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Technology and Library Customers’ Needs: The Thursday Keynote

Jane Dysart and Lee Rainie

Jane Dysart and Lee Rainie

Lee Rainie, Director, Internet, Science, and Technology Research, Pew Research Center, and a frequent and popular speaker at CIL conferences, presented the final day’s keynote address: “Where technology fits with library patrons’ needs”.  The Onion regularly makes fun of Pew and puts up some parodies of its results. Click here to see Pew’s previous research on libraries.

There is a deep decline in trust in many organizations, but libraries have bucked that trend. People like and trust librarians and think that libraries are important, especially for communities. They think that libraries level the playing field for those without vast resources. Librares have re-branded themselves as technology hubs and are deeply appreciative of these changes. People still read books and like printed books more than e-books, by a 3 to 1 margin.

Here is some of Pew’s latest data on libraries from its 2016 study:

  • Over 40% of users used a library or bookmobile in the last 12 months. About 1/3 of them–more women than men and more younger people–used the library’s website.
  • Traditional activities like borrowing books or reading dominate library use, but people are also attending classes or other programs (class use was the activity that increased the most from 2015 to 2016).
  • Doing research or checking email are the most frequent uses of library technology resources, but more people are using them to take classes online than last year.

Here are some new research findings drawn from polls and focus groups.

New Research Results

Factors shaping people’s information interests include access to and use of libraries, personal tastes, trust in information sources, a personal growth mindset, life circumstances and time horizons, and access to information technology. People most engaged with information and bringing it into their lives are thinking more about the future. Thinking like a networker is an important thing for libraries to do.

Libraries are curators of the better quality of information, along with health care providers, family and friends. Social media is the least trustworthy.

Information users can be characterized in these five clusters:

  • The information wary (1/4 of the population): people with low levels of interest in info and low levels of trust in information sources. They don’t exhibit much interest in acquiring digital skills. This group is male-dominated, older, and not parents of minor children.
  • Information addled (1/4 of the population) have a fairly typical level of interest in information and visit the library on a par with others. But they have low levels of trust in information sources, especially news organizations. They are multitaskers, have trouble relaxing, and have little interest in improving their information literacy. They are male, suburban, and are better-off households.
  • Cautious and curious (1/8 of population) have an interest in information but not a lot of time or attention to pursue it. They have below average levels of trust in information but a high level of interest in acquiring digital skills. They could become more interested in pursuing information. Clearing trust hurdles is part of it; we need more time and attention to do this.
  • Eager and willing (1/5 of population) has the highest levels of interest in news and information, and a high degree of trust in information sources. They trust family and friends plus libraries and librarians as information sources but do not have an abundance of digital information access tools; over half of them report difficulty finding information online. They have a high degree of interest in training on digital skills and wish that a public library were closer to home and had expanded hours. They are mostly female; the majority of them are minorities, relatively young, and least well educated.
  • Information confident (1 in 6) have the highest levels of trust in information sources, above average interest in news with particular emphasis on government, politics, and foreign affairs. They have a lot of technology and don’t feel they need additional training in digital skills or how to determine the veracity of information for making decisions. This is a population that librarians should cherish. Many of them are mommy bloggers who write about school events, community zoning projects, etc. Many are equally male and female, white, young, and better educated.

Many people overwhelmingly say the library helps them.  Finding trustworthy information is highly important, followed by learning new things, personal growth, and getting information to help in making decisions. Help given by libraries in focusing on things mattering in their life, coping with a busy world or a world where it is hard to get ahead, or protecting personal data from online thieves is not as important. 77% say the local library provides them with the resources they need.

Providing a safe place for people to spend time is extremely important. They also value the creation of educational opportunities for people of all ages, sparking creativity in young people, and serving as a gathering place for addressing challenges in the local community. 56% say it would have a major impact on the community if the library closed.

85% of people say that libraries should coordinate more closely with local schools in providing resources to kids. 73% of people think of themselves as lifelong learners and want to learn something to make their lives more interesting or something that would allow them to help others. 33% want to learn something to help with their children’s school work. 34% say libraries serve the learning and educational needs of them and their family.

The Aspen Institute report on the future of libraries did a survey and found that libraries are pathfinders for trusted information, and curators and arbiters of it. Libraries are technology and data experts, master teachers in an age of lifelong learning, and visionaries for the knowledge economy and the jobs it produces.

Nobody has had to reinvent themselves more than libraries in the past few years. They have needed to reconfigure and re-purpose themselves and become community resources. In the future, they should embrace the Internet of Things, become the “first place” to meet, fill in “market holes” or niches in the information marketplace, and become innovation test beds. Become trusted, top of mind institutions for learning, advocates for free and open, and closing digital divides, and privacy and algorithms watchdogs.

