not looked at the source.
"GOOGLE ON A GLOBAL MISSION
Google is reporting that sales and profit more than doubled in the third quarter, despite a one-time expense of more than $200 million. Explaining the company's success, co-founder Larry Page says: "We have the world's greatest engineering talent. Google has the means to innovate rapidly. This infrastructure is a competitive advantage to Google across all of our existing products." He says the company's business strategy "is about solving problems that matter to many people on a global scale. We have only begun work on our mission to organize the world's information to make it more accessible." ( ">Washington Post 21 Oct 2004)
Holy Hegemony, Batperson...doesn't this sound an awful lot like another organization's mission? Like OCLC's? OCLC exists to further access to the world’s information and reduce library costs by offering services for libraries and their users.
Wednesday, October 20, 2004
It's been a steep learning curve, for sure. 77,635 eBook titles and counting. They load about 1200 new titles every month. And audiobooks come soon. The NetLibrary technology team has tested something like 40 different portable devices for the .wma playback for audiobooks through the Windows MediaPlayer, which has DRM capabilities built-in.
Non-English content is going to start happening in a big way in 2005, I hear--especially for Latin American Spanish.
As Jay Jordan, our CEO, likes to say, "It's a great time for libraries!"
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
As part of the preparation for this meeting, delegates and guests were assigned several readings. My personal favorite was "Gaming the System: What Higher Education Can Learn from Multiplayer Online Worlds," written by JC Herz. Here is a quote from that essay that seems particularly relevant to the Scan:
If a gamer doesn't understand something, there is a continuously updated, distributed knowledge base maintained by a sprawling community of players from whom he can learn. "Newbies" are schooled by more skilled and experienced players. Far from being every man for himself, multiplayer online games actively foster the formation of teams, clans, guilds, and other self-organizing groups. The constructive capabilities built into games allow players to stretch the experience in new and unexpected directions, to extend the play value of the game, and in so doing garner status (custom maps, levels, characters, and game modifications are all forms of social currency that accrue to the creators of custom content, as they are shared among players.) ... Of course, not all players roll up their sleeves and write plug-ins. But if even 1% contribute to the innovation of the product, even if they are only making minor, incremental improvements or subtle tweaks, that's ten thousand people in research and development.This is the most fascinating thing about the whole gamer gestalt to me. The idea of creating new universes with their own social, cultural, and financial systems, just blows me away. A few years ago, someone who created his own universe was shuffled off to the laughing academy. Now, he is celebrated as a citizen of a "persistent multiplayer online world."
And, I suddenly realize in one of those Homer Simpson moments, therein lies the difference. The person who created his own universe in the olden days (say, before 1992) was the only inhabitant of that universe. Now, there are score of thousands of people living right there with him!
Sunday, October 17, 2004
I too went to talk to library school students--mentioned as an upcoming trip in this space a while ago. At the end of September, I spoke to about 35 masters and doctoral students, and some faculty, at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, which is where I received my own MLIS in 1986. The coordinator of my visit was Heather McNeil, once a student in the archival program at the same time I was in the library program, and now, a professor of archival studies. Truly, though, except for a drastic hair colour change (that was flattering), Dr. Heather looked, to me, much as she had 20 years ago.
This was my youngest audience yet....I am usually speaking to people who sometimes find the trends we focus on in the Scan terra incognito, but this crowd was one with the Borg. There were a lot of nodding heads when I spoke about seamlessness and gaming, and the clash of cultures in libraries. I did a pretty strong pitch for research by library school students on gaming and its relevance to information literacy acquisition, and I think a few eyes lit up.
I was travelling with Wendy McGinnis, the OCLC Director of Public Relations and Communications. We left Vancouver to travel to Victoria, capital of British Columbia, and on Vancouver Island, and did so in style on a very large BC ferry, Spirit of British Columbia. The ferry ride is about 90 minutes and these big ferries can hold hundreds of vehicles. Wendy and I wrapped up (it was sunny but windy) and found a good spot at the front of the ferry. This turned out to be a very good decision because as the ferry came into Active Pass (quite narrow and full of conflicting sea currents) the captain announced that the sister ferry coming through the pass from the sea side had spotted killer whales. I've seen orcas only once before, later in the year when they swim lower in the water, fins barely breaking the surface. They are big and I was truly glad I did not see any when I was kayacking off the west coast of Vancouver Island years ago. My friend Doug was almost drowned by a large salmon as he kayacked in a river once--imagine what a killer whale might do....I imagine me as an hors d'oeuvre.
