Friday, April 29, 2005

Think Big

A new contest called Think Big from Yahoo and Richard Branson of Virgin Megastore/Virgin Airlines fame: one lucky small business will win 10 million free ads on Yahoo.
Two things:
1. I don't really think libraries qualify, but I wish they did. I'd love to see all 10 million ads go toward promoting use of your local library, wherever you are.
2. Even if libraries don't qualify to enter, encourage all the small business owners who frequent your library to enter the contest. How cool would it be, if someone in your community won? And that you, their trusted knowledge and technology specialist, helped them along to victory?

Story on CNET.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

More Google Ad Chat

Earlier this week, Alice posted a piece excoriating Google's new advertising plans, and I disagreed with her in a follow-up comment. Walt Crawford noted our difference of opinion on his blog (under the title, "Ads and Evil"--- wish I'd thought of that one!) and said that as an "old media" person, he accepts, if not welcomes, appropriate advertising. I'm old media, too. I used to deliver the Buffalo Courier Express. I'll never forget the day President McKinley was shot. But I digress.

Today, ClickZ News (a wonderful free resource about marketing, advertising, and the web) published an article whose title sums up its content quite nicely: "Google's CPM Ads Meet Lukewarm Reception." It seems that marketers are a little uneasy about jumping in to do traditional advertising in this nontraditional space. Like librarians everywhere, they are concerned about trying to charge for what they used to give for free.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Open University Offering

The Open University is offering its course "Law, the Internet and Society: Technology and the Future of Ideas" free of charge on the web. Based on the work of Lawrence Lessig and other leading thinkers on the future of intellectual property, this was formerly a credit-bearing part of the "Relevant Knowledge" undergraduate program in technology.

There is an extremely simple registration process to enroll in the course, and the University promises that the only thing your registration will be used for is to monitor course usage.

Thanks to my colleague Eric Childress for pointing me in this direction. His suggestion led me to Dr. Paul Miller's post on the Common Information Environment blog.

Funny how the transmission of news reminds me of a 1940s Big Band hit these days.

Notes from Above the 49th Parallel

I am in Calgary, Alberta, on my way to Jasper for the Alberta Library Conference. And if you check the Jasper link and think Alberta librarians must get paid way more than you because of the swanky surroundings...nope, the ALC has been at this location for more than two decades and gets very good rates. I know it's more that two decades because I went to my first ALC in 1987.

I lived in Calgary for a total of 13 years, and I loved living here. It's a great city: large but not too large, great restaurants and coffee places, good public spaces (including a very large system of bike trails all over the city) and easy proximity to some of the best hiking and skiing in the world, a thriving arts community, home of the Calgary Stampede when even CEOs and mayors and librarians wear cowboy boots and hats, and is blessed by about 250 sunny days a year.

Not that it is sunny right now. But seeing many old colleagues and friends will make up for that.

First, I am bummed that I missed Carl Grant's presentation at OCLC that Alice wrote about in the previous post. I knew I was going to miss interesting stuff and I clearly did. Be nice if the ILS vendors and OCLC could all put all that talent to use and come up with some really fast ways to get library metadata and content into peoples' spaces in Google-like ways.

Secondly, Walt Crawford has exposed my innumeracy--correction. I exposed my innumeracy in my last post when I claimed there were 10 times less Canadian librarians than US ones. In a comment, Walt quite rightly pointed out that I am an idiot--of course he didn't say this. I am paraphrasing.

Thirdly, on the plane trip here I started reading The Five Laws of Library Science by "the father of library science," Indian librarian S.I. Ranganathan (first published in 1931). I am ashamed to admit that I have never read this despite having an MLS from a good school and being indoctrinated by Ronald Hagler who had the unenviable task of teaching the foundations course at UBC.

Well, a pleasant surprise. I've only read the "first law" pages (Books Are For Use) but S.I. is a funny writer. He is merciless about librarians interested in preserving the book as object and in unfriendly spaces built for those objects not people.
Next, let us see the effect of the law 'BOOKS ARE FOR USE' on library furniture. One may say with confidence 'Show me your library furniture and I shall tell you whether wou believe in the First Law of Library Science or not.' To begin with, in the days when the rival dictum 'BOOKS ARE FOR PRESERVATION' ruled, the library racks were built only with a view to preservation. The problem was to accommodate the maximum number of books in the the least space and the lowest cost. The Rule of Least Space left the height of the book stacks determined by the height of the ceiling. Not even an inch of vertical space should be wasted. Hence each rack should begin at the very bottom and go right up to the ceiling. Similarly, another corollary of the Rule of Least Space was that not an inch of horizontal space, beyond the absolute minimum, should be wasted. This required that the gangway between book-racks should be as narrow as possible--just enough for an attendant to pass through--say a foot and a half at the most [...] The Rule of Least Cost required that the furniture of the reading-room should be as simple and as cheap as practicable. The reader had no business to expect comfort.
Finally, also read on the plane trip, an interesting article in the most recent issue of Forbes on Microsoft and Google. I read it as a morality play and subsituted "libraries" for Microsoft. Forgive me for not providing a link to the TOC but the Forbes site is full of stuff--way too much stuff--and I cannot ferret out the info at this late hour--although not as late as it looks. I am on Mountain time and IAG is on Eastern

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

RFID presentation: convenience is key

Carl Grant from VTLS just presented to a lively group of OCLC staffers about "Why the RFID marketplace is exploding and the ILS marketplace is disintegrating."