Libraries touch every part of our culture. It is a lifelong mission. So it’s scary to be in this environment, but fear not and thank you for being there.

Here is a video of some of the highlights of Lee’s talk.


Reimagining Libraries: Open Ecosystems: The Wednesday Evening Session

Redesigning Libraries Panel

(L-R) Michael Winkler, Jane Burpee, Jack Ammerman, Marshall Breeding (Moderator)

Marshall Breeding, long-time attendee at CIL (he has been to all 32 of them!) moderated the Wednesday evening session on Redesigning Libraries: Open Ecosystems. The panelists were Michael Winkler, Open Library Environmennt; Jane Burpee, Coordinator, Data Curation and Scholarly Communications, McGill University; and Jack Ammerman, Boston University. A video of a presentation by Erik Boekesteijn, author of the blog This Week in Libraries, was shown.

Marshall opened the session by defining  open ecosystems as consisting of interconnected communities, peers and partners, and systems. They are essential for libraries to make the connections with people, organizations, and technical systems because their data must be sent somewhere and back. Closed systems and data hamper the vitality of libraries. None of us like closed black boxes!

Why be open?

  • To be creative: expand spaces, technical systems or information through the involvement of a broad community.
  • Extensibility: no system or product that is delivered will meet the needs of all, so we must enhance existing functionality to meet local needs and create new services.
  • Interoperability gives programmatic access to data and functionality; allows us to put data in and take it out, and exercise granular units of functionality.

There are many paths to openness:

  • Open source: full access to source code,
  • Open APIs: expose APIs, which are essential for both proprietary and open source apps,
  • As a primary vehicle for extensibility and interoperability,
  • Open data: ability to use data for other purposes, open access data sets, but safeguard sensitive data, and
  • Open flexible spaces.

Proprietary systems still dominate the ISS landscape, even though open systems (i.e. Koha, Evergreen,VuFind, Blacklight) have become part of the mainstream.

In his video presentation, Erik Boekesteijn said that technology is taking libraries to new heights. The library experience is now “I am your customer, I am unique, I want to be special, pay me real attention, excite me, open my eyes and make my time with you a fabulous experience.” Erik showed the Delft Public Library and its some of its features that embody this experience. He also mentioned the following innovative developments:

  • BorrowBox is a eAudiobook and eBook digital library solution app (available on the Google Play Store).
  • The Workary provides flexible and affordable desk rental space in public libraries for startups, coworkers, and technology. Initial installations are in some libraries in the UK.
  • Visit Aarhus, Denmark’s library to see an open ecosystem.
  • In Norway, there is a library for kids 10-15 only–no adults allowed!
  • In Siberia, an “ice library” has been constructed outside near Lake Baikal using blocks of ice. People’s wishes and dreams are inscribed on the ice. The library is expected to last until April when the ice begins to melt.

Smart libraries make smart citizens. Look outside the library walls to see what you can do.

Jane Burpee supports research data management at McGill University. She discussed how researchers can increase their openness and their impact. Many research communities are having a hard time with being open. We need to raise awareness of data sharing and research data management. See these two documents: Vienna Principles of Scholarly Communication, and Force 11. Data must be findable, accessible, interoperable, and re-usable (FAIR principles). The Canadian government has started a policy mandating researchers to publish their data in open systems and share stewardship of research data. Libraries must work together; we cannot do this alone.

McGill has announced it will be an open science institute and will share code, publications, data, and anything they develop. They will no longer patent anything, nor will there be an institutional data repository. Once money gets behind these things, it changes the conversation. Some students have started a Meetup group for open and reproducible science. It takes a lot of people involved: grants officers, deans, researchers, students, campus IT, … and librarians! In response to a question about the availability of grant money, Jane said that if researchers feel they will make a lot of money, they can pay for the patent themselves, which is expensive. But many of the researchers are already on board; for example, in the US, data from Joe Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” is completely open.

According to Jack Ammerman, Boston University has a mid-level ARL library with 12 branches that have 3+ million records and serve 17 schools and colleges. Systems used are ExLibris Alma/Primo, Dspace, SAP, and the Library.Link network. Making work open is just part of the standard faculty workflow.

Libraries have always developed systems to enable their users to discover and access materials in the collection; for example, in 1855, Lawrence University had a handwritten library catalog. Then card catalogs came along and were organized so that they were browsable. Then the internet brought about OPACs which are now being supplanted by discovery systems, and catalogs are mobile. This chart shows the progression of cataloging data models over the years.

Data Models

Each system implemented different rules, but they all originally described things in terms of their physical location on a shelf. We are still working on second-order ordering systems which will lead to discovery in a digital environment. Constraints on the current systems include questions that are difficult or impossible to answer, such as “Show me all the library’s holdings in Arabic”; the integration of data from separate systems or transferring records from one system to another when there is no record in the receiving system.There is also concern about questions that never come to the library, such as those relating to gaming, walking tours, or virtual reality.

