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Patron Interaction January 27, 2006

Posted by unamable in Beckettiana, Libraries, Library 2.0, Repatronising.
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Sidney Homan recounting his experiences of presenting Waiting for Godot for an audience of inmates at Florida State Prison:

“Knowing nothing of the stultifying theatre etiquette that often characterises Broadway, the inmates, on every other line it seemed, rose from their seats and shouted out comments or questions to the actors, who were desperately trying to stay in character: “why did you speak that way to him?” “Hey, what the hell do you mean by that remark?” “You two, come down here [downstage]—I’ve got a few things to say to you!”

At first, these interruptions were frustrating; while always aware of the audience on the periphery, the actors were now being asked—forced—to speak directly to them, during the performance! Soon, however, our frustration turned to exhilaration: here was an audience, these men waiting, who demanded to be part of the production, who took what we said so seriously that they could not remain silent. We were actually performing two plays, the one scripted by Beckett and a complementary one, this extension of the text fashioned by our unique audience.”

Courtesy – “Wham Bam Thank You Sam” A website by Penelope Merritt


People who need places January 27, 2006

Posted by unamable in Library 2.0, library thing, LibraryLand, Repatronising.
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Just to ride a little on the piece in dave’s blog about the Third Place – I will extract a bit , from The Great Good Place

“The character of a third place is determined most of all by its regular clientele and is marked by a playful mood, which contrasts with people’s more serious involvement in other spheres. Though a radically different kind of setting for a home, the third place is remarkably similar to a good home in the psychological comfort and support that it extends…They are the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy, ………”

Glossing over the fact that the Third Places which Oldenburg mentions does not include a library – too serious? too homely? too work-related? We can see in the paragraph mirror which he throws up what we aspire for in our libraries – can we not?
Dave’s (if I may be so familiar) suggested infiltration of the First and Second places. To be somewhat immodest I have been writing this into library plans for a variety of communities, educational and professional, for the last four to five years. In the last three years, the inclusion of wifi and broadband in every project I work through is a given – Singapore is very progressive in that way. In terms of our own library system, several examples come to mind – the access to our digital library from home and our increasing outreach to the work sectors with targeted content and the efforts we are making to reach out to adults, young people, children and senior citizens. The question however remains how do we move our patrons from the usual Googling for recipes at home and perhaps for benchmarking studies for work. (How often do I want a depth of response to my query at work – quite a lot. At home ..not very much unless I am bringing my work to my home)

It is this word “embedding” which keeps coming up for me – and its not just getting the implant artist to make me virtual and findable. It’s somehow getting “the library” to be the first thought after someone feels the lack of a bit of information, a lump of knowledge or a document about something they saw, heard, discussed or can’t quite remember. And then enabling them to immediately do something about it – like the way I flick between TV and my search engine when I feel the depth of my ignorance about an entertainment bubble I am watching. The search engines have got in there and done a wonderful job – especially if you are precise in your needs and only want that quick fill-in-the-blank feeling.

The embedded idea has been around in academic libraries for about a year (to my knowledge) arising out of the embedded journalists during the “assault phase” of the Iraq War. The nearest we in public libraries get to it at the moment is to embed links to the librarian in our webpages, such as RSS feeds, virtual reference or chat services. With the various widgets becoming available we would hope that, for those willingly to use them, they will provide a reminder of the library wherever they appear. Perhaps this is enough unless we really do want to get into a one-to-one relationship with our users cloning our services virtually in response to the continually updating “profiles” or “personas” of our patrons – or is there more?

That “You Know What” feeling January 27, 2006

Posted by unamable in Libraries, Library 2.0, library thing, LibraryLand, Repatronising.
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Very sobering to read Walt Crawford’s piece on the reviled and beloved “You Know What” and Steve Lawson’s followup. One, to me, was a great assessment of what has happened the other recontextualises the whole thing in terms of “let’s more forward”.

Coming from a library system which is relatively well off in terms of access to IT and quite forward-looking with regard to service delivery – we do see that we have the potential and inclination to move forward. But I am aware that there are other libraries in other systems where “You Know What” (o.k…o.k. Library 2.0 and all its appendages) doesn’t amount to very much. Given the other difficulties they face I suppose it must look very faddish and pampered. But even though I come out of system of haves I am still mindful of others who are more preoccupied by more immediate issues.

