Libraries and Obsolescence

bq.Libraries are obsolete. Modern information technology involves two-way communication between providers and users of information technology. With instant messaging, blogs, message boards, and email, the Internet fosters information sharing among virtually unlimited numbers of information providers. Computers are communication devices that bring communities together. – “Mark Hirschey(Libraries are limited, obsolete)”:http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2006/oct/02/libraries_are_limited_obsolete/
bq.They are not obsolete. They are not passe. There are many libraries here in the US and in the world that are at the top of their game: offering fast access to online resources, the Web and more as well as building physical collections and inviting spaces for their users. The best libraries are also recognizing that, yes, people do want access to computers and want to do things there. Creating content, sharing a picture, checking out the hottest viral video on YouTube — are all in the realm of savvy, 21st century libraries. It’s still about access to the sites folks are interested in, and talking about! The best libraries are not running from social sites like MySpace or Flickr, instead, classes are offered to educate young people and parents. – “Michael Stephens”:http://tametheweb.com/2006/10/ten_things_i_know_about_librar_1.html
bq.The Internet is actually quite limited. Only a small percentage of the world’s data and knowledge is in digital format at all, much less available to the public at all, much less available on the open web to find through search engines. That said, the Internet is a valuable tool that librarians use for research assistance every day…but it’s just that: one tool in a toolkit of many other tools that your local librarians know about and want to share with you. – “Sarah Houghton(Libraries are limited, obselete — No sir, I beg to differ)”:http://librarianinblack.typepad.com/librarianinblack/2006/10/libraries_are_l.html
bq.More specifically, the tolerance of radical change. I think as we push further into the 21st Century, a lot of librarians are going to have to reconcile their expectations of what they think a library should be with what a library needs to be. This is hard, because in order to effect the changes needed to do business in this new, emerging market (yes, we’re part of a market), and find a place among the commercial giants we need to be much more nimble than we are now. – “John Blyberg(Going to the Boneyard?)”:http://www.blyberg.net/2006/10/06/going-to-the-boneyard/ The library where I work everyday was built around 1968. It was expanded in 1988 and again in 1999. At the time, we left room where we could for expansion. Both the collection and demand has grown. We even hosted the local Genealogy collection for several years because the branch where it was located needed the space. We ended up sending that collection to third branch when they expanded. We have added shelving units, replaced specialty units with taller ones, reworked the floor plan where we can, and we are still running out of room. We are looking at the options of either moving to a new location or keeping this building and adding another branch. Either one is at least half a decade away. We continue to innovate where we can. Our website offers more online resources than ever before and site visits continue to increase on a monthly basis. We continue to offer formal computer classes as we have done since before I arrived and they continue to stretch the limit of our instructors. (I spent a few minutes this afternoon showing someone how to use iTunes to sync with his iPod while he connected to our free wireless network via his laptop). Our children’s librarian is busier than ever in serving the children in our community. Every morning when we open, there are people anxiously awaiting entrace inside so they can immediately hop on the Internet. If we are limited and obsolete, it means the people we serve in our community are limited and obsolete as well. And that is something I just do not accept.

Patrons, Users and Customers

Last week I attended a workshop where the speaker made some remark about how some libraries still call those who frequent them “patrons.” She thought they were being stuffy and old-fashioned. She preferred users or customers.
bq.First, calling people “users” is pernicious. It distances and dehumanizes, and should be stricken from the IT vocabulary (see Those clueless users) as well as from the publishing vocabulary. IT has customers and clients, not users. IT-oriented publishers have readers, not users. – “Jon Udell(User-generated content vs. reader-created context)”:http://weblog.infoworld.com/udell/2006/06/19.html#a1471 Personally, every time I hear a library call the people who come in “customers” I cringe inside. It just seems to impersonal to me. At my library, we call them “patrons” and I think we will continue to do so.

