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.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blogging a TEDS research paper

I discovered this Cultural Hermeneutics paper posted in sections on Luther's Stein, a blog by T. Robert Baylor who is studying for his M.Div. at Trinity.

The paper is on Second Life, which in itself is interesting given previous discussions of that metaverse on this blog, however what struck me was the act of posting your in progress research paper online for comments and feedback.

On the one hand this kind of activity may continue to erode the notion of writing as a solitary activity. Although the comments I read on the paper\blog posts were more encouraging than substantial critiques this practice (in general) may raise questions about final product as a reflection of the students intellectual work.

But on the other hand I think sharing students work with the general public has the positive possibilities of moving the student to a deeper engagement with the topic by opening up dialog between the student and others who are wrestling with the same issues. Particularly in a seminary setting, the possibility of receiving comments and constructive criticism from those actually ministering in the church and thus crossing the divide between pew and academy is intriguing. I'll be interested to see if this catches on.

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Kindles Can't Be Loaned by Libraries?

Tim Spalding of LibraryThing posted a link to this discussion on the blog Tinfoil Raccoon (live-blogging notes on the Kindle here)of whether Kindles can be loaned by libraries. Tim's comments here. Right now it looks like Amazon is sending mixed signals as to whether Kindles can be loaned. One application it suggested to me, if Kindles can be loaded with documents then unregistered and loaned, would be special genre or subject Kindles. You could load one up with C.S. Lewis' books or load one with different biographies and then allow a person to check out several books on one topic at a time, but only counting one toward their patron limit. Obviously most libraries couldn't afford very many Kindles at once, but at up to 200 titles a piece, how many would you need?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Reference! - the video game

A library themed arcade? They may not be Halo but these two Carnegie Mellon library video games are worth checking out on a cold Friday.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

YouTube professors

The Jan. 25 Chronicle of Higher Education has an article about colleges which have put lectures online. Colleges can set up "channels" which they can brand with their logos and colors. YouTube has been surprised by how popular the video lectures have been. One academic also said it improves the professor's lectures if they know they're being taped.

To find university channels, change the search box in YouTube to search "channel" rather than "video." You can then search for a specific school, or search for "college" or "university."

The article also mentioned a couple of new sites:
Big Think has video interviews with academics and other thinkers. calls itself "the thinking man's YouTube" and streams lectures and debates.

AquaBrowser in the News

The Columbus, Ohio Metropolitan Libraries just implemented AquaBrowser. The Columbus newspaper ran an article about the change and patrons' mixed response. Lorcan Dempsey of OCLC Research and a CML patron discusses the article and AquaBrowser on his blog here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Cellphone Novels

As we consider the various uses of hand held devices we now need to consider them also as authoring devices. This article in the New York Times (free registration req.) discusses the popular Japanese phenomenon of novels written on cellphones. Tom Peters comments on the article at the ALA TechSource blog here. Given the popularity of other Japanese low-art forms like anime and manga among American teenagers it will be interesting to see if cellphone novels catch on here as well. Peters concludes his comments this way:

"If cell phone novels become suddenly and overwhelmingly popular in the United States, will libraries be involved in this boom in reading among teens and young adults – something for which we say we ardently wish? Maybe librarians should be proactive in fostering cell phone novelists and readers here in the U.S."

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"Go fearlessly into the future"

The library, which will be attached to the new building, is being refashioned as simply a warehouse for books.

Xavier is among at least three dozen colleges that have taken the drastic step of merging their library and technology departments. The mergers are happening at small liberal-arts colleges after take-charge leaders — usually CIO's — arrive and see traditional boundaries between library and technology work blurring. Those leaders observe increasing amounts of scholarship being digitized, students doing research online, library books sitting unused, and a constant stream of requests for computer and Web support. They want the flexibility to allocate funds where they are most needed, be it hiring an instructional technologist or purchasing an e-book collection.

The preceding quote is from this Chronicle of Higher Education article [update: it appears on the cover of the Jan. 18th print ed]. The title quote is from Xavier's take charge CIO David Dodd in the same article.

