Tuesday, February 28, 2006

So which am I?

From this week's Newsweek (March 6, 2006):

"Unless you 're a geek, obsessed with DJs, or under the age of 35, chances are you've never heard the word 'mash-up.'" ("Time for Your Mash-Up?," by N'Gai Croal, page 61.)

I'm not adept enough to be a geek, the last DJ I cared about was Wolfman Jack, and that should tell you I'm not under 35. But thanks to this week's Montana OFFLINE, I learned a lot about mash-ups. Thanks, Alane!

A King Cake for you

Happy Mardi Gras! Results of the King Cake baking... Posted by Picasa

Google goes Archival and other beautiful stories of global cooperation through digital media

Just spied on eContentMag.com:
Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein and Google Co-Founder and President of Technology Sergey Brin have announced the launch of a pilot program to make holdings of the National Archives available for free online. This non-exclusive agreement will enable researchers and the general public to access a diverse collection of historic movies, documentaries and other films from the National Archives via Google Video as well as the National Archives site.

The pilot program undertaken by the National Archives and Google features 103 films from the audiovisual collections preserved at the Archives....more
The National Archives and Google are exploring the possibilities of expanding the on-line film collection and making the Archives extensive textual holdings available via the Internet.
Alice asks politely, "How about through the nation's libraries, too?"

I had a really cool experience yesterday, as I worked away on sorting out the Web pieces parts of our NetLibrary 25% off Subject Sets offer. Unrelated to the offer, but there we are.

I received a message referred to me from a magazine editor in Brazil. She had found WWII propaganda posters online, from the Northwestern University Library's Digital Collections.

Naturally, being an editor she needed these images right away and provided her FTP address for upload.
Well it took me about 2 minutes to e-mail Beth Clausen, the head of the Government and Geographic Information and Data Services, to explain the situation. And by the time I blinked twice, Beth had e-mailed the editor, explained the pricing and this brazilian editor was good to go with her images.

In a manner of hours, we had 4 locations, 3 institutions and 2 languages connected and in fact, the goods delivered. Viva la Internet! The world is flat indeed.

Monday, February 27, 2006

What Stephen Said

In this post, at the end, I mused that discussions in the biblioblogosphere about Lib2.0 hadn't focused much on the ramifications of a central concept for any of the 2.0 discussions (Web 2.0 and its relatives): that the original owners of services and institutions are not the only--and perhaps not the primary--designers and developers of new services. I gave only one example, that of LibraryThing.

Stephen Abram has written a long post, The Library 2.0 'Bandwagon', in which he suggests in what concrete ways Lib2.0 would be different from Lib1.0. If you're feeling woolly-headed about Lib2.0, read Stephen's take on it. What he said.
"The users are moving into the control position. Libraries are no longer able to drive the good bus 'library' alone."

I am pretty sure that when libraries' systems and services are more transparent and accessible to users, and so may be changed and added to by users, many wonderful things will flower.

One example: Ron Moody is the current chairperson of the Montana State Library Commission. He's new to the Commission and cheerfully admits he knows little about Libraryland. To begin his education, he attended the OFFLINE conference George, Pam Bailey, and I spoke at--kudos to him, for that. Saturday morning, in a break, Ron was chatting with George and me, and he told us he has a personal library of 3000 books. What if, he wondered, he used LibraryThing to catalogue his books and then was able to add his records to his public library's catalogue? Dead silence while George and Alane absorb this really cool idea. I mean, why not? Ron's tag clouds could be added to any existing bib record to enrich the "official" metadata. Wouldn't it be a fabulous way to make an OPAC a real reflection of a community? And I'd love to see WorldCat accommodate civilian-produced metadata. Then it really would be WORLDCat. Alane speaking as herself...the notion of this may cause cardiac arrest somewhere at OCLC. On the other hand, maybe it won't. After all, our Founder fretted, way back in 1977, "are we automating nineteenth–century librarianship?"

Jeeves, we hardly knew ye...

Say farewell to Jeeves, the accommodating butler who introduced the "Ask Jeeves" service several years ago. Now, it's just plain vanilla (oops, they preferred to be thought of as "sleek") Ask.com.

No one asked me, but I wish they had kept the butler. Google owns the stripped down search engine user interface. Yahoo! owns the bazaar approach. Jeeves offered a human face to searching.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Montana OFFLINE is Right On

Bruce Newell convinced me to come to Helena for this weekend's OFFLINE, the annual program co-sponsored by the Montana Library Association and the Montana Library Network. I'm sure glad he did.

First, because Bruce and Lyn McKinney, the other Members Council delegate from Montana, convinced me to read Ivan Doig's This House of Sky, a beautiful rumination on the land and people of the state. I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the love of father and son.