Info Island

A lot of things have been happening at the Second Life Library of late. First off, the group now has an island. Info Island will be home to the library and various related projects. Corporate sponsorship has been secured for at least the next year and if the project continues to be as successful as I think it will be, many more years to come. You can see something of what it looks like through viewing these “Tour Pictures(Info Island)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelkpate/sets/72057594141600049/ I look. But for the full effect, you really need to run the software yourself. There has also been a negative reaction. Prokofy Neva, an SL resident with a long and sordid history of being a “self-appointed gadfly(Editorial: Sympathy for Prokofy Neva)”:http://www.dragonscoveherald.com/blog/index.php?p=846, attended a business group meeting. Rather than allow anyone to discuss what they came for, he attempted to use it to further his own agenda.
bq.OK, well then it’s up to me to understand whether I need a library, or whether I need a political lobby to wrest power from Lidnens privileging some groups over others, that sort of thing – “Prokofy Neva(Librarians)”:http://secondthoughts.typepad.com/second_thoughts/2006/05/librarians.html To clarify one point: Neva makes the charge that because most of us are new to Second Life and have little business experience, we are somehow not qualified to host a meeting. And that by hosting the meeting, something libraries do on a regular basis, we are somehow depriving landowners of the opportunity to host that same meeting on their land. Frankly, that argument makes about as much sense in Second Life as it would in the real world. Libraries host meetings everyday that other facilities like hotels would be happy to host for a fee. It may not have always been part of our mission to do so, but it is something that library users have come to expect and we are happy to provide. If we only have one naysayer as we move into the future, I am confident that this will turn out to be quite a success.

Information Science and Librarians

Has it been over a year already since Michael Gorman launched an “attack on Blogging(Michael Gorman)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2005/02/25/gorman?
bq.If you believe, as I do, that there is a crisis in library education that threatens the very existence of libraries and librarianship, you are likely to draw a negative reaction from a variety of people. First, there are the millenniarist librarians and pseudo-librarians who, intoxicated with selfindulgence and technology, will dismiss you as a “Luddite” or worse. They and their yips and yawps can safely be left to their acronymic backwaters and the dubious delights of clicking and surfi ng. Then there are the increasing numbers of faculty in LIS schools who are, at best, indifferent to libraries and, at worst, hostile to libraries and their continuing mission. Their concerns are with “information science” and other topics that are marginal or irrelevant to the work of libraries. I emphasize that this categorization does not include the many library-oriented faculty who strive, against the odds and the winds of fashion, to teach the next generation of librarians and to pass on the core subjects, ethics, and values of our profession. Their valiant efforts are often stymied by the arrogant and dismissive “I” battalions. – “Michael Gorman(More on Library Education)”:http://mg.csufresno.edu/columns/AL0506p003.pdf Back in 1995, one of my first classes in Library School was listed as Foundations of Librarianship. It was actually listed incorrectly. The professor who was teaching the class, Dr. El-Hadidi, who was a member of the “American Society for Information Science(American Society for Information Science)”:http://www.asis.org/, felt so strongly about the issue that he had successfully had the name changed to Foundations of Library and Information Science. oh, and my degree is not an MLS but a Master of Arts of Library and Information Science. It seems to me that Gorman is trying to refight a battle that his side (assuming there is anyone out there who agrees with him) lost 30 or 40 years ago, and is trying to pick a fight with Librarians who weren’t even born at the time in order to do so. Michael Stephens has “many more links(Dear Leslie…)”:http://tametheweb.com/2006/05/dear_leslie.html.

Finding on the Shelf

bq.Are we really keeping our “collections organized so that [our] users can easily locate the resources they need”? Perhaps very large facilities can justify Dewey. But does Dewey classification best serve buildings under thirty or forty-thousand square feet? – “Michael Casey(Spine Labels and De-Dewefication)”:http://www.librarycrunch.com/2006/05/spine_labels_and_dedeweficatio.html At FLA, one of the library consultants was showing off photographs of a library that had really nice bookstore display units which are optimized for browsers. When someone asked how someone could actually locate a particular book, she didn’t really have an answer. Ultimately, it isn’t about browsing “the shelves(Non-Fiction)”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/michaelkpate/5355614/in/set-134991/, it is about locating the books. Right now, those who come in my library who understand Dewey and how our call numbers work can find stuff. Those who can’t can ask for help from the staff. Making it harder for everyone to find a specific book is not something I am interested in. Perhaps, someday when we have everything locatable with an RFID-powered divining rod, it will be time to revisit the issue. But I don’t think we are there just yet.

Let me entertain you!

