Internet Librarians have been at the focal point of their communities for many years whether on an academic campus, in a city or county, part of a non-profit or corporate organization, in a school, museum or government department.
IL 2016 has wrapped up. It was an excellent conference and followed in the traditions established over the last 20 years. (How time flies!) Presentations from many of the speakers are available here on the conference website.
We hope you will be able to join us again next for IL 2017, hopefully in the new Monterey Conference Center. The dates will be announced soon.
In his closing keynote address, Daniel Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst, Serious Insights and Chief Knowledge Officer, Virtual World Society, reviewed some of the many impacts that data has on our lives. He started by noting that our brains have the capability of holding information, and everything that is information only exists as such for a small period of time–when the universe is acting upon it. If it is not being acted upon, then it is data.
How we think about the future is dangerous. Most of the time, we are wrong because the future is highly variable; real-time data is at least milliseconds old. We are looking at the current world with all our biases in place, and often the future does not unfold like we think it will. From the time you are born, data is being collected about you.
Much of the information that we are publishing now is on the internet, and the flow is not stopping. Scenario planning forces us to look at the factors in the world outside of us. There future is what is possible; we must be open to all the possibilities. Uncertainties include the place of innovation, global workforce and economics, nature of learning, and our relationship with data. Technology has changed the way we think about the world. For example, we can now look at actual molecules and find out that they do indeed look like our models of them. Here are some information biases and perceptions of reality that occurred in the past.
Just seeing is not knowing; The Book of All Knowledge, published in 1850, is mostly all wrong now. As soon as a new element is discovered, all chemistry books in classrooms are immediately wrong.
Everything we look at is represented as data, and we must store it somewhere. Storage capacities have increased over the years, as shown here.
Memory continues to evolve, and there is a massive amount of new technology that is communicating with itself: AI, Big Data, the Internet of Things, etc. To access all this data, we need speed: to download a whole DVD used to take over 8 days; now with a fast Ethernet connection, it takes 7 minutes, which has made downloading more widespread; for example, The Pirate Bay is a place to download movies that is completely illegal.
Data is literally in everything–watches, phones, houses, Bluetooth lights, etc. Everything is generating data through sensors, and we must make sense of all this data. Pervasive computing is setting expectations. We are in the process of becoming the center of our data universe. Eventually, everything will get self-organized.
Augmented reality and virtual reality are connected by data.
We are creating maps of everything, and everything is data. People are worrying about privacy and how ads are pushed to them. In the ecosystem of measurement, we will no longer have to think about data in silos because all information is available to be correlated.
Jennifer Koerber, formerly at the Boston Public Library and now a technology trainer and consultant, said that people have an idea where to find information, but many of them are overwhelmed by it. So she developed a model for evaluating emerging technologies.
Here are the steps in the typical research process.
Technologies are often emerging which means that those are on the leading edge, and you have no idea of how they will apply to your spaces. You must “keep a light pulse” in your research. That iterative process makes this model different. If something is on the “bleeding edge”, you will keep rediscovering it. When it reemerges, things will become more complex.
Modes of application of the model:
- Sometimes there is a need for access, such as after Superstorm Sandy in Queens (see Kelvin Wilson’s presentation).
- If you are doing future planning, you will keep a light pulse on the technology early in the process.
- At the consumer level, the process is established, so you might never get past the “more questions” phase and will need to maintain a public impression and push the public’s idea of libraries into the 21st century. By keeping library staff aware, they can make suggestions to users and promote the library’s facilities. This is why you pay attention to emerging technology even if you will never use it yourself.
In the final portion of Jennifer’s presentation, she listed some resources and some questions that should be asked.
- Libraries and nonprofits
- Mainstream (usually the technology section of a publication, but read the business section as well)
- Tech News (what the industry people read)
- Conferences (you do not to attend or even register for them; simply look at the panel and session titles, then search on your own to get additional information)
- Word of Mouth (find out who always knows about the new toys, go window shopping and play)
- Show that professional development and staff technology proficiency are management priorities; do your research on library time.