Fascinating discussion. Carl is a great speaker and really pushed for an interactive discussion. The highlights:

Where RFID lives already
In addition to your library, you've already experienced RFID in:
*building security systems
*retail theft prevention systems
(the big clunky plastic thing on your department store purchase)
*speedpass--nonstop tollway booths
He didn't mention dogs or guitars but they can be there, too.

So RFID can help libraries with security issues, inventory control (just wave the wand!), return chute sorting--even a smart cabinet that could be loaded up with "reserves" and could sit outside the library building for 24/7 access. The smart cabinet would allow entry only to the correct RFID-embedded cardholder. I'd buy that, if I were in charge of a library...which leads me to convenience.

Convenience is key
Convenience is crucial to future library services, according to Carl. (I agree wholeheartedly, for what it's worth.) Why can't we figure out how to charge for convenience features in our libraries? We've sat at tables here and talked about Netflix and why can't the library deliver to my doorstep? And Carl's answer is: we can and we should. And we should feel justified in charging for it, because we're charging for the convenience aspect. Here's a great quotation:
"In many families, they've got more money than time."

How true, how true with almost everyone I know. An additional marketing take on the idea of charging for convenience: there's a natural assumption of value, when you are charged for something. Convenience is valuable to us, in our time-starved worlds.

Which leads nicely into our discussion of Amazon/Google. Fast and easy search is usually preferrable to rich and comprehensive the world of our library users.

We talked about DRM and eLearning systems, institutional repositories and why libraries need to create a space for themselves at the table. Sometimes they're not even being asked, on some of the RFPs Carl has seen.

We talked about 3D visualization and the promise it holds for capturing the gamers' way of approaching knowledge.

In the end, what was really interesting for me is that Carl was advocating exactly what we've been talking about: get the library out where the people are. Embed it in the devices they use already--and will use tomorrow, and make sure we add our value to our already information-saturated experiences.

Examples he gave include:
*eLearning /Virtual learning environments like Web CT, Blackboard, Sakai
*Bookstores (why not embed a librarian in Barnes and Noble stores? If people are there for information, why not put a master of information science in their midst?)
*CD/DVD stores (same reason--there is so much out there, help me find what I'm looking for)

Basically, Carl's vision (as I heard it) is for libraries to plug in to the rest of the world. It's not us vs. them--it's us AND them. It's the AND world George has previously blogged about.

Future History: Good, Bad or Indifferent?

A cartoon in Mad magazine (I think---no source to depend on for this) once offered the observation, "History is bunk, the present stinks, and even the future ain't what it used to be."

From the amount of mail I've received about it, the hit of the ACRL conference must have been the presentation that included the infamous Google/Amazon video. This short piece is a documentary putatively made in 2014 by the "Museuem of Media History" about the history of the news business. It was masterfully done by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson.

Watch the eight minute video, and then please come back here and tell me: in your opinion, is this a utopia, a dystopia, or something else entirely?

Morgan Library, New York

Dod you see the article by Carol Vogel in today's New York Times about the renovations and additions to the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York City? (Free registration may be required to access that article from the web, incidentally.) The point of the article is that the Morgan has been seen as an elitist institution in the community, and the director is trying to change that by spreading the word that it is open to all. There's also been some talk about adding the word "Museum" to the title, but apparently that hasn't gone very far.

One paragraph in the article jumps out at me, especially in connection with this blog and the scan:

"Besides moving the entrance around the corner from 36th Street to Madison Avenue, the new Morgan will have a central court that the architect Renzo Piano, who designed the expansion, likens to an Italian piazza. It is intended as a gathering place, encouraging visitors to linger." (emphasis mine)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Jan/Feb/Mar OCLC Newsletter

This really spiffy looking newsletter has been out in print for a couple of weeks but the e-version has only just been put up. The title of this issue is Gamer/Boomer: Getting and Keeping Both Generations Happy. There are three gaming related pieces.

"The Big Bang: As Gamers and Boomers collide in one of the biggest culture clashes in history, society is being reshaped. What will the impact be on libraries? And how can libraries attract Gamers and serve both generations?"

"Staying in the Game: How to create environments for Boomers and Gamers in your library. In the next five years, Gamers will be the dominant demographic for your libraries. Nonetheless, you don’t want to do anything that will offend or chase Boomers from the stacks. The key to securing and retaining these growing segments is giving each one what it wants." More good words from John Beck here.

"Zone in on Your Users. Gamers need social space. Boomers need “a third place.” Toddlers need storytelling terrain. Seniors need quiet areas. Everyone needs technology. And many want coffee!"

And among other good stuff, an article on the OCLC Advocacy program: "Public libraries pack a powerful $$$ punch."

Way to go, Newsletter team.

Future of Blogging

Somehow I missed this CNet article in my RSS aggregator (see, even with one of these, it's possible to still miss good stuff). The Future of Blogging is a long article, from Knowledge@Wharton, a newsletter from the Wharton School of Business. Lots of links.
From the article:
Wharton legal studies professor Dan Hunter puts blogging right up there with the printing press when it comes to sharing ideas and disseminating information. "This is not a fad," Hunter says. "It's the rise of amateur content, which is replacing the centralized, controlled content done by professionals."