A couple of thoughts on this. 1. The boundaries between IT departments and libraries are very grey. The wedding of information to technology is a fact that often seems unaccounted for on organizational charts. My hope would be that librarians would emerge more as leaders rather than obstacles to clearing up this mess.

2. We need to be able to articulate a clear vision of what we do in the library to counter the warehouse metaphor. I think that education should lie at the heart of that vision but ultimately it is not talk but action that will convince people of our value.

3. If you'll indulge one more thought. This is why I keep coming back to community. I believe that education for many people happens in community and that we at Universities can not take for granted that our students are finding it. Further, by fostering community as librarians we open channels of communication between librarians and students that can be used to educate them.

I still believe (most days) we can cast a vision and formulate a plan that will allow us as librarians to go fearlessly into the future but the time to act is now otherwise the future will be chosen for us.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future

The British Library and JISC did a study to identify how researchers of the future are likely to access and interact with digital resources in five to ten years. They hope to help libraries anticipate new behaviors in the `Google generation’.

This study touches on the experiences, expectations, and limitations of the upcoming college students and how libraries can improve our own philosophy and practices.

A very interesting read.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Social Networking sites

The December issue of College & Research Libraries News had an article on social networking sites. They talked about mySpace, Facebook, and sites that had useful information for librarians using them. One thing I hadn't known was that JSTOR provides a Facebook application to search its database. (Perhaps that's something we could include on Rolfing's Facebook page?)

OCLC also just released a report on a study they did of social networking and issues related to libraries, called "Sharing, Privacy and Trust in Our Networked World:"
One of the interesting facts they discovered was that people don't think of library websites as more private than others, and they don't care too much about privacy in their searching.One of the interesting facts they discovered was that people don't think of library websites as more private than others, and they don't care too much about privacy in their searching.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Student Generated Content

Higher Education needs a new framework for promoting the value of information and technology skills for undergraduate and graduate students. -- Karen Lippincott in Student Content Creators: Convergence of Literacies.

Lippincott argues that we should encourage the integration of technology skills and online content creation within University classes and thereby teaching students not only how to be good historians or chemists, but also how to participate in online publishing and culture. Exposure to emerging modes of communication should be part of the University education complementing more traditional research and writing assignments. Indeed bringing the writing and critical thinking skills typically taught in the classroom and helping students translate those skills to online outlets including multimedia outlets.

In my last post on defining community, educationally purposeful was the first principle of healthy campus community. One of the educational aspects of the library's web presence may be to provide a platform for students to publish their work for their peers at the University.

I can imagine professors assigning students to write book reviews that could be posted on the library website, maybe compiled in the form of annotated bibliographies or added to individual bib. records. Students or groups of students may also create videos that could be featured on the library's website perhaps with the possibility of others commenting and dialoguing with the creators. Or creating a wiki that several classes contribute too.

The goals in all of this would be to help students learn to research within their discipline, to teach students to create digital content, and to help acclimate students to the protocols for online discussions. I think a further goal would be connecting students with each other and giving them a shared experience of community. In a dorm you hear all about your suite-mates projects and papers and this often sparks interesting discussion and learning but as students spend less times in dorms either b/c of work, activities, or they live off campus this might be away of exposing them to more of the intellectual milieu of the university.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pandora Radio

Have any of you used Pandora Radio? Someone just told me about it, and I found it interesting. If you enter an artist or song, it picks songs it thinks are similar based on musical "genes" - or what the song sounds like (melody, rhythm, etc). At first I was wondering if the computer somehow analyzed the songs to compare them. But it sounds like they actually have people who analyze the qualities of all the songs. I think they must also use data people enter, because you can choose whether you like the song or not.

I don't know if this has any relevance for us, but I thought it was an interesting technology!

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Defining community

I would like to see the library be more intentional about fostering community on campus and so I've started to think about what that means.