Questions to Ask:
- About Sources
- Basics about the technology
- Implementation — Frontline
- Implementation– Financial
- Uses and Users
- 30,000 Foot Views
- Long View — The Tech
- Long View — Your Library
This session was an appropriate followup to the one by Susan Considine on Innovation and Transformation. Chad Marin, Library/Innovation Lab Manager, St. Petersburg College, led off by noting how he wrote a paper in graduate school comparing librarians to Prometheus. (Prometheus was a Greek god who stole fire from Mount Olympus and gave it to humanity.) The analogy is relevant because librarians offer people intellectual sparks to develop innovation. Marin said that a makerspace can easily support and enhance a library’s mission for lifelong learning; so libraries become knowledge performance spaces. If you have space, share it and do meaningful things with it!
Every age has thought it was the modern age, but this one really is. Technology is interwoven into everything, and makerspaces help people to see this. Many librarians want to know how to create a makerspace, or they need funding. Money is available; there are grants everywhere! Narin recommended reading Grants & Funding to learn about resources.
Makerspaces are all about fostering collaboration. They cultivate imagination and stimulate creativity to enable people to explore their potential. Share experiences and facilitate discovery. Support inventors who want to test their ideas and prototypes for patents. The maker lab is a technology playground, and watching kids play with the technology is exciting.
Narin’s library developed a Maker Boot Camp geared to 10-14 year olds. It was funded by a $7,500 grant to create the camp.
Here is a list of the workshops that were held at the camp.
After the video gaming lecture, the kids built a video game. They also love SnapCircuits and used them to build an MP3 speaker.
To be successful with your makerspaces, create partnerships, be integral to your community, and share with what you do. You will be amazed at how many people want to participate. Big things can happen with small spaces and small budgets.
Other projects are underway in the maker lab, including tactile 3D graphs for blind math students, building tech labs for young students via eSmart recycling, and use of the Farmbot platform to help feed people in need. You can connect with the lab and get more information through its Facebook page.
Kelvin Watson, Chief Operating Officer, Queens, NY Library, described how the Queens Library was brought out of its four walls. Shortly after joining Queens Library, Watson downloaded an eBook using the Library’s Overdrive program. It was a painful 19-step process, and he immediately decided something had to change. So a Virtual Library was built. It eliminates obstacles and silos and brings the library to users on demand. It is an integrated system created to improve access to eBooks and all services for public library users in either physical or digital spaces, and it answers today’s challenges by clearing the clutter that plagues legacy library tools. Library systems are no longer chained to seldom-used tools. Users have flexible options to consume information and media on their own terms through a superior customer experience.
Three simple goals changed how they thought about technology were developed.
Watson has over 60 people in his IT department. The entire library is using agile thinking now, and things are built very quickly.
Development of the Virtual Library proceeded in 3 stages:
- They got a donation of 5,000 Google Tablets, invested in a custom interface, and created a mobile solution as a response to a tragedy (Superstorm Sandy). They also obtained 2,250 mobile hotspots which are loaned to users.
- Built a mobile phone app. Began working with the New York Public Library’s simplyE eBook reading platform and cut the 19 steps for downloading a book to 4 or 5. Everything is done in the app and launches directly into the material.
- An additional 2,500 tablets and 1,100 mobile hotspots were added to continue to bridge the digital divide. Tablets are loaned for 4 months. Children can borrow them with parental permission. The only app users see is the Queens Library app. The content is available at any time; tablets are updated when they are connected to Wi-Fi. The tablet is the “mobile discovery and delivery” tool. It is a new experience for people when they get the app. They can access Facebook and the internet. Most people like the experience.
The library works with a number of vandors, and when bugs are found, they are immediately reported and fixed. Axis360 from Baker & Taylor is their primary eBook vendor; Overdrive is used only for foreign language material. The phone app only displays material that is available for checkout.
The Virtual Library is everywhere so it should focus on how the customer wants to interact with it. They are working with magazines and the local hospital and built a new product called Digital Q so that library users can browse magazines at the hospital. If you don’t have a card, you can be given an e-card, which can be traded for a physical card if you want to borrow physical materials from the library.
The library has begun a partnership with LinkNYC, a program to replace pay phones with tablets in kiosks in the 5 boroughs. The Queens Library will work with them to filter and put Queens Library materials on the kiosks. It is another way to connect with people.