Some other good comments about blogging can be found from Ivan Chew, the Rambling Librarian from Singapore. There are three posts related to getting management support for blogging. Post one here, post two here, and post three here.

"Last One Out Turn off the Lights..."

This is the main title of a recently published book. The full title is Last One Out Turn Off The Lights: Is This the Future of American and Canadian Libraries? It is a collection of essays by Canadian and US librarians, many of them known to me (people often express surprise about how many Canadian librarians I know...don't forget though, there's 10 times less of them than US librarians). The introduction "Change the Lightbulb or Flip the Switch--Our Choice!" is written by the two editors Susan Cleyle and Louise McGillis and starts off:
Feeling good about being a librarian in the twenty-first century? Think you have a handle on the technology and the many different information choices available today? Let's face it, libraries and librarians are perfectly situated to shine in the information age; after all our business is the acquisition, organization, and dissemination of information. If we are feeling so confident about the future, why is the literature filled with articles trying to find a place for us to fit, and why are we in a state of collective amazement that we may not be the information resource of choice for many of the technologically savvy users of today? We are no longer in the forefront--we are losing our users, and as a result, librarians are being challenged to shape up or be permanently relegated to the sidelines.

The essays in the book address five main topics: libraries and the web, library as place, getting services to the desktop, certification of librarians, and the future of library associations.

I enjoyed many of the articles and found useful things in them, but my favourite was actually the epilogue, written by Waynn Pearson, the Library Director at the Cerritos Library which won awards for its design. Waynn begins his essay by linking the redesign of the library to his reading The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage, a book I've read, liked and thought more librarians should read (along with The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination Will Transform your Business and Brand Lands, Hot Spots and Cool Spaces: Welcome to the Third Place and the Total Marketing Experience)

Here's what Waynn's advice is on creating a vibrant library (but read the book for all the details)
* Design for the common user
* Look outside the library for ideas
* Develop a story line
* Don't limit yourself to providing information
* Communicate with more than words
* Get out from behind the desk
* Create gathering places
* Romance your users
* Play your part
* Make it fun

Not much wailing and gnashing of teeth in this collection of essays, just a lot of energetic, dedicated librarians, experienced and not so experienced, looking to "resole our comfortable shoes and [go] where users want to take us."

You all go!

Google shifts advertising strategy

So is Google selling out?
From today's New York Times article, it sounds like they're ready to trade contextual, sensible advertising for profits.

If you own Google stock, perhaps you don't mind.

For the rest of us, it signals some final death-knell of Google's claim to be different. Now they'll allow graphical ads (only on partner sites--not on "mamma" Google) and more shockingly, they'll allow advertisers to buy placement.

Before today, an advertiser had to be contextually related. Now if I'm a monster truck engine-maker, and I want to go after laptop purchasers, I can have my monster truck engine ad appear next to laptop search results--regardless of whether it "makes sense."

What happened to "don't be evil?"

Friday, April 22, 2005

Earth Day celebration

Happy Earth Day, everyone. Just remember, when you hug a book, you're hugging a tree in evolved form.

Environmental question of the day: Has anyone ever explored the idea of an outdoor library?

I can imagine all kind of issues...what about the computers when it rains? How do I keep the DVDs from walking off? Mold growing in the stacks...

Right. My question is geared to more of an architectural/conceptual idea. Anyone have photos, ideas for an outdoor library?

A few: New York, Umatac in Guam, and Vietnam.
Also: Paper about cataloging.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Star Shone on Alabama

On Wednesday, I spoke at the Birmingham Public Library Lunch at the Alabama Library Association conference.

I have a bit of advice for you: it you ever get invited to the Alabama Library Association conference, go. I was there way too briefly, but what I saw, I enjoyed thoroughly. (Incidentally, the fried chicken at the lunch was almost as good as the best I’ve eaten, and I lived in South Carolina for seven years.)

I was met at the airport by Renee Blalock, the Associate Director of the Birmingham Public Library, who had invited me to the conference. Michele Norris, the host of NPR’s All Things Considered, was also on the flight—she was the keynote speaker for the conference. Another word of advice: if Michele Norris ever speaks within 100 miles of where you are, drop everything and go hear her. Her keynote speech was exactly what every meeting organizer hopes for: a relevant, incredibly well-delivered speech from the heart that gets discussion going for the rest of the event. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t agree with everything she said, but the way she said it was SO GOOD! Before she became the host of ATC, Michele’s beat was education and she still cares passionately about kids (including her own two toddlers) and how they learn.

My only gripe with Michele’s talk is that I have a hang-up about the library as nostalgia. She talked a lot about how libraries used to be. She expressed concern about “point and click” journalism, and about whether information, as it becomes more common, will become less valuable.

But she was fully engaged with the audience. At one point, she said she would love to spend time shadowing the librarian at NPR, just to learn more about what she does. At that point, Elizabeth Aversa of the College of Communication and Information Services, School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alabama (yes, this all fits on her card) offered to have her shadow LIS students as they learn about the next generation of information provision, and Michele accepted.