Wendy and I had a premier spot for this sighting. As the ferry came abreast of the point of an island, around the point we spotted the spray of whales blowing as they skirted the edge of the island, heading for Active Pass where clearly there were a lot of fish, if the clouds of seagulls were any evidence. Five? Six? It was hard to tell because they swim in unison, three or four together, and you never quite know if you're seeing the same ones come up or different ones. We decided there were at least eight of different sizes in this group. As they passed the ferry, one came up out of the water and flopped back in on its back. Ooohs and aahs resulted.
But as this group passed by, all the watchers realized that there was another group coming around the point--another 6-8 whales were in this group and as they moved through the water, every now and then the black and white markings could be clearly seen below their tall, sometimes floppy dorsal fins. Well! At this point there were no blase observers. The woman beside us said "I've been riding the ferries for 20 years and I've never seen this many killer whales."
But wait! There were more! A third group came around the point with as many whales in it as the previous two. So, in all, we probably saw an entire pod of various ages, maybe 24 whales in all. It was an amazing event. Wendy, a talented photographer, managed to get some good pictures that she showed her three kids when she got home. They were much more impressed with the moose teeth she brought home. Another story for another day.
In Victoria, at the invitation of my colleague from the University of Calgary days, Marnie Swanson who is now the head honcho of the U Victoria Libraries, I did a scan presentation and then facilitated a strategic planning day. I was able to use some exercises I had done in 2 pre-conference sessions I took on futures planning at the World Future Society conference and they worked really well. No credit to me but to Peter Bishop and Wendy Schultz, faculty at the U of Houston-Clear Lake who taught the 2 sessions.
Wendy and I celebrated a successful day with martinis at the Bengal Lounge in the Empress Hotel. It hardly gets any better. And as I've run out of steam for today, the next post will cover Connecticut and the trip to Pennsylvania that didn't happen.
Friday, October 15, 2004
Anyway, this month I am fully engaged in doing presentations on the Scan, including three for different groups right here in Ohio. I love doing presentations in any location to which I can drive. Air travel is just such a hassle any more; my flight back from Tampa last Sunday was canceled, and I ended up being six hours late getting back to sweet home Columbus. I fared better than the poor guy who got rebooked the next day, though!
As I mentioned, I was in Tampa last weekend to do a program at the University of South Florida's School of Library and Information Science. I was part of a program with Greg Carlson and Courtney Deines-Jones on the role of futuring in planning library services. We used the Scan as one example of a way to think about what the future might offer (or, I guess, threaten). It was a special pleasure working with the faculty and students at USF. One excellent question came from a student, who noted that we had shown Google and the other search engines as potential replacements for library reference services, and at the same time, OCLC is working with those same outlets to get WorldCat broadcast. I said that I don't know much about martial arts, but the one thing I do know is that when confronted with momentum from an opponent, you don't resist it, but rather use it for your own purpose. Similarly, we can't beat Google; the best we can do is use the momentum the search engines have developed to further our own aims.
By the way, this was the first time I'd worked with Greg and Courtney. Greg said that the futuring program we did at Tampa was a test drive for one they are working on for a possible 2006 ASCLA preconference at the ALA conference. Keep an eye out for that, because Greg and Courtney really did a good job here, and it will only get better!
Today (Friday, October 15) I was at the 26th annual staff development day for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library. (Isn’t amazing that anyone has been doing staff development days for 26 years?)
The director at CH-UH is Steve Wood. Steve and I have been friends for nearly 20 years. He was on the first committee I ever worked with for the Ohio Library Association, and he’s an inspiration in a lot of ways, most notably in that he is constitutionally unable to take himself too seriously. If he were cast as a Hans Christian Anderson character, he would be the one pointing out that the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.
30 CH-UH staffers attended my program. They represented lots of different areas within the library, and ranged in position from pages to circ desk staff to children's librarians to Steve, who ditched the program he told me he was going to attend so that he could heckle me.