However, regardless of what Library 2.0 is and how it is defined, or is being redefined each day, it still remains to me an illumination of the possible future. Further, I would say that it actually stops us focusing on issues which concern our incremental irrelevance or impending doom (while of course providing good reasons for our continued relevance and bright prospects). All professions which are in the process of change, as we are need, some form of roadmap even if it seems one to a mythical kingdom. Libraries are connected to:(to borrow from my library system’s tagline)

Knowledge – which is not only what is in our libraries but what we do with what we have and what our patrons do with what they find useful (and how it can become part of what we have – and so the wheel goes round)

Imagination – which is something we deal in whether it is the way that we present our libraries to our public, what happens when people make use of our libraries and how we devise stimulating ways of interacting with our patrons ;

Possibility – realising what we can do with the knowledge we have access to, combining that with our imagination and creating or grasping possibilities for services, interaction and reinvention
So Library 2.0 is to me a range of possibilities that the information/knowledge/library should not be divided by – if the dialogue is allowed to develop there will be something for everyone. Let’s not get bogged down in either the what-it-is or what-it-is not hole or the fact that its all driven by whizzbang software which is here today gone tomorrow. I am a cynical as anyone when it comes to the “next big thing” but I also like my work and the way it keeps changing – it makes getting up each day pretty worthwhile ..and, at minimum, I like that feeling.

Job description for a Librarian 2.0 January 23, 2006

Posted by unamable in Libraries, Library 2.0, library thing, LibraryLand, profession.

Thanks to David King‘s sharp eyes we now have a fairly concise description of the duties for all us budding Librarian 2.0s in here and out there …

  • provide leadership and vision for “transformative technologies” in the provision of library resources and services
  • Creates communication venues and distributes content via digital tools such as blogs and wikis for the library system website
  • Develops and delivers library instruction through podcasts and multimedia webcasts
  • promotes community via new technologies within the library and virtually via IM and other emerging communication mechanisms
  • enhances the Library System web presence with current content and methods for distribution such as RSS
  • investigates and implements new technologies that may enhance the Library System’s web presence
  • provides training and support for other librarians on new technologies

“this is soo real” to misquote Jeff Buckley

Folksonomy Tales January 19, 2006

Posted by unamable in Folksonomies, Tagging.
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Just a footnote to the post below expi.ali.doc.ious – it occurred to me that just as it is now suggested that Margaret Mead “got it wrong” with her studies of Samoa – we are in an anomalous position with regard to folksonomies – except this time we know that what we are being told is liable to be biased, invented and fanciful – in the sense that it has no empirical (consensual base) but we still look for value and insight in what is happening and how it is happening.

VidLit-eracy January 19, 2006

Posted by unamable in Library 2.0, metagraphic, Repatronising, Tagging.
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Coming out of the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (BBC-TV version) style of presentation (although with an innovative twist) comes the most recent addition to the Library 2.0 menagerie – Vid Lit.

O.K. … now that those who I have lost have left …. let me continue. This is an idea from Liz Dubelman which results in short animated Flash films about books, sometimes read by the author, or is used to relay complete short stories (try Craziest).

Imagine, my nascent Librarian 2.0 voice said, if we could use this tool to enliven our libraries and to bring our patrons into the life of our libraries. W could start with new additions, recommended reads and librarians’ reading habits; then move on to OPACs jazzed up by vidlit (making for a diverting tagging experience); a little further and we could get our patrons to submit “vidcrits.” These could happen in-house but could also be done with VidLit if they are open to working with libraries. So there we have the patrons working for us/with us, the librarians working in a new dimension (perhaps in collaboration with local design/IT schools) and the tech* being used appropriately.

Software Macromedia Flash MX Macromedia Flash MX 2004 Professional Adobe Photoshop CS Apple Final Cut Pro Digidesign ProTools Steinberg Cubase SX Ableton Live Hardware Apple Computers, 17″ PowerBook, G4 and G5 Towers. PMC/Bryston Audio system Universal Audio UAD-1 Plug-ins Waves Plug-ins Virtual instruments from Arturia, G-Force, Korg, Native Instruments, Propellorhead, Spectrasonics, Steinberg


expi.ali.doc.ious January 18, 2006

Posted by unamable in Folksonomies, Tagging.
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The Marieke Guy and Emma Tonkin at UKOLN have been worrying away at those darned tags and coming up with some profitable thoughts. The whole issue of “sloppy tags” – (sloppy to some or all is often very precise to the tagger/author) begs the question whether consensus or convergence is really desirable – if we are looking at preserving the diversity of personal “worlds”.

