April 8, 2008
Day Two of the Computers in Libraries conference kicked off this morning with an enjoyable keynote speech* from three traveling Dutch librarians, Erik, Geert and Jaap. Well, keynote is a bit misleading. It was more like a improv talk show conducted in their living room.
I first learned about them and their project last year in the blogs and photostreams of my Flickr friends. I was very happy to see their show today and meet them later. The gist of their American story began last spring when they rented a motor home and traveled America making a very entertaining film about the future of libraries. From New York to North Carolina to Nebraska to California they interviewed people on the street and librarians in their workplaces about the profession, the challenges, and the future. Cleanly edited and mixed with music, the result is slick, insightful, and spiced with humor.
Moreover, it’s good storytelling. “If books go away, what will be left?” they asked at one point. Later, in what could have easily been an answer, they said a library’s “most important collection is the people.” It was fitting that people — not the books or the technology — made up the bulk of their film.
Another wonderful line from the film was uttered by Michael Stephens of Dominican University. Asked what libraries will do for people in the future, Michael said the library “will encourage my heart.” One of his students gave a description of library openness and access that is simply too long to transcribe here but (trust me) it was terrific.
Back on the stage between clips, Erik, Geert and Jaap hosted a few audience members on their couch, offered them cookies and water, and conducted live interviews to carry on the conversation from the film. Laptops; cameras; a fish bowl; assorted coffee table clutter. It was a very casual affair to say the least. Engaging. Fun. Participatory. In my mind, it was exactly what libraries of the future should be. I loved it.
BTW: There was plenty more to tell about the day, but that’s all the energy I’ve got tonight. More later…
January 27, 2008
Helene Blowers posted a excellent revival of the “patron vs. customer” discussion on her LibraryBytes blog this week. She argued that both terms relate to an outdated “us and them” model of library service and she asks for a new term to fit the “us and us” culture we all want. I’ve never heard the debate put quite that way. (Leave it to Helene to get to the heart of an issue!) Her brief analysis got many people thinking and her readers’ comments were wonderful. Here are my two cents worth:
Thank you for “thinking about things too much”, Helene!” I’ve never liked customer but agree with you about the baggage even patron carries.
Suppose we use the term participant. It expresses the “us and us” concept but lacks the subordination of one “us” compared to the other. Isn’t participation the goal of a modern library? We strive to enrich our communities and welcome all participants — us and us alike.
December 13, 2007
A month ago I watched most of the video debut of the Report of the Library of Congress Working Group on the Future of Bibliographic Control and was disappointed by the group’s approach to control what clearly needs to be opened up a bit. Last night I read several responses to the report and was impressed by most of them. I was floored by them, actually. (The library world has such good writers!) If you can’t read all the reviews, at least start with Roy Tennant. His “descriptive enrichment” concept is the way to go. I considered including his closing paragraph here, but using such a short excerpt would be cheating you out of his whole, well-reasoned commentary.
October 16, 2007
Libraries must become more participatory with their communities. Stored information is not enough. Interaction is crucial. That will be a recurring theme for me here, I’m sure. The societal trends are overwhelming.
In Chronicles of Bean today, Cindi referred to a short video by Michael Wesch* of Kansas State University that gives some interesting numbers from a college student’s world today. The data is radically different from what young people faced just 5 or 10 years ago.
The video segment that screamed loudest to me was the young woman who held a sign saying that she will read 8 books this year … but 2,300 web pages and 1,281 Facebook profiles.
My question: Do we want our library to provide her just the 8 books, or do we want to transform the meaning of a library into something she can interact with?
* Cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch, by the way, created another thought-provoking and visually interesting video last spring: Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us. His recent Information R/evolution is an excellent video, too.
October 10, 2007
Have you noticed how quickly “cutting edge” technology becomes “common place” these days? Will your library’s decision-making, training, and services be nimble enough to keep pace? Is that even a choice?