Big Discussion

Big discussion about the future of libraries over on Make.  I find this somewhat unusual, because I haven’t often witnessed this debate happening outside the library professional community.  It’s actually the continuation of a discussion started on the site the week before, where the author suggested that libraries should be replaced by tech workshops.  You know, because libraries are obsolete in the digital age.  That first article was horrible.  The author stated openly that he never goes to the library, and asserted that most people don’t either.  And his ignorance showed.  Nearly every comment was opposed to his idea, but when presented with valid criticisms, the author’s only response was, “So what’s your idea?”

The more recent article is somewhat more balanced.  Yet, while stating that he’s just trying to stimulate dialog, the author seems completely unaware that this dialog has been going on amongst library professionals for a long, long, time.

The whole gist of the discussion is that, as a segment of the library using community, (potentially, I guess, since the author doesn’t use the library) the maker community (as represented by the author) thinks the library should do a better job of meeting its needs.  That’s all well and good, right?  That’s one of the things libraries do, meet the information needs of the community.  The question that isn’t addressed is why the needs of the maker community should take precedence over the needs of the segments of the community that currently ARE using the library.  It sounds to me as if the author thinks his community is THE community.  Once again, it shows his lack of understanding of what libraries are for and what they do.

Many of his commenters suggested that type of community space he’s seeking would fit better in a community center,or a separate add-on to a library building, mainly because of the logistics around band saws and study carrels sharing the same space.  Another suggestion was to re-introduce shop class to public schools.  I agree that both options, community centers and shop classes, are better spaces for the type of innovation the author hopes to foster in the community.

Because ultimately, it sounds like his argument is that libraries favor one type of innovation/information/learning style over the one that he prefers.  But there isn’t any reason why libraries shouldn’t favor one style over another. Libraries foster the exploration of language-based information.   As the exploration of information evolves beyond the written or even spoken word, it’s all that more important that libraries remain spaces that preserve language-based information, while other spaces evolve elsewhere.  Of course, these other spaces will also compete for funding.

Site Monitoring Project

Overall, I have to say I’m disappointed with the frequency (or lack thereof) of updating by the sources I chose to monitor.  Library Tech Talk hasn’t updated again since the Bibliobouts post.  Library Technology Guides updated once between Jan. 27th and March 17th.  The site did update twice on March 17th, however.

The quality of content on Library Tech Talk is excellent, which makes it all the more frustrating that updates are so infrequent.  A number of useful, interesting, innovative, and unknown (to me, anyway) applications are introduced which could be of great use in a library setting.  Unfortunately, all the posts for the last nine months fit on one page.

The content on Library Technology Guides hasn’t been as useful.  As I said in a previous post, content on this site consists mainly of press releases announcing business partnerships.  The last two posts on the 17th were somewhat higher quality.  Although the most recent of those could still fall into the press release category, the announcement of the site administrator’s speaking engagements at the Computers in Libraries Conference gave an eye-opening look into the conference’s scope.  Considering only the topics that Library Technology Guides “maintainer”  Marshall Breeding is speaking on, they seem (from my first year lib. tech student perspective) to cover a wide range, including: Seamless Websites and Expanded Presence; Learning from Inspirational Libraries; Current OPACs and Next-Gen Systems; Technology and Applications; and Dead & Innovative Tech.  Dude must know his stuff.  Imagine if he, you know, wrote a blog or something!

The post previous to that promoted his article in the Smart Libraries Newsletter.  The newsletter requires a subscription, but usually makes an article available for free.  You can read it here: “Building Comprehensive Resource Discovery Platforms.”  He talks about the need for content providers and publishers to include their content in “discovery system indexes”  (basically, research databases, as far as I can figure out).  Makes sense, right?  What struck me was his proposed solution to publishers’ reluctance to do so:

In the same way that libraries routinely require license terms for providers of content products support practices such as COUNTER statistics for measuring the use of materials, SUSHI for automatically delivering those statistics, or OpenURL for linking, it would likewise be reasonable for libraries to introduce requirements that vendors make content available to the discovery services provider of their choice for the sole purpose of indexing. Although there seems to be a broader acceptance of content providers to work with discovery systems, making it part of the license terms will help close the gap on the content not currently supported in this important genre of library software. (Emphasis mine.)

Hang on, what was that?  Libraries routinely require license terms from publishers they deal with?  Because with all the fracas over HarperCollins’ 26 loan cap on eBooks, and the debate that’s been going on in the blogosphere ad nauseam, I kind of got the impression that libraries’ hands are tied on the matter, without boycotts and protests to rival those ongoing in Wisconsin anyway.  I guess I need to go remove a few blogs from my RSS feed.

Some good stuff for me!

I start volunteering at the local public library next week.  Tues. and Thurs. from 9-11.  I think it will be fun.  I’m looking forward to it.

I also got all the paperwork submitted for a possible internship this summer at the Library of Congress.  I may not have enough education or experience yet.  But if that’s the case, I’ll just try again next year.  My fingers are crossed!

Search Competencies

Reading over that list of search competencies, I don’t feel very competent.  I’m a Google Ninja, and I’d rather skip the academic databases altogether, never mind all those specific competencies.  I realize these are skills I need to develop for professional use, but it seems like another one of those things that I need some real-world experience to develop.

Nothing new  on Library Technology Guides.  It looks like Library Tech Talk has updated the article on BiblioBouts, adding some information about students’ experiences using the game in class.

Using RSS feeds

I’ve been using Google Reader for a couple of years now.  I think I started using it to keep up with sites like The Consumerist that have a lot of useful information, but that I probably wouldn’t think to return to regularly on my own.   I use it to follow a lot of food blogs as well.  It makes categorizing and organizing recipes easy.  Instead of copying and pasting recipes to a Word doc and then saving them to my hard drive, I can just tag the blog post and my reader automatically files it.  This feature could be very useful in an academic setting when researching a specific topic.  It would be very easy to keep sources organized.

Self-Assessment and Goals

The area I seem to be lacking in is databases.  I’d really like to learn more about those, as it seems to be a back-door into programming.  The rest of those scores are pretty high.  I’ve been online since the mid-90s.  I’ve built websites using HTML and the site I administrate now runs PHP.  I can tweak the code enough to install new modules and keep them from conflicting with each other, but I don’t know enough to build modules of my own.

I transcribe audio from home for a living, so I’ve used all of those skills at some point, many of them every day, even Web development in that I FTP files back and forth.  I don’t use presentation skills though (I don’t know, maybe playing audio files counts) but I’ve taken two public speaking courses across 20 years, and one of my previous employers required all employees to lead group training meetings at some point.

Goals for the course.  Good question.  So far it seems like we’ve discussed the ways technology is used in the library.  We’ve started to learn how the technology is used by starting blogs and wikis, but I’m not convinced yet that these technologies have necessary or vital purposes in the library.  Maybe that’s something I’ll better be able to understand through working in a library, rather than taking a course.

So, I guess my goals for the course are to find out more about what forms of technology really are vital to its operation, the cataloging software, the ordering/purchasing software/process.  How are spreadsheets used in libraries, by the staff, not the patrons?  What is particular to building a website for a library that’s different from building a website for any other organization?  These are kinds of things I’d like to learn from this course.