Second, because I got to hear a couple of my colleagues (Pam Bailey of OCLC Western and IAG's own Alane Wilson) give splendid presentations. Since we are rarely presenting at the same event, this was quite a treat.

And third, because I got to hear Mark Sheehan, the Executive Director for Information Services and Chief Information Officer at Montana State University -- Bozeman. In fact, I had the misfortune to follow Mark, who gave the funniest, most comprehensive, and most perfectly pitched technology update I've ever heard. He was marvelous, and just hearing him would have made the trip worthwhile.

But what finally aced it was the fellowship. Montana is a huge state, and sparsely populated. Despite the reputation of Western rugged individuality, this is a state where collaboration and cooperation are the hallmarks of library service. Montana had the equivalent of an OCLC group catalog before we even had that name coined. Bruce has provided true servant leadership in his state, creating consensus and offering a vision that attracts the support of people in disparate libraries and circumstances. We need to clone him, because if Montana is smart, it will never let him go!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Mardi Gras weekend

Just in case you northerners forgot: It's Mardi Gras weekend! So hop in your car and head south. You've still got plenty of time to catch some good parades. Here's the Times-Picayune Mardi Gras planner.

I'll post a photo if my King Cake turns out. Or you make a cake and flickr it to us.

I just discovered today that one of my new friends has a Certificate in Pastry and Baking from the Institute for Culinary Education, NYC! (and no, this is not her real job.) So perhaps I will recruit her for some special assistance in the Cake-making area.

(If you haven't spent quality time in Lowe's, that last sentence will make not sense to you. If you HAVE spent quality time in Lowe's you will laugh and laugh...)

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

PALINET unveils new logo

Just saw this new brand identity PDF this morning, on the PALINET site. Congratulations to Cathy and all the staff at PALINET. I know what a long slog it can be, to develop a new brand identity, out of the pieces parts of the existing brand. It's a lot of soul-searching and gut-driven decisions, then tempered with a lot of focus-group testing!

They've done a good job at summarizing what their new logo means and why they decided to update it. Here's a quick hit for more than you could ever hope to read, on re-branding insights from brandchannel.com.

Materially in Montana

George and I are in Helena, MT to give presentations to the participants of the OFFLINE conference, at the invitation of Bruce Newell, the director of the Montana Library Network, delegate to OCLC Members Council, and friend. OFFLINE is an interest group of the Montana Library Association, and began in the 80s as a venue to help librarians become better Dialog searchers. We've come a long way since then, haven't we?

It's actually rare for us professional windbags to be at the same event so I will have the pleasure, this afternoon, of being able to see George's presentation "Living in an immaterial world" which is a great mashup title, invoking George Harrison, Madonna and The Police.

I will be talking about a toolbox of stuff....blogging, podcasting, mashups. I am even going to mention Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 which we have devoted few pixels to here at IAG. For my part, that's because I am loath to talk about something I really hadn't got my head around yet. But, I am going to keep it very simple as this represents my level of understanding at the moment. Like this....

Web 1.0: taking traditional media and making it web accessible. Static. Broadcasting. Often the same "look and feel" as the non-digital version. "Owners" are the designers, presenters and deliverers. Same for Library 1.0.

Web 2.0: Web presence becomes a participatory space and is added to, enhanced and changed by participants, not just owners, in a decentralized structure. Same for Library 2.0.

My example of the latter will be LibraryThing which is a very, very interesting phenomenon. Created by Tim Spaulding, (not a librarian), LibraryThing is a product, a service, a social network, a blog, a catalog and a cataloging tool with hundreds of participants. Tim has a quote on the home page from an article by the Christian Science Monitor:
"LibraryThing appears poised to turn the cataloging of books into a form of communal recreation."

For all the talking and writing about Lib2.0 in Libraryland, I don't think there's really been much said about the "owners" not being the drivers of change. If Lib2.0 unfolds as Web2.0 is, I suspect we may not have much control over what happens to our Lib1.0 services. LibraryThing is a good example of a shift in control. Make sure your seatbelts are safely fastened. It's going to be an interesting ride.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Have a laugh

"The Library Llama Sings About You." Dumb. Hysterical. And they mention "It's All Good." Who could ask for anything more?

Alice and I got into a discussion about whether the Library Llama was a take off on the Library Administration and Management Association (better known as LAMA) at ALA. I thought that was too big a stretch, but I did think of the old Ogden Nash poem:

A one-l lama
He's a priest.
A two-l llama
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
That there is
No three-l llama.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

ISBN goes to 13!

ISBN numbers will grow to 13 digits.