The article also shows the strength of diversity and local usage by quoting form Thomas Hardy’s An August Midnight which benefits from his dialect:
On this scene enter – winged, horned, and spined –
A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore

….somehow saying cranefly, moth and bee doesn’t cut it in the same way as the words Hardy carefully chose. [Harry Potter fans will notice the name derivation of the Headmaster of Hogwarts].
But on the other hand they do quote Ali Mejias‘ suggestion that a number of tag selection “best practices” would not go far wrong

  • using plurals rather than singulars
  • using lower case,
  • grouping words using an underscore,
  • following tag conventions started by others and
  • adding synonyms.

and that personal tags could be mixed in with more generic tags. Compound tags such as “the _only_tag_like_this”or “is+this+a+tag+I+see+before+me”, or by separating words by means of CamelCase are also looked at. A folksonomy’s strength, they suggest is its openness, “the ability of any given user to describe the world as he or she sees it”

As far as I can get it, they seem to think that convergence and consensus will out. Divertingly they refer to Steven Pinker’s “Language Instinct” as a likely mode of evolution for the tagging species – where Pinker shows that initial pidgin morphs into more established creole before totally formalising. [thought that pidgin and creole came out of different language streams rather than being connected – but no matter].

Our library/knowledge world has been bounded by classification and authority-based headings up until now – which, let us not forget, are based on convention, habit and disposition, prior to being accepted and then made into standards. However, it cannot be said that these standards have served us well in the last 30 to 40 years – too many discrepancies with how language is used, coupled with the difficulties of keeping pace with the way language develops. This new coining of access points should be embraced, particularly since it comes with a selection of ready-made “indexing or ordering engines” such as del.icio.us, tag.alicio.us, extisp.icio.us and facetious. For once we are not telling others what’s best for them and somehow I feel that if things become too chaotic people will generally move toward order – although the order may appear to conflict with the previously established “natural order” The bonus will be that those who continue to find value in what we do (help people to find things?) will understand where we are coming from and maybe, just maybe,as the UKOLN article suggests, they’ll ask our advice – building a new bond between patrons and professionals.

Librarians 2.0 unite! … you have nothing to lose but your jobs January 18, 2006

Posted by unamable in Library 2.0.
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Thanks to BlogJunction for this in Yahoo News via U.S News and World report where it was recently allowed that librarian will be one of the 16 best jobs of 2006 thus:
Librarian. This is an underrated career. Most librarians enjoy helping patrons dig up information. They learn in the process and keep up to date on the latest books and online resources. The need for librarians, unfortunately, may decline because search engines make it easy for patrons to find information without a librarian’s help. The job growth for librarians will be in nontraditional settings: corporations, nonprofit organizations, and consulting firms.

Well mmm.. talk about a pat on the back swiftly followed by a slap across the face.
In contrast let me put up this recent post from Tame the Web quoting from Stephen Abram’s article “Web 2.0 – Huh?! Library 2.0, Librarian 2.0” [no link as yet]

“Librarian 2.0 is the guru of the information age. Librarian 2.0 strives to

Understand the power of the Web 2.0 opportunities

Learn the major tools of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0

Combine e-resources and print formats and is a container and format agnostic

To be device independent and using and delivering to everything from laptops to PDAs to iPods

Develop targeted federated search and adopt the OpenURL standard

Connect people and technology and information in context

Not to shy away from non-traditional cataloguing and classification and chooses tagging, folksonomies and user-driven content descriptions where appropriate

Embrace non-textual information and the power of pictures, moving images, sight and sound

Understand the ‘long tail’ and leverages the power of old and new content

See the potential in using content sources like the Open Content Alliance, Google Print and OpenWorldCat

Connect users up to expert discussions, conversations and communities of practice and participates there as well

Use and develop advanced social networks to enterprise advantage

Connect with everyone using their communication mode of choice –telephone, Skype, IM, SMS, e-mail, virtual reference, etc.