Michele’s talk wasn’t all nostalgia…she was firmly grounded in the current environment. She talked about a dinner party she’d attended with a number of journalists. As the evening progressed, they started talking about stories they’d each pursued based on internet research that either turned out to be totally bogus or that took them off in the wrong direction. As it turns out, there was one librarian at this party, and after everyone had related his or her horror story, she said, “You each could have saved yourself a ton of time and embarrassment just by picking up the phone and calling your librarian.” KUH-ching!

She said that librarians need to be right at the table when the editorial meetings are being held every day. By extension, librarians need to be at every meeting of the city council, school board, deans and provosts, student senate, and wherever else decisions are being made. That’s how we make the leap from gatekeeper to player!

OK, so sign me up for Michele’s fan club. The icing on the cake? She said her favorite children’s book is Curious George. (OK, this is a shameless plug for WebJunction. You can get your price of admission refunded at the door!)

Trading Spaces (Library Edition)

So last week, I was in New Jersey doing a scan presentation for the library association conference there. One of the people at the program, Kathy Schalk-Greene, gave me her card and suggested that I check out the web site on the card.

What a find! If you’ve read the scan or attended one of the presentations we’ve done, you’ll know that one of our themes is the importance of the library as place. Thirteen months ago, the Mount Laurel Public Library hosted a conference called “Trading Spaces: Reinventing the Library Environment” and this site is an absolute treasure trove of information about how to re-make your library into a more inviting place for your community. And the kicker is that the emphasis is how to do this on a skimpy budget. Mount Laurel Public Library and South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative each kicked in $15,000 to renovate the library, and the results are phenomenal.

But this was more than just an isolated success story. Instead, the idea was to use Mount Laurel as a showcase, and when you check out the photos and the testimonials on these pages, you’ll see why this has worked. Kathy won the New Jersey Library Association’s Librarian of the Year Award at the close of their conference last week. Just another reason to listen, eh?

In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that Karen Hyman (the director of the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative) and I are on the dais together in Chicago for a PLA preconference called “Creating a Library Sales Force: It’s Easier than You Think,” on Friday, June 24 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. We also have the absolutely wonderful team of Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace, with whom I worked back in my ALA days, and Gail Griffith from Carroll County Maryland, PL, on the program. (Google Gail’s name and you’ll find a wealth of programs with which she’s been involved!)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Games, Learning and Society Conference

Here's a conference for librarians who want to learn more about the role of games in learning. The Games, Learning & Society Conference (GLS) will be held June 23-24, 2005 in Madison, Wisconsin, and "will explore issues of how videogames and digital media are impacting learning and society. Speakers, discussion groups, and interactive workshops and exhibits will focus on game design, game culture, and games' potential for learning and society more broadly." (from the conference web site)

It's going to be a small two-day conference (capped at 250, according to the conference FAQ) which often means a more meaningful experience for attendees. More exposure to speakers and other attendees, and less sessions to pick from.

The conference is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (home to Constance Steinkuehler and Kirt Squire*, panelists at the OCLC Gaming Symposium at ALA Midwinter 2004) and the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab.

* Kurt and Constance had just had a great article published in Library Journal, called "Meet the Gamers." "They research, teach, learn, and collaborate. So far, without libraries."

Report on Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming

Noted on Stephen Downes always informative newsletter OLDaily.

From the ADL site: The The Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative released a report in March, examining multiplayer online games as a future focus area for ADL. The report, "Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming: A Research Framework for Military Training and Education." reviews relative online gaming research literature and proposes 15 primary experiments pertaining to massive multiplayer online gaming (MMOG), first popularized in the entertainment world and now finding growing interest in education and training environments.

The report is available for downloading here.

Stephen's comment: "this report is a good and in-depth study of the relation between online role-playing games such as MUDs and educational achievement. There is some discussion of how players of such games self-organize and some lighter discussion of the psychological impact of play in such environments."

And while some of us may not be entirely comfortable with the military connection, it's good to remember that the Internet itself began life as ARPANET, a military research project.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Adobe buys Macromedia

This is BIG news in the creative/design world. And for anyone who publishes a combination of print, electronic, Web.
My two favorite software makers have now joined forces. The people who brought you Dreamweaver will now be the same people who brought you Photoshop. It's a beautiful thing. I'm so excited. Go hug your Webmaster/graphic designer/communications person. He or she probably won't believe you at first. Read more from the CNET story >>

Welcome to the containerless future

A great hunk of writing came across my desk this morning from one of the information-space e-newsletters I get.

The short piece lamented the fact that Intel offered $10,000 for an archival copy original of Electronics magazine that tipped Moore's law into existence. The writer ackowledged that there are photo- and digital copies everywhere, but few originals to be found. So Intel turned to the library community--who subsequently now have to protect their originals from poachers.

The writer then explored the idea of "what is an original?" of an object when the original object is in fact digital. Here's a snippet:
It makes us wonder once again how future generations will view our obsession with content containers and packages. When someone 50 years from now wants to document the rise of blogs, they'll likely point to the original posts on the Powerline and FreeRepublic blogs about the CBS documents about President Bush's military service that proved to be false and led to the downfall of Dan Rather. But what will they put in their museum? Where will the originals of those posts be? They don't exist outside the ones and zeroes on somebody's computer, and that will be true of all kinds of important documents we are creating today. What's an original when there never was a print version?

The clincher was at the end: "Welcome to the containerless future."

