Monday, July 30, 2007

The Constant Inconstancy...

Lance Ulanoff is not telling me anything new with his article in PC Magazine. I’ve been saying this for quite a while now. The internet technology of today is the wasteland of tomorrow. Which is nothing to cry over – change is a byproduct of Web 2.0.

Nothing is meant to be stable, everything is wobbly and incoherent. Here are the technologies that have changed so much over the past decade. Think of the changes to come! So many more passwords to remember!

(1) ICQ (90s) –> MSN Messenger

(2) Yahoo! (90s) –> Google

(3) Friendster (90s) -> Facebook/MySpace

(4) Geocities Personal Homepages (90s) -> Blogs

As librarians and information specialists, I think it’s unproductive to lament about the constant inconstancy. Rather, we should channel our energies at anticipating new technologies and tools and integrating them into the workplace. Be comfortable with change. Think of it like this. Just like collection management, books come and go. We weed by replacing and displacing. The same goes with internet technologies. If it is our jobs to keep up with the latest titles, then why can’t we do the same with the latest technologies?

I’d like to end off with a haiku of my own:

Hi Web 2.0
I admire your brevity
We will meet again

Friday, July 27, 2007

Academic Library 2.0

Ellyssa Kroski, Reference Librarian at Columbia University, has just come out with a fantastic article on using Web 2.0 for academic libraries. The Social Tools of Web 2.0: Opportunities for Academic Libraries explores the social tools of Web 2.0 and their potential applications for academic libraries by focusing on four main types:

(1) Content Collaboration (wikis and online office applications)

(2) Social Bookmarking (Connotea,

(3) Media Sharing (Youtube, Yahoo! Video)

(4) Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace)

Take a look! It's well worth the read.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Top 5 Must Read Books for the Information Professional

There are some books which I classify as being the "gold standards" for understanding the new Web. I believe all information professionals should take a look at these books and see how they fit into the "big" picture of the new way information is processed. Here are the top five.

(1) The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More (by Chris Anderson)

(2) Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything (by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams)

(3) The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (by Thomas Friedman)

(4) The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (by Malcolm Gladwell)

(5) Everything is Miscellaneous (David Weinberger)

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Perfect Job

Not everyone gets his or her dream job right out of LIS school. For some, it might mean years of toil and abuse in the dungeons of part-time shift work, often endless disappointments and constant worrying about the next month, often jumping from contract to contract, with no light in sight... Then there are some who do quite well. Kiera Miller, good friend and fellow SLAIS colleague, is currently having a ball working as Librarian at the Edmonton Public Library. I wanted to interview Kiera so that she can offer those out there fresh out of school that getting that "dream job" is more than just a myth...

I'm loving my job, just love it! I have to make this fast since my lunch break is ending. Basically, I get to do a ton of interesting things, and stuff outside children's services. I'm on a Child Friendly Edmonton committee which includes people from all over the city, I'm working with others on a section of the business plan to improve our multicultural/new immigrant services, I'm finishing up putting together a wack load of dual-language kits for new immigrant families, working with the YMCA to help them get books for their bookclubs, part of the team to plan the hoopla that is the final Harry Potter, planning a professional development day in the winter with a few other librarians, and then a huge project my boss and myself developed called 'Kids Read! Edmonton' along the same lines as Canada Reads except for kids. It is a lot of fun, and a lot of work, everything from marketing, web design, author meetings, programs to plan, presentations to potential sponsors (like the Edmonton Oilers!), etc.

And then I have about two hours a day on desk, ongoing personalized booklists for kids and teens (they request them online), and I'm planning a sign language storytime for the fall. Oh, and then there's all the summer reading club programs to both coordinate and participate in. The children's librarians here do more project work than programming. I kinda have had to jump in for theprogramming part, ask to do more than what is actually required of me since I want and enjoy storytimes, craft programs, etc. Then there's always a tour to give to library students or classes. There's arranging author visits, and simply trying to rejuvenate some of the staff (hardest part).