Do cloud computing models have anything to offer? Could we make the library as a service or a platform with a service?  Such a system will need a lot of APIs.

Michael Winkler said that people still think of libraries as big buildings full of books. But that’s a downtrending part of our business. We are increasingly involved in helping researchers market their brand, building the spaces that reach out to the community, and redefining what the library is. A  community is a self-organized network of people with a common agenda, cause, and interest who collaborate and share information, ideas, and other resources.

So what  is the library community? It includes vendors, libraries and various types of both. There are difficulties in moving data around. It is difficult to map all the information that is available and make it so that users can query it. We need them that to happen without breaking the continuity of their work system. Interfaces to other systems are needed. Are the boundaries limiting the kind of innovation you can think of?

We must start with the proposition that libraries are part of a community and our systems should be designed around this idea. We need a place where people can come together and talk about serving the community. The library community needs to break down the the barriers currently in place, such as those between vendors and libraries. Progress is very slow. Every time we identify a new problem, nobody says “we should use … to solve that problem”; instead, we go out and get another system!

We need a way of moving data around and a way of representing it to let the developers focus on the business aspects. We need to lower the cost of development and develop models that are stable and well supported so that we can purchase them. Fit things together in new ways and look outward. Everything is still inward-focused; vendors don’t ask what you are trying to do with your community. How do we bring designers into the process and think about how users operate in their spaces?

This video shows some of the highlights of the session.

A Fascinating Exhibit

Kabis Book Scanner

When I was visiting the exhibit hall today, I saw a KABIS Production Book Scanner in operation being sold by Ristech Digitization Solutions.  I was impressed at how quickly the image appeared on the computer after the pages were scanned. It was fascinating–and mesmerizing! Here is a brief video.

Crowdfunding a Library Makerspace

Ralph Bingham and Jomathan Amey

Ralph Bingham (L) and Jomathan Amey

Ralph Bingham, Head, Reference and Digital Services, and Jonathan Amey, Youth Services Librarian, Gloucester County Library System (GCLS), presented an excellent description (including many practical tips) of how they conducted a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds for a makerspace.

Gloucester Library is part of a county library system in southern New Jersey which has 5 branches serving 14 communities and serves over 100,000 people. There were almost 400,000 visits to the library last year. Its strategic plan drove crowdfunding program. The plan states that the GCLS libraries are part of an informed, engaged, and connected community. Its mission is to provide community welcoming spaces where people can gather to learn, create, and have fun.

Here is the library’s technology goals and objective.

GCLS Technology Goals

The Glassboro branch of the library serves about 15,000 people. (Glassboro is located about 30 miles south of Philadelphia and is the home of Rowan University, which is famous as the site of a summit meeting between U.S. President Lyndon Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin in June 1967.) Its library serves as a meeting place and internet cafe. Glassboro was a center of glass making in the 1700s, and even today, its residents are extremely interested in “learning by doing” and improving themselves.

The Glassboro library was fortunate to have  the space for the makerspace. Network connections were in place; they applied for a grant but did not get it so they started a crowdfunding campaign. Here are some of the reasons for the makerspace.

Why a Makerspace?

They began by surveying the community.

Survey the Community

Be aware of possible legal barriers. Then pitch your idea to the decision makers and stakeholders.

Know exactly what you need and how much you want to spend. This kind of project takes a significant amount of time for the crowdfunding. When the project is finished, have a grand opening party which will provide PR for the future.

Choose a platform. Kickstarter is the most widely known, but it may not be the right choice for a library. They chose, an extension of IndieGogo that caters specifically to nonprofits. Prepare your proposal.

Prepare the proposal

Create a video that explains the mission of the campaign. Set your financial goal. (See latest issue of Make that has an article about crowdfunding.) Tell the public about your organization and what you will do with their money. Letters of support for the library from businesses are extremely helpful.

The Campaign (1)

The Campaign (2)

Have a party to celebrate when the project is completed. Here is the poster listing donors that was created for the party. Incentive gifts were also given to the donors.

Party poster

Use all available outlets to get the word out. Don’t underestimate the role of traditional media. (They got a $1000 donation as a result from a couple who weren’t even members of the library Friends but who saw an article in the newspaper!) Make the first donation yourself; money in the pot adds incentive to add to it. Be sure to open the space on time because donors want to see the results of the campaign. You may need to talk to your financial dept to find out how they want donations to be recorded, etc. The crowdsourcing campaign was successful; they raised about $5,000.

For details on the resulting makerspace, click here.

Here are a few highlights of the session.