First, I have to say that this group had to have the youngest average age of any library group with which I've discussed the Scan. There were several gamers in the group, and they validated what the Scan pointed out about how online gamers compete, collaborate, and create. CH-UH is going into self-serve circulation in a big way, and we talked a lot about the social interaction that the library must offer. This led us into a discussion of the need of the library (especially the public library?) to continue to offer services that appeal both to their traditional, albeit aging, clientele, and to newer, albeit more fickle, potential clientele. When you have to go to the voters for an operating levy, you can't afford to alienate large blocs of potential supporters, right?
The discussion about how digital rights management will shape what services libraries will be able to offer in the future was quite spirited. I think library staff are gaining a deeper understanding of how the shift from copyright law to contract law in acquiring materials will come back to haunt them.
One of the CH-UH staffers asked a wonderful question about how libraries can know which formats or technologies are going to be dominant in the future. I said if we knew this, we could be investors in, rather than consumers of, these products, and we could all retire early. But it seems to me that the real goal is to do something. If we sit back and wait to see which search engine emerges as the winner, or if the much-rumored Google browser will challenge Internet Explorer's dominance, then we will miss the boat.
Because CH-UH is launching a major construction project shortly and space assignments must be made, Steve asked about the future of various formats. Micro formats continue to appear vulnerable as a widely distributed medium; it's important to have microfilmed versions of journal and newspaper titles, but does every library need to have a full run of, say, The New York Times, or is it more important to know that there are a few copies of this spread out in various collections in case something happens to the online version? There was a lot of discussion about the Open WorldCat program, but Steve pointed up that even though CH-UH gets its records into OCLC though their participation in CLEVNET, their records won't show up in Google or Yahoo until we can expose local data records, too.
The 60 minutes allotted for this program seemed to vanish in a few seconds, but afterwards, Steve and I and one of his staff members (whose name I carelessly mislaid) had a brief but intense (and friendly!) discussion about the future of the book. I think the paper book has a long future, although perhaps in more limited roles than what we have known to date (goodbye reference books, for example). Steve was less sanguine about this than I am, but his staffer was passionate about the long-term viability of dead dinosaurs on dead trees!
Next week, I will be doing a three-hour program with another group of Ohio librarians, this time a mixed group of public, academic, special, and maybe even school librarians brought together by CAMLS, the regional library system in Northeastern Ohio. For this program, I'll do much of the Scan stump speech (with whatever soapboxes I happen to be mounting next week!), but we will also do some work on how we can apply what the Scan suggests to the on-the-ground realities of running a library today. It should be fun. If it is, I'll blog it. If it's not, you won't hear about it from me!
Thursday, October 14, 2004
For any organization with content markets outside North America, the ability to deliver content to handheld devices will be crucial, given the preference in many countries for such devices over personal computers.
"Initially, we thought online-only would be most attractive to subscribers overseas. But we soon discovered that U.S. physicians found the online-only subscription option on their own, without any promotion," said Anderson. "So we accepted their choice and began promoting it domestically, overcoming the cannibalization fear."
NEJM recognizes the PDA is taking the place of the "fat little notebook" in the coat pockets of many physicians. A subscriber can use a wired or wireless PDA, or other handheld devices, to access full texts of the current NEJM plus the archive of all articles back to 1996, arranged in 51 topics. A subscriber can also use a PDA to request a PDF of an article (including medical imagery) be e-mailed to his PC.
"I'm very enthused about the future of electronic media in communicating medical research results and educating physicians and trainees," Anderson said. "The rate at which de facto standards like PowerPoint, digital video, and MP3 are propagating themselves hints at new forms of editorial expression emerging and being easily adopted. It's the best way to communicate rapidly with a large and growing audience."
"The habits of trainees show that they will expect completely linked information access for their entire professional lives. It sometimes makes my head spin, but then I get back to taking it step by step. That's the only way to untangle this future we're headed toward, I guess."
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Alane gave a keynote session about the Environmental Scan, and then Jack Blount of Dynix gave an overview of their new ILS system. CML is in the process of migrating from their homegrown proprietary software system to an open-source, off-the-shelf modular system.