Had a wonderful long catch-up post, and then my Firefox browser bit the dust. So I will reconstruct...later...lots of fun stuff going on with me!

Change at the Human Level

For a couple of years now, I've been on the road talking about how libraries need to change. Based on the environmental scan (and more recently the Perceptions report), my talks have focused on changing the direction of library public services, about becoming more user-centric, about implementing aspects of self-service, disaggregation, and collaboration.

Not long ago, I spent some time with a very good friend who is in middle to upper management in a library. Both she and the library shall remain nameless. Her library is in the process of implementing a lot of these changes, and, basically, she blamed me and OCLC for destroying her life.

She was kidding.

I think.

Her library is studying and has proposed a variety of changes. They are thinking of taking out a whole level of middle management (which could cause her a demotion, or perhaps even cost her her job). They are considering de-emphasizing reference, moving to a readers' advisor/roving support model that we have heard described in several places, deprofessionalizing the positions along the way. They are centralizing materials selection, and administration wants staff to be trained and willing to work at multiple locations rather than the single location for which they were hired.

The kicker is that my friend supports every one of these changes. But she is seen as being part of the ancien régime of the library, and, as a result, not part of the modern, agile leadership that the administration seeks. She faults herself for being more deliberative than assertive in the system. She feels that her skills in teaching and building consensus are out of the current mainstream in her system. And she's not sure that she's ready to make a major change in her approach to the world at the age of 54.

The fact is that changing an institution, whether it's a large, complex academic library or a suburban public library or a one room school media center is never easy, and it's frequently very painful. People are invested in the status quo, and we as librarians take a great deal of pride in what we do. As the world around us has changed, we sincerely believe that the processes and services we provide hold enduring value.

I don't know what to tell my friend. She's a smart, thoughtful, dedicated professional who feels the way the monks in a scriptorium must have felt the first time they saw a Gutenberg printing press.

If you are in a situation like this, from whatever position, I would love to know more about your experience. Maybe you can help me help my friend. Maybe we can come up with some new strategies for dealing with change. Because the only thing of which we can be very sure is that the change is going to happen either with us or to us.

Public Broadcasting 2.0

"Understanding and adapting to this on-demand world will help us serve both old and new audiences better. Public broadcasting will have to reinvent its business and operational practices and learn to sustain its mission in a new way, and do it quickly."

"Through the looking glass to Public Broadcasting 2.0"

Some familiar issues raised in Current by Dennis L. Haarsager.

I love Mr Haarsager's blog tagline: "Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us." --Jerry Garcia

Reading Tea Leaves

Based on conversations I've participated in, blog posts I've read, questions I've answered after presentations, worst fears that librarians have shared with me, many in our community fret about Google. They fret that Google will supplant libraries, librarians, reference, cataloging, the buildings...

As I've said often, I doubt it. Google has already changed all of the above (except maybe the buildings), and will continue to, but it's pretty fruitless to fret about change, and about "the future." I'm not a professional futurist, but during two day-long courses (as a prelude to the World Future Society conference) on the study of the future and on using foresight tools, I learned one of the fundamental tenets of "futuring" is that the future is actually plural. There are futures.

In my notes from one of the sessions, either Peter or Wendy said "When we learned history, we learned one past, so the tendency is to think there's one future." Not so...possible futures emerge from the trends, innovations, evolutions, and revolutions that are change. Futurists develop scenarios for a range of plausible futures that help decision makers prepare for a wider range of contingencies than planning for "the future" does.

Planning for "the future" can lead to big problems. If one future is decided upon, then all energy and activity and planning is focused on that scenario. What if it isn't right? In the 70s, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, said, "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home."

Here's what I fret about. I fret that too many people in Libraryland are indulging in predicting the future instead of forecasting futures. And so I direct your attention to a recent article in Business2.0 called "Imagining the Google Future." It's an excellent example of creating scenarios, and the people asked to assist with this scenario-building included the futurist Ray Kurzweil (yes, that Kurzweil).

The four scenarios are:
- Google is the Media
- Google is the Internet
- Google is Dead
- Google is God

Each of these scenarios is described, supported by various publications and events, and given a timeline. That's how scenarios work. They're not (completely) wild-eyed imaginings and their roots are in current events and trends.

Right now, there's a good deal of talk and writing about Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 and what these presage for the future of Libraryland, if anything at all (depending if you're pro or con). It would be helpful and healthy, seems to me, to have some scenarios built around these memes that would help people understand the contingencies and contribute to the development of a preferred future.

Imagine the possible. Envision the preferred. Plan and implement. Forget the "Chicken Little" behaviour. The sky falling is only one scenario among many and I doubt it's anyone's preferred future.