Did you follow all that? I get to do a bit of everything. I feel like I get the best of all worlds: individual projects, time with the kids in the stacks, collection development, creative input, presentations, outreach, virtual readers advisory, some management, and even some spatial analysis and furniture selection. I have to make a list of what to accomplish each day or else I couldn't keep track of it all.

I think I was lucky that this position was brand new, and I have a great boss who is really encouraging, positive, wanted me, knows that I'm new and still learning but seems to have faith in me. We 'check in' just enough for me to feel alright. I feel less new although the less new I feel the more I feel I still need to learn. Patience, patience, just need more experience.

Congratulations Kiera! All your hard work during these two years has paid off. Big time! Keep up the good cheer and good work, and the sky's the limit for you in the upcoming years. You are an inspiration and a reminder to all that dreams can be achieved.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Library as a Social (and Intimate) Space

Sometimes we forget (or too preoccupied with "real" library matters) to realize that the library is a social space. As much as librarians are the gatekeepers of silence and studying, the fact is, libraries have always been spaces of intimacy. Particularly in academic and public libraries, we often witness relationships igniting, mending, and ending, all within in the interiors of libraries. Tears of romance and tears of sorrow grace the spaces of libraries all over the world, regardless of size and specialty.

The Time Traveller's Wife, a book that I've read recently, is about a pair of lovers who meet in a library in Chicago. The main character, Henry DeTamble, is working at the Newberry Library while Clare Abshire is looking for The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer.

When 20-year-old Clare meets 28-year-old Henry in 1991, he has never seen her before, even though she has known him most of her life, for Clare's past is still in Henry's future. Henry begins to experience the events in Clare's childhood at the same time that he experiences life with the adult Clare in the present. This heartrending story is only a reflection of the many relationships that take place in the library.

Which leads me to my point: librarians should be very proud of the silent role they play in society. Not only as educators and information providers, but also as managers of social space. Libraries are very sensitive and special places - it's not all about gate counts and user surveys. Librarians have a very unique responsibility even though they are often not aware of it. They are not only guardians of books, but also of community and intimacy, both virtual and physical.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More Than Meets the Eyes

Watching the Transformers was a marvellous treat. Personally and professionally. As the movie was unfolding before my eyes, there were a few points running in my mind. Here they are:

(1) Generation X & Y - The audience was mainly people born during this generation, and it showed, too, as they buzzed with anticipation right up till the opening credits. They knew the cast, the names, the plot, the dialogue, the most finest of details. And director Michael Bay delivers flawlessly with a very exciting nostalgic action flick. What does this mean for libraries, especially academic and public ones? It means that they, too, need to adapt to the tastes of their audience, which has grown up. How does Transformers achieve this?

(2) Technology - The movie is updated version of the 80's series. Instead of continuing with an anachronistic setting, this movie adapts to current day necessities, such as MP3's, cellphones, eBay, DVD burners, and 2GB flashdrives. As libraries move forward in time, it too, needs to continually adapt to realities of their time, and engage their audience with social software, Web 2.0 technologies, and new ways of doing things. Libraries can't afford to stand idly by.

(3) The Long Tail - In this movie, the long tail plays an important role in the battle of good versus evil. Sam (aka Spike in the original series) holds an important key to the very survival of the universe. Unknowingly he is auctioning it off on eBay. Chris Anderson first coined this term in 2004, arguing that Web 2.0 has altered the traditional business model, for businesses with distribution power can sell a greater volume of items at small volumes than of popular items at large volumes, which contradicts the long-held models of supply and demand economics. What does this mean for librarians and information specialists?