Susan Considine, Director of the Fayetteville Free Public Library (FFPL) in Fayetteville, NY (near Syracuse) and a pioneer in makerspaces in libraries, described how her efforts have affected the community. She noted that no matter what type of environment we are in, we work with people. We often hear about transformation in our industry, and we are involved in transforming people, lives, and communities. We must understand our roles; true meaningful engagement with people in our communities informs us. What do we know? What are our talents? What is challenging in the life of our community today? We need to create access to support transformation at the individual and community level, and librarians can facilitate this transformation.
The FFPL has a history of innovation leading to transformation. In 2010, they noticed people were becoming curious about technology, but they had nowhere to go locally to access disruptive technologies. A student intern developed a proposal to make 3D printing available in the library. Making was a natural fit for FFPL’s existing mission in the community: “to provide free and open access to ideas and information”. The key ingredient was the people, and making could provide a new hands-on end to fulfilling their needs. Traditionally, literacy has been defined as the use of printed materials to achieve one’s goals. In the 21st century, it encompasses many other skills, including making. We focus on transformative technologies.
Supporting STEAM supports the local economy. Some knowledge of it is vital to informed decision making. It is up to libraries to create fun and interesting STEAM learning opportunities, especially for kids. The best way to do this is not to ask them what they want to be when they grow up; instead, ask them what problems they want to solve. Get them thinking they can make a job, not take a job.
The Innovation Challenge: Taking the First Steps
Don’t wait to start on developing innovation until you get everything you think you need. Build on small successes incrementally and grow from there. Involving staff early is important.
Identify needs and priorities. FFPL’s maker space (the Fab Lab) was created so that the library to fill needs in the community. Here are some photos from the Fab Lab.
The lab started with donations of 3D printers, and there was a huge community response. Community members began to contribute ideas, which formed the basis for adding other technologies to the Fab Lab.
The best way to develop your makerspace is to see where your successes are, then grow and adapt accordingly. Involve staff across all areas of responsibility early and often. All new innovations have implications in every area of library operations. No one should feel like innovation is happening in a vacuum and therefore has nothing to do with them. At FFPL, monthly meetings are held to discuss all areas of technology, including those in the Fab Lab. Making is not seen as just one member’s or one department’s responsibility; everyone has a share in the success.
Key funding strategies include partnering (both inside and outside of our industry), applying for grants (many are available), and asking what you can stop doing so you can reallocate your budget. Once a maker program is underway, there are opportunities to apply for grants. Every time a staff member writes an article or does something similar, you are increasing your library’s visibility and promoting it as a player in the do-it-yourself or maker areas. Resource reallocation is a critical strategy. Most items in the Fab Lab were purchased from funds that already existed in the library’s budget
Outcomes and impacts
The current data being used by many libraries is not doing them justice because it is outdated. Librarians need to convene the right discussions and implement change and innovation. Be relevant through action; spend time doing and promoting the true value in the community. For example, some local entrepreneurs got their start in the Fab Lab, and the Lab collaborates with many small businesses.
Libraries are not only resources for passive information but they can serve as a catalyst for real world problem solving. Here are some areas supported by STEAM learning.
The library hosts tours regularly for people who want to find out about new technologies and how they can be used. Local area high schools have toured the lab and then set up their own maker spaces.
Assessment tools and strategies
A variety of assessment forms, some of which are listed below, are used as tools to capture the impacts of its programs. Constant organization-wide assessment promotes growth and ensures that library staff that they are collecting the data that tells them what they need to know.
- A proposal template is used to ensure that programs are developed with a view toward the community.
- User surveys are used to collect feedback on whether the programs met their needs, hear users’ stories, and develop marketing opportunities.
- A story capturing form collects meaningful evidence behind the user stories. Over 4,000 people to date have been trained on Fab Lab equipment, and this tool lets us hear the impact of their use of the lab.
- A community participation form is used to identify expertise that exists in the community and whether people would be interested in sharing it with their neighbors.
There has been an amazing response to FFPL’s programs. Samples of the above assessment tools as well as others are available at on FFPL’s website.
A personal note: I visited FFPL and it was a fascinating experience. If the opportunity for a visit arises, I highly encourage it. You can also read my article entitled “Making and Community Engagement in the Library” in the October 2015 issue of Information Today about my visit. The article also includes several photos of the Fab Lab.