NEKLS Tech Day reflections

If a small business owner comes in the door needing resources, web 2.0 tools may very well be the information that makes the difference for them.
(attribution needed; comment if you can remember who said it!)

This was one of the great revelations of NEKLS Tech Day! I feel as though we are all talking about instinctively knowing that these wonderful webby tools and new technological abilities can help our patrons, but in many ways we have to be prepared to draw lines and make connections for them. We need a broad knowledge of different topics, but also of the tools that harness and enhance knowledge for users. Y’know, power to the patron and all 🙂

I don’t believe that we so-called “techie” librarians are really techie in the sense that we have some supernatural knowledge or abilities. I think you can consider yourself techie if you try to keep up with the flow of information evolution, if you try to tread water in this rapidly unfolding world of data storage, retrieval, and creation.

And that was the best part of tech day – getting to commune with other librarians who are trying to do this same thing. Sharon Moreland did a great job making the day possible, as did all the presenters 🙂 Oh, and if you happened to be in my presentation and still want to hear the audio from the videos I’ve linked to them here.

Happy tech, y’all. I hope we can keep up the good work treading water together 🙂

P.S. I nearly forgot! The other awesome topic we covered was cloud computing… it nearly needs a post of its own so I will save that for later this month.

Public Library Association conference 2008

I am in the process of transferring all my notes from Word to the blog (adding links, etc.). Some of my favorites:

Programs I spoke at/organized were:

Another TED talk and thoughts on cross-pollination for results

Besides education, one of my other favorite subjects is urban design. Strange, I know, for someone who has never lived in a major urban area until now. But in 1997, our university invited Howard Kunstler to talk about new urbanism and I began to recognize and put a name to the malaise that we suffered in our town… the issues that we faced living so far from work and school, the blandness of our neighborhoods, our lack of sidewalks. He got booed, I’m sorry to say, but this member of the audience was riveted.

So why am I talking about urban design on this blog, which mostly focuses on my professional thoughts about education? Well, I think they are all completely interrelated. Let’s cross-pollinate: urban/suburban design, education, and transportation… stay with me, and I’ll take you there.

Our public library is a medium-sized system with 13 (soon to be 14 branches) in far-flung suburbs all over a county that is a member of the metropolitan Kansas City area. We’re talking about our future in a new strategic plan, and the same old same old is coming up: how to market ourselves, how to position our branches for maximum impact, how to drive traffic, and most importantly how to help our patrons get the information they need to improve their quality of life. But we are a non-profit focused on life-long learning, affiliated with county government, and all these things seem to be insurmountable challenges… for example, where do we get the money for well-situated buildings and advertising when we can barely fund the materials collection?

One thing is for certain – we may not choose to (or be able to) support our current way of life for much longer. We see the craving for urban amenities in our suburban area and can’t make them happen because of zoning, a lack of funds, and a fractured ecosystem of separate cities and townships all determined to hold on to what makes them unique (which is not necessarily bad, but presents serious obstacles to cooperative work).

In order to really innovate in ways that make us sustainable in the long term, I envision working outside our boundaries and partnering with a different agency: the county bus system. Our buses have limited routes and almost no bus shelters along routes (riders are instructed to just wait anywhere along the route to be picked up, which is inefficient, dangerous, and causes unnecessary exposure to the elements). People are often very far from these routes, causing bus riders to face potential walks up to a mile or more at both or either end of the ride. It’s just not a really great system as it currently stands. For example, I don’t ride the bus because I would have to walk nearly a mile to my workplace from the point where I would disembark. Showing up to work sweaty in the summer and totally frozen in the winter is highly unappealing.

We should partner with our bus system to accomplish several of these tasks. FIRST: buses should stop at every library in the county – period. We should be bus stops to encourage people to use our resources, visit us regularly, and we can provide an appropriate place for riders to wait in out of the elements.

SECOND: the buses could assist in carrying our courier loads. If we were part of the bus system, we wouldn’t need separate courier vans taking trips only to deliver books… we’d be delivering patrons too! We might also be able to provide materials faster with several courier trips a day instead of only once or twice around the circuit.

THIRD: The best part of the deal might include co-branding of the buses so that the library name and message is tooling all around the county and being seen everywhere.