Friday, April 15, 2005

University of Alberta's Bike Library

A good post for a lovely Friday afternoon. This came to me via Jerome-L, an Alberta-based library list. The newspaper article referred to appeared in today's edition of The Edmonton Journal (subscription required) on page B4.

In response to calls and numerous e-mails, please allow me to advise you that the [Edmonton] Journal headline with regard to Item #4 below is misleading. The University of Alberta Library System, while providing exemplary service to campus in a variety of ways and making information resources available also in a variety of ways, is NOT engaged in loaning bicyles. The "bike library" intiative seems to be centred in the Environmental Co-ordination Office of Students. We 'peddle' books, not bikes.

U of A students can rent bikes, painted university colors of green and gold, for $20 a month. Bike Library saves students time and money where before had to walk 45 minutes or take bus, one student has only a 10 minute bike ride to campus. Program run by student environment office and volunteer bike mechanics fix donated bikes. Environment office hopes to expand program. Page B4; by Jodie Sinnema

Rupert Murdoch is a "digital immigrant"

Rupert Murdoch heads up News Corporation, one of the largest media corporations in the world. On Wednesday he gave a speech to US newspaper editors at a conference in Washington. The text of the speech is here.

Murdoch has adopted the terms "digital immigrants" and "digital natives" that George, Cathy and I now use when talking about generational differences in our presentations. We got the terms and definitions from John Beck who co-wrote Got Game. Perhaps Mr. Murdoch has read this book too. Or perhaps he read Marc Prensky who seems to have been the guy who first published something using the terms.

Murdoch had this to say:
"Scarcely a day goes by without some claim that new technologies are fast writing newsprint’s obituary. Yet, as an industry, many of us have been remarkably, unaccountably complacent. [...] I come to this discussion not as an expert with all the answers, but as someone searching for answers to an emerging medium that is not my native language. Like many of you in this room, I’m a digital immigrant. I wasn’t weaned on the web, nor coddled on a computer. Instead, I grew up in a highly centralized world where news and information were tightly controlled by a few editors, who deemed to tell us what we could and should know. My two young daughters, on the other hand, will be digital natives. They’ll never know a world without ubiquitous broadband internet access.

The peculiar challenge then, is for us digital immigrants – many of whom are in positions to determine how news is assembled and disseminated -- to apply a digital mindset to a new set of challenges.

We need to realize that the next generation of people accessing news and information, whether from newspapers or any other source, have a different set of expectations about the kind of news they will get, including when and how they will get it, where they will get it from, and who they will get it from."

Could be a librarian talking about challenges in our world, couldn't it?

More coverage of the speech here and here and here

The last link was to commentary by Jeff Jarvis, an experienced journalist and media watcher. Read the comments too to this post and read 1. Find sand. 2. Dig hole. 3. Insert head and the comments. Read A New Model for LOCAL NEWSPAPERS and read those comments too.Substitute the word "editors" with "librarians", and "newspaper" for "library" and see if any of this sounds familiar.

Good stuff. Food for thought. Somebody invite Mr. Jarvis to speak to librarians.

Is Encarta Becoming Wikipedia?

In a post on the AP, quoted in the excellent newsletter/blog Resource Shelf, Microsoft is looking for volunteers to help keep Encarta up to date. Microsoft is saying that it will continue to have editors verify the information, and it's asking for citations to the changes.

It sounds a little like Wikipedia, doesn't it?

Form a government: the House of Commons

George's post inspired me to chime in: I first moved to the UK in 1997, about 3 weeks after the new Labour Government was formed. I had arranged, you see, to work for a Tory MP in Parliament--thinking that there was no way "new Labour" was going to win.

But of course they did and suddenly I found myself in the middle of the Opposition party, meeting William Hague (such a bright hope at the time...), picking up the daily Hansard and forming loud-mouthed opinions on Alistair Campbell and Peter Mandelson...

Curiously enough, I spent the summer doing public policy research on Internet filtering. (Our best recommendation at the time was self-policing.) The MP I worked for as a research assistant was really keen on the Web.

Much has changed since that bright summer in London!

Parliamentary Elections

Lorcan Dempsey brought to my attention a blog log that the BBC is offering on its web site for comment on the upcoming elections in the UK. One of the guest bloggers is a friend of Lorcan, and he's managed to bring the concept of networked libraries into the electoral discussion. Go to, then scroll down to the 14 April entry.

ALA always tries to get the presidential candidates on the record about libraries, but John has managed to get some pretty candid reactions from his candidates. "When I spoke to the candidates of three parties for the last Scottish Parliament election, I asked them about their position on networked libraries and e-library developments. Two seemed amazed or baffled at the concept; one said that he thought that libraries still depended on paper cards to store details of where a book might be. "

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

"Does the non-dynamic library have a future?"

Yesterday I did a scan presentation for the New Jersey Library Association in a preconference called "Information Services in the Larger Context."

This was an excellent audience, full of questions, comments, and well-considered opinion. But one question stopped me in my tracks. One public library director explained his frustration in seeing the slow pace of change in libraries, and asked, "Does the non-dynamic library have a future?"

After some hemming and hawing, sort of like Elmer Fudd attempting to speak Aramaic, I finally said, "Maybe not." How's that for forceful opinion leadership?

