Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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Computers in Libraries: Day 1, the morning

It’s funny how long ago last week feels today!

If you’re just looking for the overview, here it is: Computers in Libraries is an amazing and inspiring conference, with lots of folks talking about innovating, in reality. What they’re doing, and how they’re doing it, and more than the usual complement of why they’re doing it. The name is only sort of fitting, as the conference really only covered a narrow slice of the possibilities inherent in the title. But it’s a great slice!

Also, for now it is a nice smaller conference, about 2200 attendees, plus exhibitors and others. It’s growing rapidly, and with some few growing pains. I expect the flavor to change pretty soon.


Lee Rainie gave a keynote that many previous attendees of CiL passed on (and next year I will probably do the same). He was inspiring and all, but I felt like I was in an ad venue somehow — too slick and shiny, and I honestly expected more substance and depth from the folks at Pew.

Interesting tidbits? (my comments are in green)

In the Information Age, Information is: abundant, cheap, and personally oriented.

If you include uploading pics to Facebook, 39% of online teens share creative content online. Personally, I think a distinction needs to be made between sharing content and creating content, but I get a little lost in the semantics. Basically, if my users just want to upload from the camera or their word processor, I can help them in certain ways. However, if they want to create online content (and I know I’m not pulling the right words here) then I the librarian need to have other abilities ad tools at hand: video editing software, graphic design tools, HTML editors, I don’t even know what else. Not making that distinction is unhelpful for telling me about the skill and engagement level of content creation behavior of teenagers.

Thirty-three percent of college students keep blogs and regularly read posts, although the distinction between blogs and the Web for students is growing increasingly fuzzy. This has important ramifications for instruction librarians. I ask students all the time if they read blogs, and most have never heard of them. It’s one thing to not know you’re reading a blog in Facebook or MySpace, but it’s a more difficult distinction out on the free web. Does it matter (and if so, how?) if you are reading a New York Times reporter’s work in the newspaper, the newspaper’s blog, or on Huffington Post? How about a professor, say an anthropology prof keeping in touch with her friends from far away places? how should we be talking about the distinctions?

Another nice tidbit, 19% of online young adults have created an avatar that interacts with others. That’s a very specifically worded stat, and the number is so much higher than I would have guessed! I’m curious if MORPG characters are considered avatars? If they are not avatars, then this marks a large gap in my knowledge of my users!

The other primary bit from the keynote was Rainie’s discussion of the latest report, of how users want to access government informaiton. This was very specifically chartered research, the government was trying to determine the best way to provide information to users of the information. My largest frustration is the distinction in categories: users had several choices, among which were “internet” and “library”. When you put those in a list of other choices, what do they mean? What if you used the internet at the library? Do you only track Library when user speaks to a librarian? uses print source from gov docs collection? It feels frustratingly useless without that granularity, and the Library Research Center ought to know better (and I can say that, because I worked there for a semester!)

Web 2.0 Services for Smaller and Underfunded Libraries

Library Web Presence: Engaging the Audience

These were both very engaging sessions, with lots of information about cool new (and not so new) tools to try out. The one thing they all lacked, however, was any engagement or understanding of how the free tools managed users information, and this has become a real point of concern for me. LibGuides appears to keep no information, but the various widgets being created at Penn State and other places using WidgetBox? No one had really looked into that. Which is unfortunate, because WidgetBox seems to be wicked cool,and i would love to talk about it with my colleagues. And the clean usability of the Penn State research quick links page? fantastic! But I feel too strongly that anything I put on my campus’ Library website carries the Librarian Stamp of Approval, and that we are responsible for teaching our students about their digital footprint, and how to protect their digital privacy. So, le sigh, it was wonderful, but I’ll have to do a lot of that legwork myself before passing the excitement along to my colleagues and our users.

I do want us to start looking at LibGuides, though!

tomorrow I’ll post more responses to the conference. I will, I promise!


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Day one and thriving

I am so pleased that the Collection Development discussion group has taken off! In just one day the group is up to 88 members and there are a handful of active discussion threads going on, mostly about weeding/deselecting and collection analysis.

I have so many things I want to talk about there, but I’m holding back. Maybe I’ll use my GCal to space out topics I want to talk about. Maybe set discussion topics up as specific reminders every Monday morning?

More than anything, though, I am pleased that i stopped wishing this forum existed, and created it. It took very little time (mostly in describing and advertising) and I am getting the impression it will be well-used!

I also think it’s interesting how I defined my community of users. The first place I announced the group was on LIBREF-L, the source of the conversation that was the immediate inspiration to just do it. But I immediately then announced over twitter, my consortial discussion list, and my library school cohort discussion list. Only later did I take it to the traditional discussion lists. I’m still getting a-ha moments reminding me of X listserv and Y discussion group where I should announce.

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