OK, stepping off the soapbox....

Friday, February 17, 2006

Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

Oh I've finally decided my future lies,
Beyond the yellow brick road.” (“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”* – Elton John)

You’ve seen several posts recently on IAG about the OCLC Members Council meeting earlier this week. It’s a thrice-yearly gathering of the clan – delegates from OCLC member libraries around the globe, select observers from various library groups, OCLC and OCLC PICA staff, staff from OCLC’s regional service providers and special guests. The effort for all concerned to prepare for, travel to the meeting, and engage in the business of guiding the work of the world’s largest cooperative of libraries, is by no means small, but the reward for OCLC, our members, and – we hope – the delegates is great. Much is shared, discussed and debated, and direction is offered to OCLC. Professional connections are made or renewed. Information and ideas flow. We get a chance to ask/answer questions, listen, and, as needed, adjust course. As gatherings of librarians go – and I’ve been to my share – I think OCLC Members Council meetings boast one of the better meeting-to-action ratios in library land. Indeed, a few items from this week’s meeting are already on my to-do list.

But I was not writing this post to wax poetic on Members Council – as pleasant a task as that may be – but rather as lead-in to my real topic, the future. The occasion of each Members Council meeting is also an opportunity for RONDAC (Regional OCLC Network Directors Advisory Committee) to meet. At this meeting RONDAC requested a briefing on emerging technology/trends from OCLC Research, and yours truly was very pleased to be selected as the messenger.

So what did I prognosticate? Well – by way of metaphor – rather than continuing to walk the mostly comfortable path-of-incremental-change yellow brick road that once trailed before us, my own impression is that the future will look a bit more like a painting by Roger Dean (samples) – simultaneously familiar yet undeniably fantastic, and, definitely beyond the comfort of our 20th century yellow brick road.

As the full presentation I gave to RONDAC is a bit long to blog in a single post, here’s a mildly modified, condensed version (with thanks to several colleagues who offered counsel as I worked through the original presentation):

The backstage – global, high tech, high touch:
  • Everyone lives, works and learns in the Global Village (or at least its suburbs)

  • An everywhere, immersive network (web, cellular, GPS) connects all

  • Content is increasingly digital, and massive content increasingly portable

  • Users are embracing self-service, personalization, social networking/contribution and micro services/content (e.g., ringtones)
The system space – refactored**:
  • Modular (micro-services, remixing, data and functions from multiple sources)

  • Layered (loosely-coupled systems)

  • Interoperable (low-friction, high reuse) – [Note: lightweight protocols gaining favor (e.g., SRW/SRU, microformats)]

  • Machine-oriented services (web services)
The frontstage – empowered consumption:
  • Open Source/Content intellectual property is being built and leveraged widely (e.g., Apache software, Creative Commons content)

  • Release here, remix there: For example, Mash-ups deliver remixed functions & data from multiple providers in a seamless, integrated experience (with tools like Greasemonkey, etc. making lightweight mixing simple, easy, user-driven) [Note: Lorcan references a Science Library Pad post as illustration of this idea]
The library space – sea change a comin’:
  • “Acquire-Catalog-Circulate” fades into new “Integrate-Manage-Analyze” model [thanks to Robin Murray of OCLC PICA for this excellent conceptual frame – see Alane’s post and hear Robin’s remarks in a podcast for a fuller picture]

  • Surfacing seamlessly – library content and services will/must show up in non-library spaces (e.g., the web, office applications, learning management systems) to satisfy point-of-need demands of users

  • New models (e.g., FRBR) to build on, new user experiences to develop and deliver – lighter, easier, more relevant modes of delivering D2D (discovery to delivery) will appear

  • Non-library spaces will inform library spaces and vice-versa far more in the future than they did in the past: As illustration, witness the degree to which bookseller, publisher, library catalogs are starting to show feature & content convergence (e.g., enriched content (dust covers, TOCs) is increasingly a common feature, commonly expressed in form and content)

RONDAC patiently listened to my presentation and improved the overall session content greatly with thoughtful interjections, smart discussion, and insightful-but-hard-to-answer questions. My thanks to them, and to my colleagues, Doug Potts, and Suzanne Lauer, for arranging for my participation in the meeting.

So over to you, gentle IAG readers – are my pronouncements on-track/off-track? Did I miss any big ticket items? And more importantly, did George avoid my presentation because he really had more important business to attend to, or just so I’d have to blog a quick-read version for him later?