FOURTH: Our involvement with transportation would provide an important bargaining chip when obtaining land for new and expanded buildings – bus stops need to be front and center on major roads, so we could use that leverage in maintaining our physical presence in the community.

FIFTH: Eventually, we should merge with existing school bus companies to provide expanded routes and additional stops so that a single system could serve multiple groups of people in a more efficient way. It would provide additional flexibility for teachers to take students to use the public library during the school day for more differentiated instruction – we have resources and programs that complement both remedial and advanced learning plans, and could develop more in concert with one another with improved physical access.

We have the opportunity to take concrete steps towards a more cohesive (sub)urban design, and as a library we could help knit things together in a logical way by combining existing systems. This idea still needs refinement, but it’s what came to mind as I was thinking about our library as part of the bigger picture. It’s so easy just to think about what we need and want, but if we can combine our mission with that of other agencies we might be able to create something bigger than ourselves: the first steps towards more unity in our larger community. Maybe these sorts of connections create community 2.0 🙂 Our “systems,” as Jaime Lerner says, should not compete with one another. They should make sense on a human scale to improve our lives, with thoughtful design and an eye on the future.

This time, it’s academic

Wright State University is now providing students with sound-proof spaces for podcasting. This is clearly a trend to watch!

Gathering awesome info

One of the most frustrating things about finishing an article is looking around the world of information and seeing all the awesome things you could add. I have been collecting examples, anecdotes, and tools from the web for ages and every day there are still more. Fortunately, this latest article (on how we adapted a patron class to the education environment) is due soon, and I can dive further in to advertising said class to more patrons. I’d much rather conduct a few experimental versions of a new class and then perfect it afterwards, but I totally understand that from the patron side that nobody likes being a guinea pig 😉 I hope that after learning 6 new 2.0 tools in an hour or so, participants will want to go on and create localized cohorts that will experiment together in a more in-depth process like 23 Things or 5 Weeks to a Social Library.

I hope to make some super short Adobe Breeze-style presentations using Camtasia to advertise two of our services to start with: homework help and the Cyber 6 Pack 4 Educators workshop. From there, I want to try and forward these to key people in school districts that can show the presentations in front of large audiences… like department meetings, PTA meetings, and maybe even post them on web pages. I want to create a compact, powerful message that can travel widely and be seen in less than 2 minutes (considering this an asynchronous version of my various “elevator” speeches). More to the point, I want to spend less time personally talking up these sorts of services and spend more time actually delivering said service to patrons. I will be sure and post a follow-up on this topic letting you know how it works.

Trends in Mobile Tools & Applications for Libraries

Megan Fox, Simmons College presenting.
web.simmons.edu/~fox/mobile

Mobile tools are part of daily life for our patrons – how can we be part of our patrons’ info-seeking lives? It’s not a “librarian” v. “handheld” dichotomy… it’s how to be part of that handheld life.

Ubiquity of mobile devices: 3 billion mobile phones v. 1 billion PCs. 80% of teens use text messing regularly. They say that email is only for “business.” More users are being equipped to do more and more with their mobile devices! She shows us a lot of nice phones with qwerty keyboards, new interfaces for input, like thumbpads and sliders. Points out the larger screens to better use multimedia content and video/pic capabilities. Oooh, iPhone: the holy grail of mobile messaging. Of course, I noted earlier in the conference that attendees with iPhones were ultra-mobile and constantly connected… totally unlike those of us struggling for a wifi connection. She’s pointing out the multi-touch interface and orientation both horiz and vert. She calls them “gesture devices?” Nokia’s 810 is similar but also have a slide-out keyboard. Verizon Voyager has that same look but has a clamshell full qwerty keyboard. Centro by Nokia is a mass-market version of the same for only $100.

Handheld computers – UMPC Ultra Mobile Personal Computers. 7″ or smaller display… Samsung Q1 ultra has keyboards on both sides of the screen so you don’t take up that real estate with a screen-based keyboard input device.

Mobile web demands a different sort of information coming their way… shorter text, simplified pages, etc. All quite logical.

Strategies for facilitating our info stream to mobile users:
.mobi domains and Zinadoo
Search engine: Find.mobi

ILS vendors offering mobile optimized catalogs… all the major players getting into this. Making library staff LIS modules with barcode reader attachments like the ones we’re testing now. Pocket circ mentioned. Wireless workstation = Innovative.