During the rest of the program, the ride back to Newark Airport, and the flight home, I had time to think about this. It seems to me that libraries have a responsibility, not just an opportunity, to change.

Determining the nature of that change, though, is a combination of marketing and leadership. The type of marketing I'm referring to here is not about sales, but rather it's about knowing your clients thoroughly, what they need and want. Pat Wagner of Pattern Research led the group through some excellent exercises in this direction as the other part of the preconference, and she made some important points about how a library director can start to understand their communities more effectively.

But it's not just about giving people what they want. Leadership is about creating a vision that you can share with the board, with elected officials and business people, with the library's clients, and most of all, with the library staff. (One of our side discussions during this meeting was about the importance of not blaming the staff for not being willing to change. If the leaders cannot explain the change and provide a reason for it, the problem lies not with the staff, but with their leaders.)

Also, the clients can't know everything about what libraries could offer---they only know what they've experienced. Library leaders need to have contagious enthusiasm, not only for what the library is today but for what it can be tomorrow and beyond. And then they need to spread that contagion far and wide.

If we could do this, we wouldn't have to worry about non-dynamic libraries!

Buying and Selling eContent Conference

The BSEC conference is wrapping up today in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is the 6th annual conference that is aimed at "thought leaders, executives, and global content buyers". A look at the list of companies and organizations attending past conferences is an interesting one, a combination of technology companies, business analysts, content aggregators, publishers...and as far as I could tell, only two librarians. Which is too bad. Here's why the conference organizers think people should attend this conference:

Buying & Selling eContent covers issues and challenges faced by top-level executives who are responsible for buying and selling electronic content, including:
- Industry outlook and analysis from analysts who study the trends
- Content licensing, contracts, pricing, and usage
- Copyright, rights management, and intellectual property
- New paradigms and technology for content creation, delivery, and use
- Business threats and opportunities, and how to deal with them successfully
- Insights into successful business models and why they work
- PLUS roundtable discussions where you can talk with peers about issues of common concern and interest.

Aren't library directors top-level executives who are responsible, ultimately, for buying content?

Dave Weinberger (Mr. Cluetrain Manifesto) was a keynote speaker and his presentation, Everything Is Miscellaneous: Uprooting the Old Information Order is available as an MP3 feed here (courtesy of Rafat Ali, from The entire thing is about the organization of knowledge. "As we digitize the world's information, we're discovering that the fundamental principles by which we've organized the real world don't apply very well. These principles have a long history, going back to Aristotle, and have determined the traditional shape of knowledge as a tree of categories or concepts." Some of the key ideas in the audio are also available here in Weinberger's e-zine Journal of the Hyperlinked Organization, including the whole tree/leaf idea of taxonomies.

The first mention of Dewey is at about minute 8 of a 55 minute presentation.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Print-on-Demand Getting Interesting

On April 4th, Amazon announced that it had acquired BookSurge, a South Carolina-based company, providing print-on-demand services to publishers, authors, retailers and libraries as noted in many places. This January 2005 report notes that BookSurge was founded in 1999 (although the company web site says 2000), and "is the global leader in inventory-free book distribution and fulfillment with print and sales facilities in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Netherlands, Poland, Australia, Greece and Panama."

It looks like books are available in eighteen languages, including Croatian, Welsh, Esperanto and Persian. And one of their latest releases is The Da Vinci Code in Arabic.

Most interesting. I'll bet there's some behind-the-scenes stories related to this acquisition. BookSurge would be considered a smaller player in the POD world, which is dominated by Lightning Source, a division of Ingram Industries, of which Ingram Book Group will be the most familiar to librarians (I had no idea that another part of Ingram is a shipping company). Ingram Book Group is also Amazon's major conduit to print books. Salon magazine has an October 18, 2001 story, "The Instant Book That Wasn't" that involves all three of the players: Amazon, Ingram Book Group and BookSurge. Here's the link but if you don't subscribe to Salon you'll need a (free) day pass to read it.

In the story, the CEO of BookSurge, Bob Holt, is quoted: "Ingram will be disintermediated, maybe in 10 years, maybe 20. The model where you put a bunch of books in a warehouse and distribute them, that's a dying horse. It's still valuable for bestsellers--but what percentage of titles are bestsellers? Less than 1 percent of titles each year." Hmm, perhaps disintermediation is closer than 10 years?

But this isn't the only interesting BookSurge news--this is older but somehow I missed it entirely. Our colleague Eric Childress (a very good "spotter" for IAG) passed it along to me. Back in January 2005, BookSurge and ebrary announced a partnership for the "joint development of a print-on-demand offering, initially focused on the library market. The initiative will enable libraries throughout the world to purchase authoritative content in print from leading publishers, without astronomical shipping costs or lengthy waits for delivery."

An analysis of the ebrary/Booksurge partnering can be found in The Seybold Report for Feb. 9, 2005.

The article linked to above ends with this: "Although the battle over e-book sales continues -- Internet portal Yahoo also has e-book sales deal with four major publishing houses -- e-books are still a small part of the current online book market, but both publishing companies and online retailers clearly are expecting significant growth. When that might happen is the open question."

It might be an open question but librarians should keep an eye on this because the answers are likely to have a big impact on the supply chain for books.