Questions ranged everywhere from people asking Alane about the Open WorldCat Program, "When are the full 56 million records going to be available through Yahoo! Google, MSN?" to broader questions of how we can help our users recognize that the materials they need are in fact on the shelf already.
An "oh yeah" moment
That was an "Oh Yeah..." moment for me. I had forgotten that perspective. Here at OCLC, we tend to think that the information world is your oyster--if materials are out there somewhere, you as a user should be able to get your hands on them.
Sometimes we (I) forget that everyday public library users would usually (maybe?) be just as satisfied with a similar book that is on the shelf right now, as opposed to the exact one they found on WorldCat that is half-way across the country. ILL is fantastic, but there's little need to request Fodor's 2004 Guide to Siena, when the Lonely Planet Tuscany 2003 Guide happily awaits you at 5 paces. For example.
Still, it's always good to hear what's on people's minds, when they have a chance to step back and think about the library profession as a whole and how they serve their particular clientele.
A funny side note
The CML Executive Director, Patrick Losinski, listed off a litany of improvements CML has made in the past year. They've opened a new branch, implemented a new call center with a new phone system, streamlined self-checkout, improved cataloging turnaround to a mere 48 hours...the list goes on. But what, you may ask, got the most applause from a roomful of CML library staffers? New photocopiers in all the branches.
So that just goes to show, all improvements are appreciated. Even seemingly small ones.
Friday I'm heading over to the Otterbein academic library, to learn more about a reference librarian who has teamed up with the MBA curriculum professor and team-teaches the classes. Through Blackboard. Or so I am given to understand. I will let you know what I find out.
Until then, I leave you with one of my favorite Dante quotations, vis a vis Ezra Pound, "Siena mi fe, e disfece mi Maremma." ("Siena made me, the Maremma destroyed me.")
Friday, October 08, 2004
First, I am going to respond to Mr. Tivo Repairman's comments from yesterday. George, you don't smoke anymore, but you do still drink scotch. Take another role model for this problem: Amanda Cross's detecting academic Kate Fansler doesn't ever seem to have had a problem that a few Laphroaigs didn't help with. Or was it Lagavulin? (My favourite scotch, Scapa, from the Orkney Islands, is given a rather ho-hum review at scotchwhisky.com: "Scapa is interesting, but has never been considered a front runner." Oh well, that much might be said of many of us)
George and I actually had a lively exchange on email on the topic of Google Print. George had passed on a remark from someone else that WorldCat records better show up in Google Print results (if you're not familiar with why that might be the case, check out the OCLC Open WorldCat pilots with Google and Yahoo! Search here). My flip response was "why the heck would they?
Open WC doesn't link to content directly at the moment, just metadata. People don't want metadata."
At which point George replied:
"So we might as well not bother doing this [Open WorldCat] at all? If people don't want metadata, why bother with anything except book museums? No way all that text is ever going to be converted to digital content, at least not in our lifetimes."
At which point I mounted one of my herd of trusty hobby horses and replied:
"Well, it's all a bit more complex than that, isn't it? People do want metadata--they just don't know they do. They want it because they want a good 'findability' experience and they want relevant content, and we metadata mavens know that good content is enhanced, augmented, enriched etc by metadata. But to ask ordinary people to be excited by finding metadata not content is akin to expecting the traveler to be given a map at the airport and told to find their own way to Peoria.."whaddya mean you're not impressed? We've given you the map!" Not unreasonably, people want someone else to worry about the mechanics and physics of flying planes so they end up in Peoria without having to think too stenuously about wing flaps and fuel weight. The libraryland equivalent of air travel would have the entire crew and passengers crowded in the cockpit attempting to decipher the metadata guiding the trip to the destination--and yet only 2 people out of 157 are actually interested in and qualified to interpret the metadata.
To add to this, metadata dangles the destination in front of the traveller--"Find In a Library" suggest the traveller might be able to sit back and enjoy the flight--thanks for choosing WorldCat, operated by our partner Google--but actually has them change planes in mid-air without benefit of instructions or parachutes. The "Find In A Library" trip currently leaves them on the wingtip of the AeroFlot Library OPAC, expects them to find a way inside, and navigate an alien layout and language until they find the cockpit....and another map to Peoria!
And of course all content will not be digital but if there are 477 ways to Peoria then the easiest, fastest ones will be the most valued. If there's only one, difficult, unknown way to Shangri-la, then a map will be valued for that journey."