Answers.com has released a mobile interface. Mobifusion has partnered with traditional pubs like Worldbook and etc. to provide content. This is of high interest to schools, I should think. Why purchase sets of encyclopedias when kids can get stuff on mobile devices in the classroom?

Transcoding: Squeezer.net the big player. Services are seen by originators as bastarding their content?!? They strip out stuff like javascript and things that might slow down the data transfer. (i can’t find a good link; I may be misspelling this)

Databases are addressing mobile interfaces – and talking about doing it out-of-house by licensing someone like Squeezer. Other content is being mobilized through iPods, SparkNotes, and etc. Test prep also popular. Britannica is available for iPod!!! I can see us having to help patrons convert content for vacations, etc. if they want some of our info to be mobile. We will need to look at how we offer different versions of our info – 5 years from now we will def. need to offer “standard” and “mobile” versions of database logins, etc.

90% of all music downloads in Japan are to mobile phones.

Wifi is increasingly popular for downloading content. Spoken word study materials are gaining popularity. iTunesU is big in universities. Shows us the iPod Touch – basically a non-phone iPhone. I can see that lending devices or having a “Device lab” for patrons may become an important thing for those wanting to see what our content will be like on different platforms.

Museum411, OnCellsystems, etc. are using your own device to give you a tour of a facility. Great for libraries! She mentions Google SMS use. HarperCollins Australia are sending book extracts to phones for promotions this way.

Simmons can now send citations to students’ phones via text! This would make the catalog very handy for us… mentions Teleflip and GizmoSMS. I know we’re heading in the right direction this way. Wake Forest is integrating a whole host of campus services via cell and text. Clicker systems offer a great way for a classroom to quickly assess students’ “temp” in class.

(Note: this is an excellent .edu presentation. It should have been adapted for the Internet@Schools track.)

So what’s next? Companies are working to “push” ads to your mobile device. They’re offering small discounts in exchange for watching or listening to ads. As in Asia, they’re moving towards only carrying the cell to pay for purchases, etc… libraries will have to find a way to roll our cards into these devices too. Google Checkout now has a mobile version! Gpay is a new service, coming up. Projectors are being built into cell phones for sharing – SUPER HOT. Glasses that project from a mobile device are also being developed. Gyroscopic interfaces being developed as well for mobile devices so that you can tilt and flick to quickly read things without lots of buttons, etc.

Killing Creativity?

(link courtesy of Albert Ip from Random Walk in Learning)
(want more inspiration? Try the TED website.)

Pay particular attention to the spot about 3/4 of the way through where Sir Ken starts talking about epiphany. This is what I obsess about every day at work (and in the shower, on my drive in, etc). I want our library to be a powerful and invisible conduit for young people so they can reach their epiphany. Every time we extend our services to a different demographic, simplify a process, or try to identify easier ways to connect PATRONS with IDEAS, we are speeding their interaction with their true and ultimate destiny. We’re all here to find what it is we are MEANT to do, meant to share with others. The library is either going to be a part of that process in the 21st century or it will very well go extinct.

In the 19th century, we were a civilizing force. A method of sharing the proscribed, acceptable, and palatable mores of society (as it were). But libraries gradually changed over time from the exclusive club for scholars and those striving to attain middle class “values” into something radically different. The moment we unlocked the books and let patrons have open stacks, we were admitting something: you know what you want and need better than we do. And instead of gatekeepers we became lamplighters; fellow travelers who’d been down the road once or twice with friends and who would gladly walk along with you as well.

And in the self-service life of the 21st century, we’re the ones handing you maps to adjacent lands and interesting detours… librarians are the people who want you to consume with abandon– glut yourself in our stacks!– and then we’ll be there when you’re ready to make sense of everything you’ve found. If you need us, we’ll be your Motel 6 and leave a virtual light on for you.

Nowhere is this concept more important than in education. We must prepare for an imminent seismic shift in our educational system that empowers the individual learner to pursue passions and to take intellectual side-trips wherever they may lead… and an entire community must be ready for that. We’ll need both for and non-profit businesses, we’ll need mentors both artisanal and scientific, and most of all we’ll need libraries. We will need massive collections of ideas that people can spark against one another like stone and flint. Libraries will serve as the agora for citizen-learners, throwing off isolation and embracing community in ways that haven’t even yet been invented.

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