I didn’t get a chance to write the post about what bothered me about the “Library 2.0 Gang(The Library 2.0 Gang)”:http://www.libraryplanet.com/2006/02/21/gang yesterday because I spent the entire day at a MARC21 workshop. But since the handout has a quote that fits my points perfectly, I am going to borrow it.
bq.People have needs. We are going to concentrate on their education, informational and recreational needs. Libraries collect materials. These materials can satisfy the educational, informational and recreational needs of some people. People and library materials need to get together – “Deborah Fritz(The MARC of Quality)”:http://www.marcofquality.com/ What I heard during the discussion is what I so often hear at so many of these things: so much emphasis placed on the first two needs that everyone seems to forget the third.
bq.I’m all for our libraries being fun, and having fun with our users. Am I wrong in thinking that “fun” falls within the scope of meeting the entertainment needs of our users? – “Aaron Schmidt(how about some fun?)”:http://walkingpaper.org/289 I hope that in devoting so much focus on taking ourselves outside of the library setting, that we don’t harm the experience of those who actually do want to come visit.

The Library 2.0 Gang

Forget the “Capital Gang(CNN breaks up Capital Gang)”:http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr/television/brief_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000967495! The “Gillmor Gang(Gillmor Gang)”:http://gillmorgang.podshow.com/ is so 2005! The discussion roundtable you need to be listening to is the “Library 2.0 Gang(Introducing the Library 2.0 Gang)”:http://talk.talis.com/archives/2006/02/introducing_the.html. Their first conversation was a highly charged conversation about what Library 2.0 means. Do they reach a consensus? You will have to listen and find out. Do they agree on everything? Not even close. Am I looking forward to the next installment? You bet. I do have some other thoughts but I am saving those for an upcoming entry because I don’t want them to get lost in the announcement.

Knowing When to Hold Them

The following is an exchange that took place on the Polaris mailing list. The names have been withheld to protect the innocent.
bq.[Withheld] is preparing to allow our patrons to access their accounts, place holds, etc., remotely. We were under the impression that, if set up correctly in sysadmin, it would be impossible to place a hold on an item with a status of ‘in’. We have since found out that this is true only if all copies are in. Have you found this to be a problem? (and, if a problem, how big?) We have developed a SQL report which can be run every morning, but we’d like to know how other libraries handle this situation. It received this reply.
bq.We have 34 circulating libraries and the only way to allow holds on items that are in other branches was to allow holds on statuses of IN. The problem is that it then allows patrons to place holds on items that are IN in their branch. Only one library in our consortium has ever allowed that scenario to take place. Our members (branches) never wanted to be in the position of pulling holds for their patrons when the item was checked in. There needs to be a two level approach to holds so you can set up the rules for the local branch and the rules for intra-library loan within the branches of the System which has been submitted to Polaris as an enhancement request. Essentially, the two libraries are arguing that their goal is to offer less service to their own patrons than to patrons from other libraries. They are upset that their patrons are taking advantage of the ability to have their items waiting for them when they arrive. And they blame their software vendor for creating this functionality. I can remember one of our front desk members being upset about just this sort of thing. When he retired years ago, I thought we had seen the last of that sort of attitude. Apparently, I was wrong. I am glad that I am never going to be in the position of defending that sort of philosophy to one of our patrons.

Preparing for the Future

What we have done right:
bq.Public libraries feel their mission has in many ways been transformed by new technologies, particularly Internet access, and that the key to winning greater support for public libraries is educating the public in the use of these technologies. Virtually all of the librarians in this report offer advice and insights for their peers, but all seem to agree on one thing: the public’s appetite for Internet and database access is growing and virtually insatiable. – “Government Technology(Libraries Introducing Public to New Technology, Says Report)”:http://www.govtech.net/news/news.php?id=97018 Where we still have lots of room to improve:
bq.In response to the Web, many libraries, individually and/or collectively, have started to create their own information hubs – digital repositories – using the intellectual content of their institutions. Unfortunately, many of these repositories are built on traditional methods of information organization rather than on the new information-dissemination models evolving on the Web. Potential contributors to and users of these repositories are finding the organization and metadata tag systems imposed by libraries far too cumbersome. Moreover, in designing many of these new digital repositories, libraries have largely ignored the important role that people play. Most library digital repository initiatives are designed to serve only as gateways to documents and artifacts. Few are designed to serve as true information hubs, providing users access to both relevant information and experts. – “Paul Gandel(Libraries: Standing at the Wrong Platform, Waiting for the Wrong Train?)”:http://www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm05610.pdf We, at least, seem to be headed in the right direction.

T-Shirt for Non-Librarians

Because I can’t imagine anyone in our profession who would wear something like “this(I’m Not Your Damn Search Engine)”:http://www.nonzerochance.com/index.php?p=buypage&design=damnsearchengine&ref=ratings&style=tshirt.