Addendum (April 12): The choice of quote above from, about e-book sales makes it sound like the author conflates Print-on-Demand books with e-books. This wasn't the case...and I should have put the quote in content.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Duke's iPod program reduced

Sorry to hear that Duke has put restrictions on next year's iPod program. I'll have to cancel my plans for how I could do a second undergraduate degree...all for the love of a green iPod mini.

What Do Women Want Online?

Find out in the article: What Do Women Want Online? Ten Tips for E-tailers.
A lot of these principles pertain to library/Web OPAC use, as well!

Fight over eReserves at UC

Heard about a potential legal battle about electronic reserves at UC? It was in this morning's Chronicle, electronic edition. (password required)
(Whispered aside) Are we talking about the California Digital Library? Or something else entirely?

Here's the thing: publishers (in my admittedly very limited view) seem to be burying their heads in the sand, struggling to preserve that last iota of revenue stream. I say, look up! This is an opportunity!

Technology changes, so libraries change, so students' habits change, so information search/sort out/soak up abilities of students it seems inevitable that copyright law will change, too. It's just a matter of time. So why not contribute to the change in a way that is helpful to you, as a publisher?

I read a great analogy to this phenomenon that makes a lot of sense, from Jim Wallis's latest book. People keep licking their finger and putting it in the air, to see which way the wind is blowing. And then they go in that direction. And they've been so busying going in that direction, that they don't realize the underlying truth: the wind has changed.

I'd say the wind has changed for eResources and convenience on our campuses. And the law will catch up. But how long will it take? A year? Two? Four?

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Being Necessary

George may be the last person to hear about tags. I may be the third last. I know what they are, read about them, but haven't test driven them...I approve in principal. Not good enough. I need to use them so I understand what it means when someone on the LITA-L mailing list says they are trying out such tags added to the OPAC. I have a sense this is terrific.

But that's not what I want to comment on.

I hear the same concerns about patron confidentiality that George remarks on in his post. I hear you, I am one with you, I have a library degree too. BUT, I wonder who appointed us spokespeople for the masses? I am not aware that any library has some kind of check box on a library card application that says: "would you be willing to give up some amount of personal data so that we may send you personalized information about our collection?"

We're collectively all fired up about protecting patron confidentiality but my guess is we've not asked patrons about their wishes. Let's not design services for mythical people. Let's ask real people. It may turn out that Community A prefers that no personal information inform an OPAC search. It's all asked your community. But perhaps Community B is comfortable providing a little more information in order to get personalized recommendations. Or perhaps it depends on the individual and you can't make a blanket policy that fits everyone in your community. But let's be very clear who informs our policies. It would be good if it wasn't a bunch of belly button lint collecting professionals.

Just a few minutes ago, I posted a piece on "StoryCode." StoryCode is social software, defined in the Wikipedia as "applications which facilitate virtual connection and collaboration between people on a network. It is sometimes described succinctly as 'connection comes before content.'"

Bob Harriman, a former colleague here at OCLC after his tenure as the coordinator of LC's Newspaper Program, and now the Director of Preservation Programs for Preservation Technologies, brought "" to my attention. OK, maybe I'm the last person to hear about this, but I find it fascinating. From its home page, here's a description of what is all about:

» is a social bookmarks manager. It allows you to easily add web pages you like to your personal collection of links, to categorize those sites with keywords, and to share your collection not only among your own browsers and machines, but also with others.
» Once you've registered for the service, you add a simple bookmarklet to your browser. When you find a web page you'd like to add to your list, you simply select the bookmarklet, and you'll be asked for information about the page. You can add descriptive terms to group similar links together and add notes for yourself or for others.
» You can access your list of links from any web browser. Your links are shown to you with those you've added most recently at the top. In addition to viewing by date, you can also view all links with a specific keywords (you define your own keywords as you add the links), or search your links for keywords.
» What makes a social system is its ability to let you see the links that others have collected, as well as showing you who else has bookmarked a specific site. You can also view the links collected by others, and subscribe to the links of people whose lists you find interesting.

Ed Kiecyzkowski, now the County Librarian in San Bernardino, California, was the director of the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library in Ohio when I ran the Fairfield County District Library. He did a survey of how public libraries used clerical, paraprofessional, and professional staff. He told me that the only job all the libraries in his survey reserved for librarians was collection development and selection. Of course, this was at least 15 years ago, but this kind of cooperative, user-managed development of sources and tools changes the playing field, doesn't it?

I think the growth of sites like also shows that privacy is less of a concern for users of this type of site than it is for many librarians. Am I saying that we should throw our traditional defense of the privacy of library use records out the window? No, I am not. But do I think we should be doing a better job in mining our circ data to help people find more things that might interest them or be useful to them in their research? Yes.

My feelings on this led to a very heated discussion in the Library Automation class I discussed earlier on this blog. Several of the students in the class were quite passionate (and articulate) in their belief that library records should not be used for this purpose, especially if there was any chance whatsoever they could fall into the clutches of Big Brother. I couldn't agree with those students more. But I do feel that there must be ways to aggregate this sort of data, maybe even using the records of a number of libraries, to protect user confidentiality but still allow us to use what we know.

21st Century Reader's Advisory

One of the things we occasionally get to talk about in our Blog presentations is the growth in cooperative creation of content. Here's an interesting example that just came over the transom.

