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.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Amazon's big announcement

Just in time for the Christmas shopping season Amazon announced today the availability of their new ebook reader Kindle.

It has a host of features which you can read about by following the Kindle link above. One of the most interesting to me is that it uses cell phone technology to wirelessy connect to Amazon where you download books (most cost $9.99) or subscribe to newspaper and magazine content. They say Kindle uses the latest electronic paper technology for better resolution than typical computer screens but of course that is hard to verify.

There doesn't appear to be any ongoing fees but the initial cost is $399.00 which will probably keep it out of my Christmas stocking. Still this is definitely worth watching.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rolfing Library joined facebook

Facebook recently reversed themselves and now are allowing organizations and institutions to create Facebook profiles.

I have taken the liberty to create a Rolfing Library page on Facebook. It is a pretty vanilla page right now but perhaps this will be another way we can connect with and serve our campus community. Any and all feedback welcome!

By the way, this is an obvious attempt by Facebook to sell their new social ads and it will be interesting to see how the increased presence of commercial (and non-commercial) interests on Facebook change the site.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Google Books at the Reference Desk

A patron approached me at the reference desk yesterday looking for information about the creation and filming of the shower scene in Psycho. She specifically asked for books and so we searched our catalog and found a book on Hitchcock. I also browsed the reference section with her but we didn't find the specific information we needed in the various film reference works.

We went back to the computers and while she found some information in the journal databases, I found a few books in Worldcat including this one and this one. The patron wasn't interested in ILL or visiting another library so all I thought we could offer was the full text databases.

Later though, I thought of trying Google books and found what looked to me like very helpful content specifically about the Psycho shower scene. I also noted that the second book I found in WorldCat had a online review linked to it in Google which also discussed the shower scene.

Lesson learned 1) that I'm still thinking in terms of "traditional" library tools. And 2) that these online book databases can actually be useful to answer (or move us toward an answer) in real world reference questions. Maybe next time that patron will encounter a more prepared and better equipped reference librarian.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stephan Abram on the future of libraries

OCLC invited library futurist Stephan Abram to talk about Information 3.0 last month. You can (should) listen to his talk here (fourth bullet point down) although be warned that it is an hour and fifteen minutes long.

Here are some things that I took away from listening to this talk.

  1. Librarians often respond to new technology with passive resistance. We say we are open to it but refuse to actually use it and thus never learn it. I'd say this is pretty true.
  2. If libraries have a future that future lies in leveraging their human resources. Our collections and search capabilities are not that special, what we have to offer is knowledgeable staff. We need to be more aggressive in marketing that.
  3. Libraries are first and foremost social institutions.
  4. Librarians are a pretty homogeneous group and thus are not well situated to guess what our users need or how they will use what we offer.
One of the things Abram says is that libraries need to engage with online social networks and not be critical of people wanting to consult with peers as a part of the research process. He notes that we often consult with peers when doing research. I think this is a valid point and something I've been meaning to discuss in this blog for awhile. I think the ability of social networks such as Facebook to connect both student and non-student researchers has the ability to reshape the research paradigm from an essentially individual quest to an essentially collaborative exercise.

I can imagine a future where one of the first steps of any research project is to find the relevant community (or communities) and build a list of fellow researchers who you can work with. Professional societies and the networks they create have allowed this to happen in the past but the new tools will perhaps open up this type of networking to the masses.