Encourage user-driven metadata and user-developed content and commentary

Understand the wisdom of crowds and the real roles and impacts of the blogosphere, web syndicasphere and wikisphere”

In hope of getting a bit of air for the nascent Librarian 2.0 and maybe more takers for the “new era dawning” – I have contacted U.S. News and World Report in hope that it might prove newsworthy.

Rooted … January 13, 2006

Posted by unamable in Blogosphere.
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Well, just to show that there is a humanoid inside me somewhere I thought this was an innovative (and very real) use of a blog.


Patrons r’ Us January 13, 2006

Posted by unamable in Library 2.0, Repatronising.
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Just caught up on the article in Library Journal by Beth Dempsey. One of her points refers to breaking up the library into easy-to-swallow pieces and how this can actually aid digestion and promote the health of the patron.

Coming from a library system which has a mixture of DDC and popular subject areas I can’t say that my experience bears out the suggestion that this method gets people to the materials quicker. What I have found is that often a sought after item slips down between the formal classified order and the popular groupings. For me this is in one sense o.k. – it, on the one hand, promotes serendipitous roaming but, on the other, things aren’t where the catalogues say they are! For instance, taking something like food – there is a potential separation between food as in cooking which is likely to end up in a popular subject area and food as a historical phenomenon which will most probably be placed in the DDC sequence. No matter how much help the catalogue gives, there is still the likelihood that talking colloquially through popular subjects will disperse related items – perhaps more so than DDC itself.  So neither system is helping me find what I want and meanwhile I am getting hungry!

On a related track, while I applaud the optimism inherent in the hope that when patrons get confident in one user-friendly area of the library they will move on to others – it seems another strain of the segmentation syndrome where users get what they said they wanted but not able to get to what they need when their wants change.

The article also highlighted “high interest” areas, as defined by community surveys, as an answer to the what-to-keep dilemma. How, as they say, “in this day and age”, can we be so confident that “high interest” areas remain “high interest” – and when they don’t are we prepared, at the very least for the logisitics of moving from the passe “high interest” to the hip new “high interest”? This is fine with funds and time, no matter how flexible the physical envelope, but somehow I don’t see a lot of either around for us as we pursue those escaping patrons.
Another question comes to mind whose groupings will we use? – ours of course! Is this viable in an age where particiaption by consumers/patrons is becoming the norm. This does open the extremely fanciful door that invites the patrons to rearrange the physical library periodically in a way that they would like to see it. But perhaps part of the answer perhaps does not relate to a moving of physical items into distinct places identified “conveniently” but from the naming end. By employing the “libertarian” appeal of folksonomies where users, (perhaps guided by librarians), provide their own entry/access points to the sought materials. Thus a mixture of formal subject headings and user-generated tags would give a sense of control and involvement to both the patron and the librarian.

When libraries start seeing their materials as content, rather than containers which have to be labelled, it will pose a real challenge for the existing labelling systems (given that LC and DDC, for example, will most probably be unable to keep up with the speed of generation terms/tags/subject topics). So it probably means that the tags will run ahead of the label unless someone comes up with a dynamic self-updating label based on RFID or such.
This is one aspect of the seeking and finding. The other, as Ms. Dempsey suggests, lies down the “information architecture” road where the usability and findability, those watchwords of the IA world, being used as gauges of the physical space and how it works for the user. Allied to this is the sense of a good, and even great, experience for the patron when they enter, seek, discover and move physically and intellectually through the space. It is interesting that, although there has been a rapid evolution of good website practice in library websites that this has not transferred to the physical space. Although the desirable “white space” of webpages may not be achievable in libraries in a physical sense due to our present need for collection space – it may be provided by thinking of reflection spaces/quiet zones as the “white space.”

To me another aspect of this is that it seems that libraries in the future will not on one level be defined by the information/knowedge they hold/generate, but in the apt and various metaphors they use to energise patrons while they are in the virtual/physical space. These metaphors may derive from peppering the physical/virtual space with personal viewpoints from historical or professional individuals (a steelworker’s view of a skyscraper; a stone mason’s view of 16th century society) or through chronological grouping of period items from many different disciplines and social perspectives; and so on, related to the imagination of the library and its interactions with users. This I suppose is merely merchandising on the physical level but can be very involving and stimulating on the digital plane.

So it looks like we have get down and dirty with a few new and some unusually transformed skills. The job justs keeps growing if we let it!