Recent Events

Recreating the Information World: Dead and Innovative Technologies

This year’s famous and popular Tuesday evening session on dead and innovative technologies focused on re-creating the information world.  A panel of leading experts gave their ideas in rapid-fire.

The Dead & Innovative Technologies Panel: (L-R) Bill Spence, Aaron Schmidt, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Marshall Breeding, Sarah Houghton-Jan, Stephen Abram. (In front) D. Scott Brandt, Moderator (Photo by Kathy Dempsey)

Aaron Schmidt said that even if the information world were recreated, some people would still want to be gatekeepers, which is a myth because gatekeepers have disappeared.  He suggested that a recreated library’s website might look like this:

A Recreated Library's Home Page?

He noted that our downloadable materials are not easy to administer, and we have not been able to rely on content for a long time.  We need to concentrate on what we’re excellent at and look at our users.  Some libraries are even opening without books!

We do many things well, like storage or video games.  Libraries can be important in a community as a place for people to create and meet.  We have good content that users can remix.  We are community publishers–we have expertise and should have tools to make our users’ material better.  Libraries can solve problems.  We should be the  community experts who can help.

Amanda Etches-Johnson wondered if libraries didn’t exist today, would we invent them?  What do we really know about the digital scholar?  They may be perennially connected, but they really do not read the web; they scan it.

Here is a danger sign for libraries.

We are inventing academic libraries every day, but are we inventing the right libraries with the right characteristics:  a good user experience, beautiful data and personalization, APIs, and platforms. The right library is built on the principles of universal design.  It must have an open access mandate.  How do we get information to users, not users to information?

Bill Spence noted that many good ideas of the past failed, but they are returning: the idea that everybody should have a website, and every user in a social network.

Marshall breeding said that we must get to something more better than library OPACs–a comprehensive library destination.  Federated search and integrated library systems must die; there are systems available that can manage both print and electronic resources.  Here is Marshall’s suggested library management model:

New Library Management Model

We must think about the web in more sophisticated ways.  It was meant to be social and collaborative all along, not just since the inauguration of Web 2.0.

Sarah Houghton-Jan focused on one technology that must die:  Digital Rights Management (DRM).  She said that copyright and bad licensing agreements have fueled its spread.  Some people think that DRM is the result of copyright law changes, but this is not true.  The law did not change; the publishers did.  DRM is anti-consumer and anti-library, discriminatory.  It doesn’t prevent piracy, increases costs, and endangers preservation.  It acts like a tariff on the free exchange of information.

So what do we do?  According to Sarah, we don’t own any of the DRM content, so we can just say no to publishers.  We can vote with our money,  say no to content with DRM and yes to DRM-free content, and catalog Creative Commons-licensed content.  We can say yes to community-created content.  Why aren’t we publishing the what our local communities are building?  Why is all the digital content in our libraries only available to a small segment of our users?

Steve Abram wrapped up the session with a look at technologies that help us create and recreate things.  He noted that this afternoon, the court rejected Google’s Book Settlement with publishers.  But Google also got a patent for Google Doodles (changes made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays and other events) this afternoon.

Are we going to open our mouths this time or let them do it again?  What is coming at us in libraries?  Abram has an issue with somebody saying a device vendor allows it to control what a user does with it.  Can we find our voice again?  We are a multi-billion dollar market.  Do we collaborate?  Do we work together and get ahead?  This is a transformational time for libraries.  Start thinking more strategically.  Figure out what the big issues are.  We are little as individuals, but big as collaborators.  Why haven’t we collaborated?  Do we think putting a mouse on top of everything will fix our problems?  We have some flaws; how do we get over them?  Why are we referring people to Google when thousands of articles giving misleading information are added every day ?

It is too risky not to be different in this economy.  We must differentiate ourselves.

As usual, there were lots of laughs in the session, but there was lots of food for thought and good information as well.  (And the cookies offered as refreshments were delicious!)


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