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Author Archive | Marydee Ojala

Right Place; Right Time at #cildc

In her keynote talk opening the second day of the Computers in Libraries conference, author and cultural analyst Patricia Martin had the audience on their feet chanting “Right place; Right time.” It’s the perfect time to be a librarian, she assured us. Digital is changing who we are as librarians and is affecting the role of libraries in the community.

Her research into identity and ambition stemmed from a NASA request for help in determining how to reposition NASA to reach out to younger people and get them interested in space exploration. After algorithmically mining several Big Data sources and following 90 young people for 5 years, Martin concluded that our institutions are losing their impact. Job status, family, location, and organized religion are losing relevance, which puts us into situation of role ambiguity. People are feeling stressed about their identity.

This led Martin to postulate that a new relationship between ambitions and identity had 3 parts: Rope, Edgepart, and Muster. Our identity today is more like a rope of many strands than a linear yardstick. As we change jobs, move around, and try out different personas, we’re adding strands to our ropes. Edgepart makes us good at change so we can survive. Muster encourages us to start small to achieve big goals. Start with small teams, not advisory committees of 50 people.

Librarians should concentrate on “who.” Who do we want our patrons to be? She thinks we should see the user experience as a path to discovery and that the library should be seen as a community. Identity rituals, such as getting a library card, can solidify the community ideal. Who do we want as colleagues for our small teams, big goals? Who do we want to be as librarians? It’s not about providing information anymore since nobody needs more information.

The job of the librarian is much broader than in the past. It’s about growing and building community. Librarians don’t have a job, they have a platform for change. People need to be inspired and, through libraries, imaginations that are raised and expanded.

Right place; Right time.

 

 

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Super Searcher Strategies at #CILDC

Speaking to a packed room at Computers in Libraries, Mary Ellen Bates advised conference attendees to create dissatisfaction with search. If people are unsatisfied with their search results, it makes the work of trained information professionals more valuable. Google learns from user search behavior but the behavior of info pros is not akin to the bulk of Google searchers. Google is not calibrated for us. Bates noted that more terms in a search query leads to lower results and reminded us that the asterisk (*) is not used as a truncation symbol in Google, it’s for replacement. Google doesn’t recognize nested search strategies, so lose the parentheses. Change word order for different results. Use Bing to find out what sites a webpage links to since Google no longer has this capability. Mary Ellen’s other favorite search engines are Peekier.com for private searching and an interesting results display, MillionShort.com for long-tail searches, and Ecosia.org to contribute to tree planting in Africa. Librarians, in Bates’ view, are fantastic curators and filterers of information.

Mary Ellen Bates gives her search tips.

Technology & Libraries: Now & Into the Future

ThomasMary Augusta Thomas, Deputy Director of the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (there are 20 of them), presented her views on technology and libraries in her keynote talk on the third (and final) day of Computers in Libraries. Given the Smithsonian’s preservation mandate, it was unsurprising for Thomas to say that knowing our history is important. Managing the past helps us plan strategically for the future. At the Smithsonian, new research methods, new discoveries (even new species), and new technologies change how people work. However, they still rely on the library for information. The library has moved into data curation and open access, for example, and will be creating profiles for Smithsonian researchers.

Thomas thinks that the mission of libraries will not change, but the mission statement and the way librarians accomplish their mission will change. Smithsonian libraries were embedded before the term embedded became popular. Their new mission statement is:

“The Smithsonian Libraries promotes new ideas through knowledge sharing. We play a dynamic role in advancing scientific and cultural understanding and in preserving America’s heritage. Our expert staff and extensive collections are a crucial resource for research and education communities at the Smithsonian, within the United States, and around the world.”

The Smithsonian continues its international exchange programs, although most is now done digitally. Future librarians, according to Thomas, will have highly developed skills to collaborate and cooperate. In the future, you may not know your users. Librarians need to learn how to tap into their community. Collaboration is crucial to this, as is knowledge management.

As library print collections move from books on shelves to special collections, library strategies much evolve. The act of discovery will not be dependent upon printed books. Technology will be important as libraries move into the future, as it has always been. Library as place will change as librarians give up ownership in favor of access. What happens to library? A quiet place to do research? An information commons? A person going around with a backpack? Community space? Whatever future libraries look like, what remains constant is the desire of librarians to want to be better than we are now. We want to be engaged with users and have our collections to relevant to their needs.

Practice Tactical Urbanism

Urban planner Mike Lydon, principal of Street Plans Collaborative, explained the origins of tactical urbanism in this morning’s keynote talk. As an advocate for making more livable places and better cities, he told stories about projects designed to give space back to people. Most of these projects started from unsanctioned, grassroots activities, some of which were actually illegal at inception. One person, for example, painted a crosswalk on a street. He was rewarded by being arrested.

Mike Lydon

Temporary projects, such as temporarily closing streets to create bike paths or pubic parks, often are sanctioned by governments, probably because they’re not permanent installations. However, it’s not unusual for temporary projects to become permanent, as governments discover that people like them. In Brooklyn, outside Lydon’s office, his firm worked with a group of partners to turn parking lot into a plaza with places to sit, trees, and a mural on the ground. Retail sales in the neighborhood exploded. Transforming parking lots into parks and plazas, putting up wayfinding signs to encourage walking in neighborhoods, and slowing traffic by altering curbs with traffic cones, according to Lydon, started as guerrilla projects.

TacticalUrbanism

His methodology is simple: Build. Measure. Learn. Start small and get your prototype in the ground as soon as possible.

What does this have to do with libraries? Lydon is a big fan of little free libraries, which fit well with his philosophy of making citizen-centered spaces. He would like to see libraries no longer regarded as closed spaces defined by book collections. He ended by suggesting that cities are the original internet, filled with random connections, and libraries are the servers.