When I think of community at college, I think about staying up late in dorm rooms engaged in conversations that constantly rambled back and forth from academic to non-academic topics. For me at least these conversations were not only enjoyable but an important part of internalizing and working through the new material I was reading and learning in class. So important in fact that it is hard for me to imagine college without this type of community.

In trying to move beyond anecdotal experience to a more generalized definition of campus community, I discovered the report Campus Life: In Search of Community issued by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1990). This report lists 6 principles that "Define the kind of community every college and university should strive to be." (p.7) They are:

1. Educationally purposeful
2. Open - freedom of expression protected and greeted with civility
3. Just - each person treated with dignity
4. Disciplined - people accept responsibility and work for the common good
5. Caring
6. Celebrative - rituals affirm both tradition and change

I think that these principles capture much of what I appreciated about the informal community I described above. In future posts I hope to look at how libraries, and especially libraries' web presence may foster this type of community but I'm curious would you add to this list of principles or qualify any of them?


Monday, January 07, 2008

Second Life

Has any one else checked out Second Life? I tried it while I was home at Christmas. (Since I don't have internet at home, and Second Life is blocked here, it was my one chance!) It was fun. It is definitely a social type of site. There are various things to do there, but it's most interesting if you meet and chat with other people.

It looks like librarians have a pretty big role there. There is an island called "Information Island" which is set up and regularly staffed by librarians. You need an MLS to be a reference librarian there, but other people volunteer to be guides, which don't require an MLS. I was amazed at how helpful they were. And I'm afraid I discovered I myself have a mental stereotype of the role of librarians! At first I didn't think I had anything to ask the librarian, since I wasn't doing any research (except about libraries in Second Life). But she kept pressing me about any questions I might have, until finally I asked her about problems I'd had changing my shape in Second Life. She contacted an expert in Second Life, who came right away and fixed me up. I was impressed! So Information Island isn't just for research but to find help with Second Life. I started referring other new people there who had questions. I think it's great that librarians are playing a role there. It shows how we can have relevance in an online age!

There were also a few islands for churches and Christian groups, which I found interesting. There were churches which have live feeds of their services in Second Life. I asked someone and they said 20-30 people usually show up. I also met a woman who was leading a woman's Bible study in Second Life, which also has good attendance.

I wish I'd had more time to explore Second Life! Although it's probably just as well, because it was kind of addictive...

Friday, January 04, 2008

Gen Y the biggest users of libraries

I first saw this mentioned in the news last week: a survey by Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that the biggest subgroup of Americans who used public libraries last year is Gen Y (aged 18-30.)

Many commentators seem surprised by this, as it's apparently a reversal of a study done in 1996 which showed declining use of libraries by that age group. But apparently, the more information-savvy you are, the more likely you are to head to a library -- Internet users are more likely to use libraries than non-Internet users. And while it's true that many of those users report using the Internet while at the library, it's not the only reason they're going -- they're also making use of library resources.

I find this fascinating, particularly in light of those who've seemed to assume that the Internet (all that 'freely' available info) would eventually be the death of libraries. It's also interesting, I think, given the conversations we've had about how young people view libraries and the acquiring of information.,140922-pg,1/article.html


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Changing minds

This maybe slightly off topic for this list (although our topic is quite broad here) but...

I stumbled upon the internet site for the World Question Center where a group of academics (mostly US it seems) answer the following question: "What have you changed your mind about?"

There are a lot of responses, some short and some not so short, and I just skimmed over a handful but I found it really interesting to see what people would admit to changing their mind about and why they decided to change, actually it was refreshing in an age where it seems people are polarized on every issue and simply talking past each other. Most of the contributors that I read work in science and technology but a surprising (to me) number of their comments discussed religion.

I promised to post more on community and will hopefully deliver soon. As I'm writing this it occurs to me that the ability to discuss issues and safely change your opinion would be a mark of the type of learning community that I hope exists at universities. Hopefully at school "flip-flopping" is understood to be a potential and honorable result of genuine engagement with ideas and not as a sign of weakness or disloyalty.