or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk


#nelaconf12 Notes and Insights

   October 17th, 2012 Brian Herzog

New England Library AssociationI spent the first part of this week at the New England Library Association 2012 annual conference, which I found I enjoyed more than others in recent memory. Partly it was due to talking with way more people than I usually do, but the guys from ByWater Solutions, Koha developers, also picked up my lunch tab one day, which is awesome - thanks Nate.

Anyway, I mostly stuck to the technology track this time, which seemed like it was all ebooks all the time. Often, that turned into Overdrive-bashing (for past practices), but there was also a lot of looking to the future of what-could-be. Here are a few notes I wrote down from the various sessions over the three days:

  • Followup on Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
    Last week I posted about this case now before the Supreme Court, and mentioned that Alan Wexelblat of Copyfight would be speaking at NELA. This was probably the hands-down absolute best session I attended, and if you ever get the chance to see Alan speak, jump at it.

    He offered more insight on the speculating I did last week - for one thing, this case will be limited to items imported from overseas, and only items that have (or can be) copyrighted. So, things like iPhones (which are patented, not copyrighted) and clothes (which are not copyrighted at all) will not be affected (so no "Garage Sale Police: SVU" any time soon).

    Alan also said he expected the Supreme Court to rule in Wiley's favor, albeit with a very narrow ruling. Arguments between October 29th, so keep an eye on it.

  • The (not so bright) future of ereaders
    In more than one session, I heard people say that 2012 was the peak for dedicated ereaders. They will start to decline in 2013, and from here on out, ebooks will be read on smartphones and tablets, because ebooks will cease to be something special or unusual and just part of peoples' normal lives. As people get more and more used to doing everything on one device, dedicated devices - like ereaders - will be left behind.

    Dedicated ereaders have the advantage with cheaper prices and better eink displays, but hardware prices are always falling, and the more people use smartphones and tablets, the more they become accustomed to those displays. Besides, Betamax was better quality than VHS, and it still lost out.

    Except maybe in libraries, since the libraries that circulate hardware will only want patrons using them for ebooks. But the death of ereaders was still an interesting observation (and again, a widely-held one, it seemed).

  • But if you are buying ereaders...
    A few speakers gave kind of best-practices reviews of ereader lending programs in their libraries. One recommendation was that, if you are buying ereaders to lend to patrons, definitely get the extended warranty.

    Another model for ereader/ebook lending was to give patrons a gift card in addition to loaning them an ereader. That way, patrons do your ebook collection development for you. And, since the books are being purchased, patrons aren't limited to just what is available through Overdrive, and instead they get to read whatever bestseller they want, right now. A couple libraries in Massachusetts are doing this, and they have not had any problems - the gift card is tied to the library's Amazon account, and patrons are told not to buy more than three ebooks.

    However, again, there was the recommendation to buy tablets, not dedicated ereaders at all - they will have a longer useful life.

  • The (ever brightening) future of ebooks
    Another common opinion was that ebooks really are a major revolution in publishing, whether we like it or not. And by revolution, we're really talking evolution along the lines of cave walls > clay tablets > papyrus scrolls > bound books > ebooks. However, ebooks won't necessarily totally supersede print in our lifetime - more likely, they will be viewed as different experiences, not as mutually-exclusive.

    A great example of this was keynote speaker T. Scott Plutchak's story of reading picture books to his granddaughter. She has one favorite book, which they have both in print and on his iPad. She always wants him to read it to her, but sometimes she wants the interactive play of the iPad, and sometimes she wants the traditional page-turning of the print book. I like the view that it's not all or nothing - print and ebooks can coexist. And kids don't see them as competitors, just different. I think I've said this before, but I still use both pencils and pens, and I also still listen to the radio every day. Pencils and the radio are good for certain applications, pens and keyboards and television and internet good for others.

    Another analogy I liked was that ebooks are a total revolution in technology, along the lines of sheet music > phonograph recordings. Before Edison, music was distributed as sheet music - people bought it and then played the piano themselves in their own parlors. But after the phonograph, people could buy and listen to a recording. This is a fundamental change in how people interacted with music - it removed the personal experience of playing it, and standardized what version of the song people heard. This isn't a direct ebook correlation, but the basic "this is a fundamental shift in how people interact with stories" is worth considering.

    However, one of the funniest lines at the conference came up when a speaker was trying to make the point that new technology does often replace old technology: "yes, people still raise horses, but how many of you rode a horse here today?" Ha.

