Friday, May 19, 2006

Peering through the Telescope

I'm gonna leave it to stargazers,
Tell me what your telescope says.
(“Through the Dark” – K.T. Tunstall) [Web site 2 ; Wikipedia entry ; Myspace]

I discovered Scottish chanteuse K.T. (“Katie”) Tunstall while I was in Madrid last September. One morning I put on the German music video channel to serenade me as I penned a few postcards in my hotel room post-breakfast, and pre-museum-opening-hours. Amidst the annoying advertisements for ringtones – the channel’s sole advertising base apparently – and a mostly forgettable mix of U.K. and German pop songs, one artist caught my attention: K.T.’s expressive and engaging voice rendering her very listenable “Heal Over.” I looked for her album, Eye-to-the-Telescope, at the local FNAC (Wikipedia entry) and have been spinning K.T. ever since.

I mention this back story because I borrowed – OK, well in truth expropriated – K.T.’s excellent album title (for the story of the title, listen to her World Cafe interview) as title to my own presentation recently offered in two versions in two cities on two adjacent days. The presentations were by-request (most flattering to yours truly! ;-) reprises of a presentation I’d given to RONDAC (i.e. directors of OCLC’s regional networks and regional service centers) earlier this year (see earlier post) about key trends and library-land implications of same.  

Some tidbits from the presentation: the future is not evenly distributed (to paraphrase William Gibson), but where it appears, the future seems to include:
  • High volume - The "world churns out new digital information equivalent to the entire collection of the U.S. Library of Congress every 15 minutes. Such a proliferation of information in digital format, occurring almost 100 times a day, adds up to approximately five exabytes (five quintillion bytes or five billion gigabytes) a year.” (NIST)

  • Evidence of coopetition – Commercial consolidation, global brands, and digital channels are making competition and alliances complex and nuanced. For example, Wal-Mart alone can account for up to 20% of total sales of a popular book in the U.S. (USA Today) giving its choices about what to stock – or not to stock – significant influence over publishers’ title selection and development.

  • Micro content – Ringtone sales will rise from US$68M in 2003 to a projected $600M in 2006 in the U.S. market (BMI). Ringtones currently enjoy $3B revenue worldwide, and new sales modes (e.g., alert tones) are forthcoming. Note also that 9.8B text messages are sent each month. (Reuters)

  • Portability – Portable music players sales will grow from 140M units in 2005 to a projected 286M in 2010 (PC Pro)

  • Social dimensions MySpace has 70M registered users, had 47M transactions in Feb. 2006 & is the second most-visited destination on the Web after Yahoo (Arizona Star) [And, gentle readers, notice that I reference K.T. Tunstall’s MySpace page at the top of this posting – many a popular-media and other celebrity now maintain their own MySpace pages. As Alice notes (post), libraries are starting to emerge in MySpace as well.]

  • Not only text YouTube provides 30M video streams daily (endgadget) ; Apple boasts 2.5M iTune downloads weekly (CNet)

As to details about the events...

In Dallas I presented “Eye-to-the-Telescope” (ppt) as part of the 2006 Amigos Conference, a very early part – i.e. the sun was up, but it hadn’t been up long – and it was flattering to have a good-sized audience including several folks who had made special effort to attend such an early session. Andrew Pace, the keynote speaker for the day sat in and kindly referenced some of my presentation in his own, excellent keynote presentation. I also enjoyed Andrew’s other presentation, a first-rate talk about E-Matrix, the innovative electronic resource management system at NCSU. But Andrew’s were not the only techie sessions I attended – Louise Schaper, the Executive Director of the award-winning Fayetteville, AK public library, provided a remarkably thorough introduction to RFID technology (Wikipedia entry) and related the real world experiences of FPL in adopting RFID (tip from Louise – there may be plastic shelves in your future (RFID does not play well with metal furnishings)). I also enjoyed having the chance to chat with so many nice folks from Amigos-land including my former colleague, Marda Johnson, several Members Council delegates, and the remarkably calm and collected Amigos staff who seemed to execute everything with aplomb (including a Mardi Gras-themed reception/vendor fair, and providing yours truly a custom tour of Dallas after a delightful Mexican meal at Herreras). My sincere thanks to Bonnie Juergens and Laura Kimberly for arranging for me to be part of this wonderful Amigos event.

In Atlanta I presented “Eye-to-the-Telescope” in a streamlined version (ppt) at the SOLINET Annual Membership Meeting (SAMM) as a member of a panel that included David S. Ferriero (NYPL) who spoke about NYPL’s experiences as one of the “Google 5” libraries (with references to an article by OCLC Research staff,  “Anatomy of Aggregate Collections: The Example of Google Print for Libraries”) and Sarah Michalak (UNC Libraries) who spoke about UNC’s work on digitization and the Open Content Alliance. Their presentations were fascinating, and I hope my own proved as engaging. As I was only able to attend the final half-day of the conference I regrettably missed most (including George’s presentation – see his post) of what was, by all reports, a very fine conference. Luckily, I did have a little time to chat with a sampling of SOLINET members (including several Members Council delegates and a member of the OCLC Board of Trustees, Jerry Stephens, University of Alabama at Birmingham) and the ever amiable and talented SOLINET staff. My sincere thanks to Kate Nevins for the invitation to speak and her most amusing & flattering introduction, and to Laura Crook for cheerfully seeing to arrangements.

I should also note that I took advantage of the free afternoon in Atlanta to visit the Georgia Tech Libraries nearby – an unannounced and unscheduled visit (beware the unattended IAGer with free time!). The library staff very graciously received me, and provided an impromptu tour and interesting conversation about a wide range of topics. Georgia Tech is doing an amazing job of building out advanced, user-friendly computing/media production infrastructure front and center in the library with dedicated staffing and top-flight learn-on-your-own training materials. And the library is also working very successfully to bring not-administered-by-the-library writing/learning and related support services into the building to make the libary the go-to space for outside-the-classroom learning work. After leaving the library I stopped by the nearby Barnes & Noble @ Georgia Tech which is the largest, most impressive college bookstore I’ve ever visited – the usual coffee shop & bookstore (with stock skewed to college age interests) + textbooks + media/computing/audio shop + mini-grocery. And from there, it was a simple subway ride to the airport, but, sadly, a telescoping trip home (I missed my connection, the last of the day, in Chicago due to weather).

So, gentle readers, when you press your eye to the telescope, what do you see?


Anonymous said...

wow. KT played in Dallas on May 15th!

Eric said...

Good catch! I had spotted that and had I still been Dallas on the 15th, I would have *so* been at the show (to paraphrase Alice). Cosmic convergence or what! ? ;-)

Alice said...

I am so honored to be paraphrased! :) Perhaps we'll have to have an all-blogger rock-out at some mutually designated show.

Laura Crook said...

It was such a pleasure to finally meet you face to face. Rest assured I'll be calling on you in the future to come back to SAMM :)