**"Refactoring is the process of changing a software system in such a way that it does not alter the external behavior of the code yet improves its internal structure." – Martin Fowler in Refactoring : improving the design of existing code (Reading, MA : Addison-Wesley, 1999.) (as quoted here)

(*“Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” - Music by Elton John; Lyrics by Bernie Taupin. The song initially appeared on Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

More from Members Council

Another thing I wanted to note from Monday's Members Council sessions: I attended an afternoon meeting of the discussion group for public and school libraries. George was there too.

The convenor, Donna Nicely, the Director of Nashville Public Library had asked Cathy De Rosa to speak briefly about the Perceptions report which she did. Donna then asked what did people think about the data and the implications of the data. And, as so many minutes of meetings record, "a lively discussion followed".

But a lively discussion happening at these dicussion group meetings (there are also groups for academic libraries, government and special libraries and consortia) is not unusual--in fact, it's completely usual. What struck me about this particular meeting was the stories. And don't we all love stories?

In response to Donna's question--what do we do with the information given to us in the Perceptions report?--many of the meetings attendees told a story about what things were being done in their libraries already to meet the needs of the people in their communities. What struck me was that these librarians were describing changes that did address the perceptions of libraries as expressed by the respondents to the OCLC report. Already. Now. Big changes.

And even better was that these changes sounded like there were positive ramifications both internally for the library organization, and most definitely externally, for people using the library.

One of the most inspiring stories was recounted by George Bishop, Director of the Information Center of the Ovid-Elsie Schools in Michigan. Now, George and Lynn McKinney (Head Librarian, Billings Senior High School Library, Montana) are the only school librarians who are current delegates to Members Council (I think they may be our first, as well) and we treasure them because OCLC needs to hear from K-12 librarians.

George's library has gone from an annual budget of $4000 to one over $100,000 in a region that is not wealthy by any stretch, and his library is well used by kids, even on Fridays after school is finished. So, his library is valued and the proof is in his funding and in use.

Well, the OCLC staff attending (lurking, sort of) the meeting loved these stories--positive, upbeat, successful--and we want to share them. So, I think we'll see a space created on the OCLC Community discussion pages here for librarians to share good stories about changes they're making at their libraries. But I'm going to email the people who were in that meeting and ask them to send me stories as well, and I am going to post them here. Because we especially love happy stories.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Valentine's Day gift for new library blog readers

A good day for all, I hope. As we wrap up the work day here on the U.S. East Coast and everyone heads for dinner, dancing, wine and roses (or at least a good movie), I thought I'd share the Free Range Librarian's library blogroll.

Here at IAG, we've consciously chosen NOT to blogroll--but it is nice, especially if you're a library staff person new to the blogsphere, to know where you might start looking for RSS feeds!

Twiddly Bits

Light blogging here...the Dublin-based IAGers have been attending the OCLC Members' Council. I think we all might have things we want to post about based on the meeting.

Yesterday morning, Robin Murray gave a good presentation on library systems. Robin is the CEO of Fretwell-Downing Informatics which was acquired by OCLC PICA recently. He provided a written version of his presentation that would be of interest to many, I think, so I'll see if we can provide a digital version. I could reproduce the text but he had some informative graphics that I can't although these will eventually be available on the OCLC web site.

The talk was titled "Library Systems: Synthesize, Specialize, Moblilize" and the essential point was that the business and service model of libraries is evolving from acquiring, cataloging and circulating physical collections to synthesizing, specializing and mobilizing web-based services.

Here's some points from his conclusion:

"Library systems have traditionally been synonymous with the ILS. The classical ILS is increasingly managed and focused on a legacy business process. While the ILS will remain a critical component in the management of a library service, its functions will gradually become peripheral to the core of library service.

While the 'new library model' is an evolution of the traditional model, the IT systems required to support it are clearly not an evolutionary development of the ILS. At some point there will be a critical jump in perception as to what is the core system supporting the library.
-Libraries need to keep aware of new services that can be synthesized into the offering.
-Libraries need to be ready to outsource internal services to network service providers who can realize enormous economies of scale.
Network service providers have to be looking for opportunities to provide new 'synthesizable services.'
- Library systems providers have to ensure 'plug-and-play compatibility with network services.

Above all, to maximize the value of our library services the industry needs to be far more externally focused."

And my favorite quote from Robin's talk was in his comment on something Pat Sommers, the CEO of SirsiDynix, said in a presentation--about the ILS-- to delegates on Sunday evening. Pat was responding, if I recall correctly, to a question from the floor about why ILS vendors don't innovate more quickly. Pat remarked that his company spends $10 million a year tweaking their systems to respond to requests from customers, and that left scant time and resources to make big changes. Robin rephrased this to describe all that activity as "building twiddly bits."