  • DRM is the problem.
    Universally, the cause of all ebook-related problems right now is DRM. Not copyright, not technology, not piracy - just DRM. So, the recommendations were always: buy DRM-free ebooks - publishers like TOR and HumbleBundle are leading the way and need to be supported.
  • Create your own electronic content
    For libraries in Massachusetts, contact the Boston Public Library to get on board with BPL's local resource digitization program. For free, libraries, historical societies, town offices, etc. can have their annual reports, yearbooks, special collections, whatevers digitized by BPL and Internet Archive staff. The items will become part of the Digital Commonwealth and Internet Archive collections, and will be freely available online. This is definitely worth checking out - send a message to digital@bpl.org for more information.

    Good quotes relating to this were, "copyright is like a speed limit - it's flexible, so going a little over is okay." And, "copyright is often a gray area - and to us, gray means GO!"

  • Training - it's what we do
    Lastly, lots of talk about training and tech support - library staff training patrons to use ebooks, the reference desk evolving into a community technology help desk, etc. These ideas are not new, but they bear repeating, because I do think this is the future for libraries.

    I did hear one new idea though: one speaker found he was having trouble training senior citizens to use their brand new ereaders, because they had no computer experience whatsoever. No matter how patient and repetitive he was, he could just not communicate with them in the way they needed. So, he got the idea to train one of their peers - a senior woman who volunteered at the library - and then had her show other seniors how to use technology. He said results were instant and fantastic, because she, being from their generation, was naturally more attuned to speaking at their level. Great idea, up until he told us what he called it: "The Old Lady Support Group."

In all, it was a great conference. My only complaint is that I couldn't get to all the sessions I wanted to see. Presentations are being posted online, so please check them out for more information.



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Highlights from nelaconf11

   October 6th, 2011 Brian Herzog

NELA2011: Navigating the New NormalAs I mentioned in the previous post, I was at the 2011 annual conference of the New England Library Association this week. Now that I've had a day back to unpack and get caught up, I thought I'd share a few of notes I wrote to myself.

Again though, be sure to check out the session slides/handouts at http://nelaconference.org and notes from attendees at the NELA conference blog.

General Interestingness

  • A great way to encourage patron interaction on Facebook is to just ask questions - What's your favorite book? What are you reading right now?
  • A fun game for online social interaction is to post part of a book or album cover, and then have people guess what it is (also give hint - new book, published 50 years ago, etc)
  • I'm not a Childrens Librarian, but I thought the idea of rethinking the "Childrens Room" as the "Family Room" was interesting. Something mentioned was providing furniture for adult-child reading/working together
  • When you create a book display, put a list of books for display on the back of the sign, so it's easy for staff to refill as the books go out
  • 21% of Americans have no internet access at home - that's double the unemployment rate, and can have just as big an impact, but there are no initiatives to address it

My To-Do List

  • Check out http://maps.nypl.org - it overlays historical maps onto Google Maps, to compare where things were/are. They may have plans to make it open source, so it could be something we could all use for our own maps
  • I was surprised to see the Delicious linkroll on our Chelmsford History site wasn't working (but those on our main library website are fine). A good time to double-check your own linkrolls just to be on the safe side
  • Plan to have a program in January on ereaders and other gadets - not a
    talk, but more like a general help/troubleshooting session, focused on accessing library materials
  • Play with Join.me for a screen-sharing tool

Easy Ways to Improve a Mobile Website (that I should have thought of on my own but didn't)

  • add link to Overdrive for ebooks
  • add link to OCLC QuestionPoint chat or other 24x7 chat reference
  • add links to Twitter/Facebook/Flickr accounts to contact page
  • hide the browser address bar on mobile sites (to save display room)

For more tips, check out #nelaconf11 tweets - many people are linking to their own blog posts, in addition to passing on ideas they heard. I hope everyone got something out of the conference - it really was a good time.



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New England Library Association 2011 Annual Conference

   October 4th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Presentation from NELA2011Today is the last day of the 2011 NELA annual conference, in Burlington, VT. I've been here since Sunday, meeting people and hearing great ideas.

There's a new NELA Conference blog this year, which a few people have been posting sessions notes to - mine are:

All the slides and other materials are available at http://nelaconference.org, and there's also lots of great Twitter chatter at #nelaconf11. All good stuff, and any time spent with New England librarians is of course a great time.



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Upcoming Workshop: Mobilize Your Patrons

   April 26th, 2011 Brian Herzog

NELA: New England Library AssociationEvery spring, the IT Section of the New England Library Association hosts a workshop on some aspect of technology in libraries (past workshops rocked). I'm actually one of the presenters at this year's workshop, along with far more interesting people, and the topic is:

Mobilize Your Patrons: Library Services in a Hand-Held World

2011 ITS Spring Event
New England Library Association - Information Technology Section

When Friday, June 17, 2011, 9:30 am – 3:30 pm

Where Tower Hill Botanic Garden, 11 French Drive, Boylston MA 01505 (directions)

Registration (includes lunch!)