This morning's e-mail brought a note from a gentleman named Paul Youlten, who is working on a new site called StoryCode. This is a cooperative site that allows librarians, teachers, book sellers, and other "passionate readers" to "score" fiction in a variety of categories, resulting in links from one book to another. For example, if you liked Life of Pi (as I did), you would find a number of titles that have a score correlation of 77% or better. I rated my all time favorite novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and there were about a dozen novels that had roughly 66% correlation, some surprising (Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card? I, Robot by Isaac Asimov?) and some intriguing (The Color Purple by Alice Walker and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee). Your rating of the book could change the books that come up in the rating scale, since I was the first one to score Huck.

There are several limitations to the system now. It's in Beta, and the database is pretty small (about 600 titles) at the moment. But they're adding to it rapidly, and invite all of us passionate readers to join.

If you haven't seen it, you might also want to check out FictionFinder, which is a project of the OCLC Research to act as a reader advisory service based on the MARC record. The web site describes this by saying, "...summaries, subject headings, genre terms, etc. are extracted from individual bibliographic records, filtered," (through the FRBR algorithm, not a CIPA filter --- blogger's note) "and presented at the work level." This is another one of the wonderful tools available free from the OCLC Research Works site. Check it out!

Google on TV

Got this juicy tidbit on ready to pass it on.

Al Gore (the former Vice-President) and Joel Hyatt (an entrepreneur) are teaming up to create a new national TV by, for and with and 18-34 year-old audience. It pulls in Google for it's news updates each half-hour...except it's not traditional "news," the way we think of it now--it's news like Google Zeitgeist. In other words, rather than trying to tell you what's important in the world, it flips the question: What does the world seek to learn right now?

"We're pleased to collaborate with the entire Current team to help this network make the world's information more accessible," said Sergey Brin, Google's co-founder and president of Technology. "Current is an exciting new direction for TV programming that enables any viewer to have the opportunity to broadcast their video to the world," said Larry Page, Google's co-founder and president of Products.

I am all jazzed to think of tv as active collaboration--as a platform where GenX, GenY voices can be heard. MTV or VH1 might have done that, been that in the 80's...but who watches Pimp my Ride and thinks there is any collaborative activity?

Check out the full story abotu on CNET.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Being Relevant

I just hopped onto Amazon to have a look and see if an old book was available (it is), and if I could "look inside" at the index (I could). There on the first page I saw were items honoring Pope John Paul II titled In Memoriam: The Millennium Pope. The Pope died only about 24 hours ago and yet Amazon has already gathered together a series of links to books by him, books about the pope and his papacy, about papal elections, the Roman Catholic Church, and to nine DVDs. The list of books by the Pope had been viewed over 5000 times.

Golly, I wonder if the Amazon staff had to work outside of their regularly scheduled hours?

How many libraries have done something similar already? Any? Not likely. And unfortunately, topical lists of content available to libraries' communities are always outside of the discovery and delivery systems that would connect interested people to that relevant content.


Saturday, April 02, 2005

Thank you, Waco!

Rowland Nethaway, the senior editor of the Waco (Texas) Tribune Herald, wrote a column that was syndicated in a number of newspapers over the weekend. In the Columbus Dispatch, the column was headlined, "Libraries could use a multimedia overhaul," but I prefer the headline that appeared in its original incarnation in the Waco paper: "Let's Meet at the Library."

Mr. Nethaway makes a strong case, from the user's point of view, for the library as the third place (although he doesn't use that phrase). After decrying the decline in use of schools and other public facilities for social organizations, he says, "I think part of the old-fashioned spirit of community and ownership can be recaptured by building multipurpose public facilities. My idea is to turn public libraries from quiet repositories of the printed word into modern gathering places for all sorts of activities."

Mr. Nethaway has a pretty 1980s idea of what public libraries currently offer, in a lot of ways. But his solution is right up our alley. We are in a perfect place to build on this support. It's also nice to see this kind of idea coming from outside the profession.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Google Gulp

No idea how long this will stay around but this is pretty funny. Make sure to read the FAQs.

At Google our mission is to organize the world's information and make it useful and accessible to our users. But any piece of information's usefulness derives, to a depressing degree, from the cognitive ability of the user who's using it. That's why we're pleased to announce Google Gulp (BETA)™ with Auto-Drink™ (LIMITED RELEASE), a line of "smart drinks" designed to maximize your surfing efficiency by making you more intelligent, and less thirsty.

Of the four Beta flavors, this was my fav:
Sero-Tonic Water – Just try to stay down once your synapses get a blast of this bubbly concoction whose refreshing blend of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors is perfect for those moments when all your other beverage options just seem soooo depressing.

And you have to admit the tag line is great: "Quench your thirst for knowledge."

The April Fool's Day cover spoof from Library Journal is"RFID Implants: The New Library Card." Posted by Hello

Library Journal fooling

There's some funny stuff on the LJ Web site today. I was all excited to scoop you that Michael Gorman decided to step down...until I realized it was an April Fool's Day joke.
Had to chuckle at the headlines...especially the "Bar Opens in Library, Circulation Triples!"

Spring Break at the office

It has been spring break week here, back at the ranch.

Everyone it seems is either out sick with the flu, out sick with spring fever or off traveling somewhere interesting. Perhaps we should just declare it spring break for everyone.

Oh wait, I know what's coming...