I was probably not the only OCLC person in the audience that thought we, OCLC, also spend a lot of time and resources building twiddly bits. Enhancements to this product and that service. Interface design changes. And so on. It is a Scylla and Charybdis that any product-and-service providing company must navigate between,

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Digital Library Environment - Ten Years On

A must-read article by our colleague and co-OCLC-blogger Lorcan Dempsey, published in the tenth anniversary edition of Ariadne. It's a thorough and elegant overview of the not so elegant toilings of (mostly UK) efforts to move library functions onto the Web. Modestly, he doesn't mention this article on his own blog.

It's a long article and I have in the past, lightly (because I never could write in that academic way?), characterized Lorcan's writing as "prolix" but that is unfair....it just demands attention. If you've heard any OCLC people speaking in the last few years you will recognize some themes, albeit expressed a wee bit more academically:
  • System-wide, there was an ambition to achieve systemic change in how information services were provided as part of the wider provision of research and learning support
  • We are moving to a flatter network world, where the gap between the Web and business applications is narrowing.
  • Many large Internet presences involve the user in the creation of the service or in their own experience of information resources are flowing onto the network, free at the point of use or available for a small fee.
  • We do not release the investment in structured data in engaging and interesting user experiences.

I've just picked a few "sound bites"... go read the article. Think.

Thank you and happy birthday, Ariadne.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Google and the Suburbs

The London Review of Books has an interesting "review" of two books about Google. I put "" around review because I can find barely any mention of the books in the interesting article called "Google Id" by John Lancaster. The article is more a review of Google and its founders, Larry Page and Sergei Brin and a musing on the significance of a company "wired straight into the global id."

I was struck by the last paragraph, hence the title:
"The best historical analogy for where Google is today probably comes from the time when the railroads were being built. Everyone knew that trains and railways would change the world, but no one predicted the invention of suburbs. Google, and the increased flow of information on which it rides and from which it benefits, is the railway. I don’t think we’ve yet seen the first suburbs."

Digital Rivers, Paper Lakes

All this time,
The river flowed,
To the sea.” (“All This Time” – Sting)

We’re delighted to have guests in Dublin, all the more so when the guests aren’t so much guests as us we haven’t properly met yet – in this case new faces in the OCLC family: Eric Hellman, and several other new colleagues from Openly Informatics -- now OCLC Openly Informatics -- from Bloomfield, New Jersey. Openly’s substantial collection(s) of data about e-serials, specialized software to support linking, extensive OpenURL knowledge/experience, and a very talented staff advance OCLC a significant step forward towards OCLC’s objective to be as good at helping libraries provide services for their electronic resources as we’ve been at helping libraries leverage their physical holdings. That said, it’s not so easy to explain what Openly does. When I mentioned the visit to some non-librarian relatives, I put aside the jargon and simply described Openly as a company that helps make getting to e-resources through your library seamless.

Yesterday, Eric Hellman presented an overview of Openly’s various products and services which include a range of linking/identifier-related offerings (including link calculation engines, link resolvers, and more) for OCLC staff here in Dublin. I found Eric’s metaphor of a digital river (e-content -- esp. e-serials -- which constantly shift and flow and aren’t necessarily physically hosted by a library) versus a paper lake (physical resources are typically held in library collections and display a different dynamic) quite useful, and it led me to reflect on some of my nearly-forgotten undergraduate ecology/geography coursework – perhaps some lake and river ecological concepts could be used to build on the image? Hmm...

Long and short of it: Openly has very valuable expertise and data to help libraries do what they do best, help users find information. And the value of Openly to the OCLC cooperative was made especially clear when Q&A in the overview session brought out the excellence of fit of Openly with OCLC’s e-serials pilot work.

Today, at our invitation, the Openly folks kindly joined several of us in OCLC Research, and gave us a chance to show off several projects including WikiD and xISBN. The conversation went very well, but the time quickly ran out, and we have a lot more to share with them (and vice-versa). This, no doubt, will be the first of what promises to be many conversations about matters of mutual interest.

So a hearty welcome to our new colleagues at Openly, and fair notice – we promise to overbook you with meetings on every trip. It’s an honor we accord all our non-Dublin-based staff. But as recompense we also promise to introduce you to the finer dining establishments in historic Dublin, perched on the river bank, where the river flows endlessly to the sea.

"Death by Risk Aversion"

Today's title comes courtesy of a longish post from Creating Passionate Users blogger Kathy Sierra. Kathy's posts often have funny and enlightening pictures associated with them to go along with the thought-provoking comments, and this one is no exception. And there's some words we don't use here at IAG but I trust you'll get over the shock.

I plan on using today's graphics in presentations (with full credit to CPU) One of the graphics illustrates very well a phenomenon highlighted in our Perceptions report by this question.

