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Closing Keynote: People Want Technical, Tangible, and Social

At 3:45 Wednesday afternoon, a big group of hard-core conference-goers settled into the comfortable Steinbeck Forum for Internet Librarian’s closing keynote. Once again, Liz Lawley, director of RIT’s Lab for Social Computing, delivered the show’s final thoughts. Her topic was Learning and Play in a Social and Mobile World, and she talked about lots of gadgets, crafts, and how they engage people both in person and electronically.

Lawley ran through a number of wild and crazy new gadgets, such as the Nabaztag rabbits and "Home Joule," which montiors home energy usage. There were too many to list here, but you can find them all on this site. The one that stood out most to me was Botanicalls, a small electronic device with attached probes that you stick into the soil of a household plant. The probes monitor soil moisture and the device will call or twitter you when the plant needs to be watered. Interesting? Sure. Necessary? To me, personally, this one was a bit much. I figure that if a person wasn’t so busy with electronic gadgets, he or she might be able to remember to water their plants all by themselves. But hey, that’s just me.

Then she talked more about crafts, and how people came together through creating things, both in person and online. Even online shoppers want tangible things, handmade items, and she cited sites such as Etsy, "your place to buy and sell all things handmade." These sorts of sites, she said, work "to bring people together in a physical, geo-local sort of way," and she wondered why libraries weren’t doing more of this. Why not open rooms to knitting clubs? Why not open rooms with wi-fi and lots of outlets for group activities? Why not offer more cafes where people can come together and eat or drink without leaving the library building?

She talked a lot about knitting and crocheting, too, asking the audience how many did such needlework. I was surprised by how many responded (myself included). In fact, I was sitting near one perfect example of what Lawley was discussing — one attendee who was very engaged in the presentation had a laptop in front of her and was knitting at the same time. wow!

People want to be involved in all three ways — technical, tangible, and social — and libraries can do more fun and interesting things to fulfill those desires.

~Kathy Dempsey

Editor, Marketing Library Services newsletter



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