Information and the Future

This is the blog of the Information and the Future task force of the Rolfing Library at Trinity International University. The IF task force exists to explore the role of libraries in the future of Christian higher education.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Carnival and other recent blog posts

One way of keeping up with what is happening on library blogs and learning about new blogs is the weekly Carnival of Information Science. The carnival is a weekly "best of" posting that summarizes blog highlights for the week. The catch is that it moves around to different blogs as a way to give them some PR and with each move the editor changes. The link I included above gives you the schedule of where the carnival will be.

If I were the editor here are some blog entries I may include:

Eric Snell posted another guilt inducing plea for more continuing education for librarians but he does include several links to resources he thinks are helpful, including a few podcasts. I've been meaning to investigate podcating and maybe this will get me started on that.

More guilt from Mr. Snell, this time about the need for librarians to use the tools that their patrons are using.

Finally the Library Thing put together a reading list on tagging. I confess that I haven't followed up on the links in the post (other than to skim a bit of the first) but if you are interested in tagging (aka folksonomies) these articles promise a meatier analysis than the easy praise or lament that one often finds on blogs.

Friday, July 21, 2006

API Mash

The ALA session on new technologies that Rebecca attended included a link to this Gaurdian Unlimited article on software mashups. As the article explains a mash involves combining data from different sources using applications programming interface (API).

What I don't know is how API is related to the phrase "Web Services." Both concepts involve combining data from two or more sources. It seems to me that API is perhaps one form of a web service. Anybody have any insight on this?

All of this is important in part because Endeavor has made web services an important part of its new vision of the "hybrid library." Endeavor suggested at ENDUser 2006 that they think in the future librarians will integrate services from a variety of vendors. Perhaps putting EBSCO serial information directly into our Catalog? And when EBSCO updates information in their database our is also updated.

Librarians are already using mashing skills to import cover art for example into their OPACs. Although New Jersey Institute of Technology which made such a splash at ENDUser with their Amazonized OPAC seems to have reverted back to a more generic catalog. Still I think that the ability to create software mashups may open up for us the possibility to enhance our catalog and perhaps come up with other creative new ways of delivering information to our patrons.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

ALA Sessions

At ALA I went to a couple of sessions that discussed new technology. One of the presentations was called “Research Instruction in a Web 2.0 World.” This webpage they put up discusses web 2.0 and information literacy. There are also links to other resources:
This page describes the new technologies:

They talked about having assignments to teach Wikipedia. For example, have the students add content to Wikipedia based on what they’re learning in class. It’ll show them how easy it is for anyone to add content, but it teaches them to add good content, not bad. (You shouldn’t have them deliberately put up false information.)
There was also discussion about teaching students about privacy, since many of them are putting up damaging information about themselves on Facebook, MySpace, etc., and job employers are often checking these things.

I also went to a program on blogging. Here is their website:

Both sessions mentioned some interesting technologies:
Delicious - It uses “tag clouds” where you tag websites with subject terms. The subject terms that have the most websites in them will appear largest in your tag cloud, so you can see their relative significance.
Library Web Chic (for blogging)
Library Thing (keeps track of books)
Tag Warrior (I couldn’t find the website for this)
Flickr (for posting pictures)

RSS Readers

If you are like me then you are never going to remember to go online and check blogs such as this one. An RSS Reader (aka RSS aggregator) is a tool that checks blogs, podcasts, and other websites with an RSS feed or its equivalent. Many websites that frequently update their content now include such a feed. Above is a screen shot of my RSS Reader.

On the left is a list of "channels" ie blogs that I want to track. Bold lines indicate blogs with new content that I haven't read. The middle column show the most recent posts from the blog that is selected (in this case the "It's all good" blog from OCLC) and on the right is the unread posts from that blog. I can also mark posts that I wish to return to and move individual posts into a "my stuff" bin to review later.

I got this software from There are many different readers available, some are free although feeddemon is not. I chose it b/c I found a library website where they reccomended it. If anyone has experimented with other readers I would be interested in your experiences.

I'm still trying to figure out how much time one ought to spend reading blogs, like email lists they can take a lot of time, but I have found that my RSS reader has helped me read blogs more effeciently and of course like listserves you don't have to read everything!

In a future post I'll list some of the library blogs I have found helpful. There are also several theological blogs in existence some by reputable scholars and publications. This may be a type of information that we want to think about making our library patrons aware of and helping them to access.

Reading Resources

For introductory level resources, I would recommend Computers in Libraries, Chronicle of Higher Education, and, not surprisingly, CIL offers some basic questions to consider when implementing new technology in libraries. CHE often includes articles on how technology is changing in larger libraries around the US. NJIT is a helpful example of how technology can impact the library catalog.

I think this concept of 'the long tail' is certainly worth pursuing considering our patron population. I would guess that we have a number of students and faculty who are interested in many relatively obscure materials. (Heh...I happen to be one of them myself.)

Ah, speaking of CIL, this month's issue talks about grant-writing for technology plans. Does anyone have experience with grant writing on staff? This may be something we'd want to consider after IF task force gets its' feet wet and has an opportunity to sort out what our goals and plans are. I enjoy researching and writing, so if no one else is inclined, I would probably be up for it if we decide to head in that direction one day in the future.

If anyone feels so prompted, it would be good to have members of our group praying about it. Since we have so little funds to operate on, it is easy to have lots of great brainstorms and then hit a wall and say "we'll never see this happen." This is a significant problem at our school and I'm sure many other small private institutions like ours. Perhaps it is time to dream big and actually plan big. The Lord is able to do immeasurably great work, but often times we confine ourselves to the resources we can see. Faith is not by sight. What might we be able to demonstrate to our campus about our faith in God by this project?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Long Tail

The phrase "long tail" has become something of a buzz phrase in library blogs for awhile. It is sure to get more discussion with the recent publication of Christopher Anderson's book by that title. The book is currently the number 3 best seller on Amazon.

The basic idea behind the long tail is that although only a few items (think books or music) will have really high demand, many items will have some limited demand. The argument goes that with the internet companies like Itunes and Amazon can make more money selling niche items than selling the "top 40." Here is the wikipedia definition of long tail.

I wanted to make you aware of the ALA Techsource blog which has a good introduction of this concept and discussion of how libraries may leverage the long tail. See also the libraryCrunch's discussion of the ALA TS post.

Both of these discussions make me think about ways to make ILL more efficient and transparent to users. It seems that in our massively networked world finding ways to get material quickly from one place to another is going to be increasing important as we will never be able to buy everything people want. Perhaps will help once it is up and running. It is suppose to allow the general public to search worldcat and provide an access point for worldcat searches to be incorporated into local websites. I'm sure there will be more to come on that.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

IF Task Force Agenda

The first meeting of the IF Task Force will be Friday, July 28th. The agenda for this meeting will be as follows:

1. Discuss the scope and functioning of the group. I will share some of my ideas, but I also am interested in hearing your thoughts and expectations.

2. Discuss when we will meet in the future.

3. I would also like each person to be prepared to share 2 or 3 things that they think will be important developments for the future of the Rolfing library. These can be new or emerging technologies, new use of technology, new trends, continuation of current trends, larger cultural issues, etc.

4. I'm also interested in your answer to the following question: What resource would you reccomend to someone who ask you about the future of information? This could be a book, journal, blog, website, conference etc. If you would like to get the converstation started early feel free to post your response to this blog. Ask me if you are unable to sign up as a blog contributor.

The current plan is for the IFTS to meet once a month. In August we are planning on discussing the section (pp.1-224) of Friedman's book The World is Flat. In September we will discuss the new OCLC report: College Students’ Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources. Kevin has placed a copy of this report in the F:data\common folder on the Rolfing LAN.