Is the information you get from library sources more or less trustworthy compared to the information you can get from search engines? 69% of respondents felt libraries and search engines provide the same level of trustworthiness. Same is bad...the "Zone of Mediocrity" as Sierra calls it and suggests that risk aversion lands companies and organizations in the Zone.

(graphic from Creating Passionate Users, January 30, 2006)

That would apply to libraries. Oh, and OCLC too. But we're in august company. "Sure the big companies have it bad and may fall the hardest if they don't get a clue and a cure, but none of us is immune. You see the safe path everywhere."

And the leaf people among us will appreciate this: "In other words, the leaf node/individual contributors often think about the effect of their work on users, while the mid-level managers often think about the effect of their work on their job. And whose fault is that? All those layers of bosses. Even one risk-averse boss in the chain-of-command can do major damage to innovation, spirit, motivation, etc."

(graphic from Creating Passionate Users, January 30, 2006.)

Creating Passionate Users advice:

  • Regularly review your sacred cows
  • Regularly review the assumptions behind all your decisions
  • Practice LETTING GO
  • Push the boundaries strategically, one-by-one
  • Use blogs to build support within the company
  • If all else fails and the culture of risk-aversion is stealing your soul, consider going into "short-timer" mode
  • Keep reminding yourself that life is short!

And perhaps the management at this woman's library needs to get a copy of CPU's post.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Ads during the Super Bowl

Yes friends, this is a post for the Yanks among us. If you are not based in the U.S., I am hard-pressed to explain the cultural significance of the SuperBowl. Suffice it to say, I watch it mostly for the commercials.

So here I sit watching the Steelers vs. Seahawks on the Biggest Day of the television advertising year. So far (the game's not over), my top favorite commercial is the Dove campaign for real beauty.

Watch the commercial, and then tell me if this isn't a brilliant move for the beauty manufacturer. It invokes the heart, invites me as a viewer to participate, and generally makes me believe that Unilever cares about the self-esteem of girls growing up today.

My second favorite is probably the first ESPN mobile Sportsheaven, (See the commercial under the "unveiled" section) where it shows a regular guy walking down the street, watching his mobile phone while all these athletes do their thing around him.

Okay I did like herestobeer.com, too.

Honerable mention:
The Budweiser commercial "Clydesdale American Dream" where the little horse is pulling the Budweiser carriage, and then the camera shows the older horses pushing it from the back. Somewhere I think I read that Budweiser mandates that one of their Super Bowl commercials must always be a sentimental clip with horses. This one worked for me...

The Hummer3 commercial was clever--a little slow to develop to the punchline--but a unique take nonetheless.

Did anyone else see the game? Any other noteworthy ads?

I WAS sitting here wishing there was a "Support Your Library" commercial being queued up...even though I know that doing a SuperBowl ad is the quickest way to waste marketing money!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Libraries and the Heart

"Putting the personal into what we do! I honestly believe the best libraries of the future will encourage the heart and librarians will put humanity into the library's virtual presence." The title and the quote are lifted from a recent post by Mr Tame The Web, Michael Stephens.

I thought of Micheal's comment--one of his "top ten for 2006" items--when I read a post on Liz Lawley's blog, mamamusings, in which she tells a story about what happened when she posted an old family photo on Flikr. Briefly, her grandfather had lost track many years ago of the four siblings shown with him and their parents in the photo but shortly after it went up on Flikr, a second cousin of Liz's from Brazil left a comment--and connections were made.

One of the wonderful, fabulous by-products of the technology we have at our fingertips is this web of humanity that can be built from exposing artifacts. Liz posted a personal photograph, but libraries and historical societies are treasure houses of letters, photos, building plans, fire maps, and oral histories that belonged to, were created by, used by real people who had families and who have descendents. When we digitize these treasures we are not just creating versions of these objects, we create opportunities for people to enrich their lives, to contribute to the stories they tell.

I have my own story. Some years ago, when I was working in Sales here at OCLC, I set up a small library in Montana with access to WorldCat on a trial basis. That year, the Denver Public Library had begun adding to WorldCat records for their extraordinary Western History photographic collection. Many of the records contained a link to the photo described. Many of those photos contain images of Native Americans who lived in the Little Big Horn area, now served by that library I was working with.

After a few weeks into the trial of WorldCat, I called the librarian to see how things were going. He told me there was a line-up of people at his one computer to use WorldCat, in a community that did not usually make heavy use of the library. Well, I like WorldCat myself but what was this about?