End of soapbox and I hasten to add --as my personal self and my OCLC self--I think Open WorldCat is an excellent step towards getting valuable library content out into the world, and it would be an even better step if we could pass searchers seamlessly from the Google and Yahoo interfaces directly into the OPAC but we can't at the moment because the local system vendors aren't exactly queuing up to work with OCLC to make this happen. Given we've seen really spectacular increases in the number of click throughs from Google and Yahoo, perhaps the ILS vendors will soon see there is a lot of interest in getting inside the OPAC from the Web. And many, many people are unabashedly enthusiastic about the results they ARE getting--imagine when we can streamline the "findability" even more!
George then posed good and hard questions:
"So what do we (the library community, that is) *do* with what we have? So if we do not compete with Amazon and Google, what is our niche?"
Well, that's the hard part, isn't it? And when we--you and me, George--do scanny presentations, aren't we pushing these questions into the forefront of librarians' attention? But we at OCLC have to think hard about this too. But I'm not going to today.
Here's some more very relevant food for thought. Over on PaidContent.org, Rafat has Patrick Spain, founder (and a past CEO of Hoover's) of HighBeam Research (used to be eLibrary) as a guest blogger for the week, Oct 4-8. All his posts are interesting but today's really resonated given George's and my conversation.
Here's the main points (if you have time, read his other posts too)
- Users don't care where the information comes from. They just want to know what is out there. So failing to include the free Web with your paid service is a big mistake.
- Failing to provide premium for pay information on your free search is just as big a mistake. If the answer to a question relates to health or wealth, people will pay.
- You have to be very clear and honest with users about what is free and what is paid. Don't try to charge for content that is free elsewhere.
- Users want a fast, intuitive interface to do their searches. Our typical users decide in a couple of seconds whether we are a useful service.
- Advertising on a for-pay site that does not interfere with the use of the site (as much of the advertising on free sites does) has no deleterious effects on sign up rates or retention. Done right, advertising enhances the attractiveness of a publication. Just ask The Wall Street Journal.
- Free search and free trials are essential to demonstrate to users that you can be useful to them.
- Enable the ability to save and repeat searches, store knowledge and convert that knowledgeable to usable form as a report, a contact, a spreadsheet or a presentation.
- You can't charge just for content. Charge for the convenience and delight of using your service. Why does Starbucks get 2-3 times what McDonald's does for a cup of coffee?
Happy Thanksgiving to Canadian readers.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
The mission of OCLC, as originally enunciated by our founder, Fred Kilgour, is to further access to the world's information. According to their website, "Google's mission is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Since a lot of the world's information isn't yet online, we're helping to get it there. Google Print puts the content of books where you can find it most easily; right in Google search results."
So how should we as librarians and library workers and library users feel about this? Should I be happy because this is the dawning of a golden age of information widely disseminated and enjoyed, a flowering of a new renaissance that will see every individual reach his or her greatest potential? Or should I be suspicious that is just another smash and grab job on the part of big business to cut into more market share? Or should I prepare to go to DeVry and learn TiVo repair, because the prospects for my profession have just become about as rosy as being a member of a Milli Vanilli tribute band?
As Sherlock Holmes would say, this is a three pipe problem. I wish I still smoked.
Monday, October 04, 2004
Which brings me to my post. As Alane was telling me about her University of Victoria adventures during her British Columbia visit--how the staff was wrestling with how to make changes in their library (she'll blog about the speed dating idea!) I started to realize that not everyone in your library has to love everything.
Now that sounds ridiculous on the face of it, but I personally have been in the "we love all things techno-hip" groove for so long, I had lost sight of the fact that we need all kinds of people in our libraries.
If we all jump to E-scan world where we're gaming with our users and doing micropayments for microcontent and thinking of the library as the 3rd place--then who does the preservation work, or children's storytime, or the myriad of additional activities that your library does and continues to do and will continue to do...?
In short, for the e-scan world to come about, you'll need some champions in your library. Change can be a looooong process. But you'll also need people who appreciate scan world and live fully in it, but prefer to support other activities.
That is to say, not everyone has to love everything. We need as much face-to-face time as we do digital.