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 results...in 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.

1 comment:

Alice said...

Science Library pad did a related post on Web services today.