A woman in his community had come across the DPL photos and had recognized her grandmother, in a photo she had never seen. When she told others, they too found images of relatives and people the elders of the community had known. They could name these people who were unnamed by the photographer. But, there was no way to add those names to the photos then (and indeed, as there isn't in local systems or WorldCat, still) to enrich the documentary record of the community. But now there are services like Flikr that allow people--members of some library's community--to do this themselves.

But libraries need to help people by providing access to the documentary records of communities they serve, and by providing structure in the search environment to help people find pictures of ancestors, and by linking to and blending in content owned and generated by people in their communities with library-curated material.

I'll quote Michael again: "Technology and libraries in the 21st century are wedded, and this marriage is a long-lasting one. A library that recognizes how technology can improve services for its community is destined for success." And I'd add, not just improve services for the community but also enrich their lives.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Quote of the Day: Steal This One!

Yesterday I gave my first talk that focused heavily on the new Perceptions report. The format was a familiar one for library meetings: I spoke for about 40 minutes, then three panelists responded, and finally, we had questions and answers.

The report was well-received by the audience, the Southwestern Ohio Council for Higher Education's Library Council (SOCHE). The discussion was lively, but Kathleen Webb, the Interim Dean of University Libraries at the University of Dayton, had the quote of the day. As one of the panelists, she discussed the question we all seem to hear so often: "If all of this information is available on the web, why do we still need libraries?" She responded, "I haven't heard anyone talk about outsourcing career counseling on campus to monster.com!"

This puts the question in the right context: what value do we (or, for that matter, campus career counselors) add to the infosphere? When we can answer that question in a compelling way, we go a long way to ensuring the future viability of libraries.

Incidentally, SOCHE is planning a conference called "Academic Libraries in a Googlized World" at the Nutter Center at Wright State University in Dayton on May 3. If you're in the neighborhood, this looks like it could be an excellent learning opportunity.

Extravagant Exuberance

You might not have known it, IAGers--I guess we did mention it in our Blogging 101 presentation post, back in August 2005--but my knee injury from soccer this summer was finally declared FULLY HEALED yesterday, by the orthopaedic surgeon.

How does this relate to libaries?

I guess to say that healing is not an overnight quick fix. And injuries can happen when you least expect (or want) them. When injuries do invariably happen--injuries like staff turnover, budget cuts, board member disagreements, technical snafus--give yourself and your staff time and space to acknowledge there was in fact an injury and plan a course of action to heal.

I know this all sounds new-agey, but when I look back at 5 months ago, I had no idea the amount of energy it would take to get from
>"I can't walk," to
>"I can run, jump and frolic normally."

The same amount of energy it took to rehabilitate my knee--2 expert consultants (a physical therapist and an orthopaedic surgeon), a technical, tactical plan (PT workouts) and a constant eye on the goal (getting back to the soccer field, safely)--goes into every project at your library, I would wager. The process is as transformative and important as the end result, and there are no shortcuts!

The title is a nod to Mr. Greenspan, who could be considered one of the great economic rehabilitators of our time...

*enough of this sermon: go forth and be healers*

I'm headed back to Connecticut tomorrow, to talk with a few ARL directors about branding and libraries. Eager to learn what is going on in their world.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Free, Short Marketing Book

Seth Godin has released a brief, free ebook (actually 3 versions, one for non-profits) called Flipping the Funnel: Give Your Fans the Power to Speak Up. Seth is well known to the marketing world, is a contributing editor at FastCompany and author of several books, including Purple Cow.

In this 18 page booklet, Seth looks at Del.icio.us, blogging, Flickr and his own venture Squidoo (a platform for user-generated content) as easy, inexpensive ways to "give your fans the power to speak up." He says "What if you could figure out how to use the Internet to empower the people who like you, who respect you, who have a vested interest in your success? I call this group of people--your friends and prospects and customers who are willing to do this--your fan club. A new set of online tools makes this approach not just a possibility, but also an imperative for any organization hoping to grow. Give your fan club a megaphone and get out of the way."

I think this short work can be one of the primers of Library 2.0. It's got practical suggestions and addresses one of the criticisms I've read about the whole "L2" discussion--that it's so far much talk and little action.

At the very end, Godin asks an important question:

"Can you buy into the fact that you can empower your fans to speak up?

Once you are willing to make that commitment, the tactics are simple and straightforward. You can publicize the tools, build the affiliate links, create the RSS feeds, and start down the road to embracing your biggest supporters.

Of course, after you do that, you'll need to deliver ever-more-remarkable products and services--so your fans have something to talk about."

And what's good for the goose is good for the gander...I'll pass Godin's book around here at the "Big O" to make sure we think about eating our own cooking. Which one of my colleagues thinks would be a very fine name for a blog related to getting more OCLC stuff outside the walls.