  • NELA members - $50
  • Non-members - $65
  • Library school students & unemployed librarians - $35

Registration closes Friday June 3th. Space is limited.

Agenda

9:00 AM Registration

9:30 AM Keynote - Megan K. Fox, the Director of Knowledge Management and IT, Jobs for the Future

Libraries on the Go: Trends in Mobile Tools and Applications
Current hardware and new technologies are making hand-held computers essential for on-the-go users. Fox highlights the latest development in applications for mobile and hand-held tools and how these can and are being utilized by libraries and information seekers of all kinds.

11:15 AM - Jessamyn West, a technologist living in rural Vermont studying the digital divide and solving technology problems for schools and libraries

The Mayor of Everywhere Using Social Tools to be More Places at Once
Web 2.0 tools are uncomplicated to use and freely available online, and they have been making it easy and even enjoyable to remix, share, and repurpose content. The added new dimension of ubiquitous mobile computing is providing more opportunities for libraries to reach patrons and for patrons to interact with librarians. This presentation will address trends in Web 2.0 and social technology.

12:30 PM Lunch (included in registration)

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM Panel presentation/discussion on practical library applications

  • Brian Herzog: Making your Library Mobile-Friendly
    Tools and techniques to create a useful resource for your mobile patrons
  • Bonnie Roalsen & Ryan Livergood: Talking Walls & Augmented Realities
    Using QR codes to extend your library’s services and programs, engage your communities and construct mobile knowledge networks
  • Christine Drew: Enabling Mobile Academic Library Users
    Accessing student’s technology-use, deploying a mobile site, dabbling with QR codes

3:30 PM The End

It should be a great day. For my part, I'm basically going to go through the steps I took to make a mobile site for my library, and also mention a few other mobile options for libraries.

Whether you're considering maybe possibly thinking about doing something in the mobile world, or looking for new ways to interact with the mobile patrons you're already serving, there should be something for everyone at this workshop - I hope to see you there.



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Upcoming Events of Note

   February 3rd, 2011 Brian Herzog

Save the DateJust a few quick blurbs on some upcoming events that caught my eye - the first two for Boston-area people, and the third for all of New England:

MobileCampBoston
I seem to be all about mobile technology lately - and MobileCampBoston is a day-long event devoted to it. The day looks organized into three tracks - Programming, Design, and Business/Marketing, so attendees can focus on their area of interest. Should be a great day of learning, and best of all, it's free.

Boston Radical Reference: Volunteer at the Community Change Library
Members of Boston Radical Reference will be volunteering at the Community Change library, which houses some of the best sources of information on racism in the United States. The plan is to conduct a comprehensive inventory of the collection, going book by book, to catch errors in the catalog, determine subject areas in which to expand, and identify books that need repair.

NELA-ITS Spring Workshop
I'm part of the IT Section of the New England Library Association, and we're designing this year's Spring Workshop to address the intersection of mobile technology and libraries. We're still working out the details, but the overall plan is to devote the morning to a sort of "state of things/orientation" as far as libraries and mobile tech goes, then lunch, and then an afternoon panel of librarians demo'ing ways they're using mobile tech in their own libraries. If you've never been to an NELA-ITS workshop before, they're a good time, and very focused on practical information.

I'll be at all three of these events - if you see me, please say hi.



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Ethan Zuckerman and Bridge Figures

   October 21st, 2010 Brian Herzog

Bridge FigureAt NELA2010 on Monday, I got to see Ethan Zuckerman speak again. I blogged his "The Internet is NOT Flat" talk two years ago, and although this year he spoke on the same theme, he is dynamic enough to always be both interesting and energizing.

His goal is to broaden people's view of the world, to get us thinking globally as well as locally. Something new in his talk this year was the concept of "bridge figures" - those people in an organization or community that serve as "bridges" between cultures, nations, people, departments, groups, ideas, etc.

These people are valuable because they can make connections others can't, and can move projects forward in new ways via collaborations. They are usually found in the "structural holes" in organizations - the positions that aren't explicitly defined, or the spots where many otherwise divergent areas overlap.

Because of their unique place, they can see things from multiple points of view, see how something will affect different groups, and see what skills each of the different groups can contribute to a situation. They are less susceptible to homophily than most of us (who tend to exist in [and not think beyond] our own social group, department, organization, etc.), and so are better able to develop solutions that address the concerns of all the stakeholders involved.

Libraries often serve this role in general. But can you think of any Bridge Figures within your library?



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