One reason, I think, is librarians' collective belief that patrons' privacy is being protected from the potential plundering of their identities. Bull-pucky, is what I retort to that...because as a profession we've done little or no research into what amount of privacy our communities expect from library OPACs.
So, I point our attention to the 2005 National Personalization Survey [press release pdf] which is, "the second in a series of national surveys designed to provide insight into consumer interest in, and perceptions of, online personalization."
Now, I've said many times that the data show people will give up privacy for personalization features, and this survey says I am wrong:
Based on the fear of losing personal information, fewer consumers are willing to provide personal preference and demographic information in exchange for personalized content than last year. In 2005, 59 percent of respondents indicated a willingness to provide preference information, down six percent from 2004. Additionally, 46 percent of respondents are willing to provide demographic data in 2005, down 11 percent from 2004.
So that's that, I hear some of you saying as you cross "personalization" off your to-do list. Not so fast, not so fast...
The Personalization Survey also finds that retailers are leaving significant dollars on the table by not making it easier for consumers to find merchandise that interests them. Thirty seven percent of respondents indicated that the last time they went shopping for DVDs/videos, they would have bought more if they had found more that they liked. The same was true of consumers shopping for music, with 34 percent indicating that they would have bought more if they had found additional titles that they liked.
Substitute "libraries" for retailers, and "patrons" for consumers, and "use" for dollars, and I think we see here evidence of The Long Tail in action. People will consume (buy, use) more content if they are shown more of what they are interested in. And the pr piece goes on to quote Esther Dyson, "Specifically, they want personalization, even as they are concerned about the safety of their data. Those sites that offer a rich, uniquely personal experience to each consumer while visibly ensuring the safety and security of consumers' information will take the lead in the years ahead."
An 11 page Research Brief is available [pdf] from the surveyor's site (and yes, I do recognize that the company is in the personalization business and so isn't neutral on the topic) and includes this: "Among older respondents, particularly those in the 50+ category, personalized news is of the greatest interest (28%), followed by Web search (26%), and books(22%)."
So, librarians, the challenge is to provide a rich, uniquely personal experience while visibly ensuring the safety and security of peoples' identities. This sounds like the sort of challenge librarians should accept.
"This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim."