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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Libraries and distance ed

I saw a link to this Educause article on Embedded Librarians on the ATLANTIS listserve. The article reports on the Community College of Vermont's program to place librarians in online classes to provide class specific library instruction.

The article lists several different forms that this has taken in CCV classes. Perhaps this isn't a terribly new idea but as a former distant student, I think that this could be a real service to other distant students.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Elsiever sells Endeavor

In case you haven't heard by now Francisco Partners which recently bought Ex Libris, has now also purchased Endeavor. Company press releases can be found here: Endeavor, Ex Libris.

If corporate PR is not your thing you may want to read this blog entry from American Libraries columnist Andrew Pace (at NC St Univ.) or this blog entry from former Endeavor employee (and former Taylor systems librarian) Steve Oberg.

Some thoughts. The new company which I believe will be called Ex Libris will be the 2nd biggest ILS vendor after Sirsi/Dynix. The merger may be good for Rolfing since it seemed obvious that Elsevier wasn't all that interested in enhancing some of the basic Voyager functionality that we use everyday. Perhaps the new Ex Libris will prove more dedicated to basic functionality. I believe that the general consensus is that Ex Libris' digital products are superior to Endeavor's.

On the other hand this may also be a sign that developing library software is not a financially rewarding undertaking and thus the days of the traditional ILS vendor may be numbered. A couple of big questions that I think will be discussed are: Do libraries need unique software or can we use software that is already being used in the corporate world to accomplish our jobs. Think for example of how NC St is using Endeca for their OPAC. I have also read of libraries at least thinking about using corporate purchasing and accounting software instead of ILS acquisitions modules.

Another trend to definitely watch is the move towards open source library software. Check out this website for the new open source library software that has come out of the Georgia Evergreen project. I hear that a University library south of Chicago is contemplating using open source library software. We may all discover that the ILS vendors can not develop features as fast as Amazon (or the Library Thing) and even if they could we couldn't pay for them. Developing software collectively (much as we catalog collectively) may be the way forward.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quentin Schultze' Scripture and Ministry Lecture on Using Technology Wisely

On Wednesday Afternoon, 11/1, Dr. Quentin Schultze delivered the first Scripture and Ministry Lecture for this year titled, "Beyond the Digital Rat Race : Using Technology Wisely in Our Lives, Work, and Churches." After a couple of personal illustrations about the pervasiveness of technology and generational attitudes toward it, Dr. Schultze spoke about the hope that often surrounds technology in our society. Each new application is seen as the one that may lead to a great leap forward in our personal, social, and work lives. He described the hope that surrounds new technologies as almost salvific, using the example of fading churches turning to new technologies as a means of attracting young people. Our cultural obsession with technology is almost "babelish" in that in many ways it represents a desire to make a name for ourselves and control our universe apart from God. In the end, according to Dr. Schultze, each new technology is accompanied by the same old problems and the same false hopes but is also accompanied by opportunities that require wisdom and moderation. Human life and society is composed of institutions and relationships ordained by God (e.g. marriage, family, church, government, etc.) with good purposes. The key is to adapt technology to serve these institutions and purposes rather than allowing technology to shape and possibly corrupt them. In order to achieve this adaptation we need wisdom and moderation.

Dr. Schultze spoke about wisdom as an orientation to ultimate reality. Biblically a fool may have knowledge or skill but not wisdom. Wisdom comes by listening and faithfully obeying God when we open ourselves to Him. We listen to God through scripture, preaching, worship, theological reading and discussion and there we learn our purposes and limits. In addition there is a horizontal dimension to wisdom that comes from listening to life and the world around us. Once we have listened to God and aligned ourselves with His will and purposes we are prepared to ask the questions about what are the purposes of our various institutions and relationships and how technology might serve or enhance them.

Dr. Schultze spoke of moderation as the classical virtue that stood at the point between deprivation and excess. Moderation is related to technology in two ways. First, we need to seek a balance in our lives so that to the extent that we lead technological lives we should also lead non-technological lives. If parts of our life are pervaded by technology there should be corresponding parts that are tech. free. He emphasized that we need to focus especially on spiritual disciplines that are low-tech, citing prayer, contemplation, and fellowship. He also noted that one of the opportunities of the digital world lies in the need to create circles of fellowship that emphasize the importance of bodily communion. Second, we need to effective stewards of our resources. Human lives are resource limited especially in the areas of time and money. Because of the expense and excitement that often surround technologies we need to protect resources, especially time, for non-technological areas of life and not allow ourselves to be swept away.

The lecture was followed by a question and answer period. The first questioner noted that technology often carries an inherent value for speed and efficiency. Dr. Schultze agreed and added that a technology is usually considered good if it increases efficiency or control. Therefore we need to ask ourselves if what we are attempting to enhance with technology lends itself to efficiency or control. What are the specific purposes and values appropriate to the institution? The second question related to whether "virtual reality is a mission field". Dr. Schultze agreed that it was. "In addition to cyber-nerds we need cyber-saints." Some people are only available online and so we need to reach them there. He also pointed the use of internet resources to reach those in closed-countries where perhaps only the government and military establishment have unfettered access to technology. The next person asked about how we go about forming communities of wise and virtuous people in light of the pervasiveness of individualism in our culture. Dr. Schultze responded that we must begin to lead such lives ourselves. We get almost nowhere by criticizing people's attitude toward and use of technology. We need to be able to present them with a better way. They need to see real lives flourishing in scriptural ways that are not in technological bondage. The fourth question focused on Dr. Schultze' meaning and whether each different institution might have its own special efficiency. Schultze agreed with the latter portion of the question. In response to the first part he said that he was thinking primarily of communications technologies. He went on to observe that most technologies become vehicles for communication despite their intended or primary uses pointing out how cars became more than a means of conveyance by becoming a crucial part of many people's social lives. The final question was about how we can overcome the power of technology to lull people into entertainment. Dr. Schultze reiterated the point about living lives and showing examples of people who have successfully broken free of technology and described measures he and his wife took to encourage their children to use the technologies of television, personal computers, and the vcr reflectively and to build relationships rather than as substitutes for them.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Lunch with marketing and Dr. Schultze

Efforts to schedule a time for library staff to interact with Dr. Schultze resulted in an invitation to attend a lunch hosted by Gary Cantwell with Dr. Quentin Schultze (QS). In addition to teaching communication at Calvin, QS is also a web developer and has served as a web consultant for several CCCU schools. I don't have my notes in front of me but here are some highlights of the conversation.

QS said that most students do not want to use a web site in conjunction with their coursework. They prefer surfing and browsing to going to specific sites. Despite this he is developing a public speaking site ( that he hopes becomes an important aid to teaching public speaking. He said a key to making a successful class web site is providing content that students are interested in apart from the class context. His desire that his site become a repository of good, current, up to date recordings of public speaking for his communication classes got my librarian brain working thinking about the possibility of creating a repository of Christian sermons for homiletic students and the general public that is interested in Christian preaching. A kind of itunes for sermons. Uploading our chapel tapes would be a good start towards building this collection.

Back to the lunch... QS also said that many students no longer open emails but see them all as junk. Gary Cantwell confirmed that many (I think most) TIU broadcast emails are never opened. QS said what people are really looking for is relationship and authenticity in communication with an institution. He also said that many prospective students will now research a school by looking at student blogs rather than reading official promotional material. There was an exchange about how this is frustrating to institutions b/c they no longer have power to control what gets said.

In response to a question about blogging and podcasting, QS said that he thought both were here to stay. Though he did discuss an "academic bias" against blogging. That many academics view blogging as a waste of time and perhaps dangerous for students b/c what they say will follow them around. There is also a fear that academics who blog will be taken less seriously by their colleagues.

Finally QS thought professors will be increasingly asking students to produce multimedia online productions as part of their assignments. He also talked about the importance of providing students multi-media options on web pages we create. But he stressed that we should never force visitors to our web site to watch a video or listen to something. People want to be able to choose and control what they see.