(4) Web 2.0 - Greater understanding of this new way of information delivery. No longer are "best-sellers" the way to go in collection management and user services. Greater forces are at work with the "new" Web and in order to be successful in this new paradigm and be leaders of this changing world, librarians should not only be continually aware, but also creative in maximizing these up-and-coming (some of them not even invented yet) technologies for their libraries.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Postmodern Librarian

While much has been written about Web 2.0, not much has been mentioned about postmodernism in librarianship. Is there a connection? Mark Stover thinks so. In The Reference Librarian as Non-Expert: A Postmodern Approach to Expertise, Stover believes that:
the stance of the reference librarian as non-expert will move the profession of librarianship away from the technocrat/expert model and back towards its earlier mission of service and human-centred values.
In proposing that there is an analogy between the new postmodern theories of psychotherapy and the ways that librarians work with patrons seeking information, Stover argues that knowledge, culture, technology, and cognitive-behaviour all play a role in the new fabric of postmodern librarianship. Everything gets broken down and hierarchies are flattened. In my experience working in libraries, things are moving, albeit slowly. With globalization and Web 2.0, are the foundations being laid for this new way of managing libraries?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

From Web 1.0 to Web 2.0

It has been more than a decade since the advent of the World Wide Web. When it first came out, librarians worried about how this new medium would affect their jobs, some even worried about the possible phasing out of librarians all together. With Web 2.0, there are similar worries about the roles of librarians; however, the anxiety is about how to catch up and adapt such technologies to the workplace.

But take a look at KPMG librarian Hope Bell's The Internet: A New Opportunity for Information Specialists written in 1997, and compare it to University of Saskatchewan librarian Darlene Fichter's Seven Strategies for Marketing in a Web 2.0 World written exactly ten years later. Although the Web has changed quite a bit, the importance of the librarian's role in teaching users how to use the technology has not. Let's take a look at just how things have not changed in 10 years.

(1) Learn about social media (2007) Vs. Get started - Get connected (1997)

(2) Create a Web 2.0 marketing plan (2007) Vs. Network with your organization (1997)

(3) Participate! Join the conversation (2007) Vs. Become an expert (1997)

(4) Be remarkable (2007) Vs. Position yourself as an expert (1997)

(5) Help your library content travel (2007) Vs. Educate and Train your users (1997)

(6) Monitor Engagement and Learn as you go (2007) Vs. Don't Stop (1997)

(7) Be part of the multimedia wave (2007) Vs. The Impact (1997)

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Beauty of Google Scholar

Information retrieval is an art, with creativity as a core ingredient. When done right, it is fun. With success, it is fabulously rewarding and an enriching experience. For the past year and a half, my main job has been searching, searching, and more searching. Using different databases my main task has been to cull together large number of documents for systematic literature reviews as well as compiling endless lists of bibliographies.

One of the most difficult tasks has been requests for broken citations – oftentimes, only the author and a date are given. So how to find these? Let me give you a recent example. Find: “Smith, 1992.” On the surface, it seems an impossible task. There are a number of ways to tackle this puzzle: but there’s an easier way. This is where the beauty of Google Scholar comes in.

Step #1: Go to “Advanced Google Search”

Step #2: In the Author box, type in “Smith”

Step #3: In the Date box, enter “1992” to “1992”

Step #4: In Find articles with all of the words, enter: “mental housing”

The final step is the most crucial. Since the domain of the project deals with mental housing, I want to narrow all of my articles to this subject. The beauty is that this works with most subjects. The more terms you can throw out, the more precise the recall. As an “art,” there is always some guesswork involved; nothing is ever guaranteed. But if you’re down and out, and need to find a citation quickly, Google Scholar is extremely effective. I encourage you to try a few searches with a document in hand, and try the above. Check your results and see whether it comes close, or at least within manageable distance. I bet you'll have a fun time regardless.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Why Librarianship?

At dinner today, a fellow colleague asked what are my perceptions of the the profession and the job market. My answer? I am optimistic. While there are the usual problems of budget shrinkages, lower gate counts, competition with bookstores, job cuts (...the list goes on...), this isn't the end. Instead, I am encouraged when I look at our profession from another viewpoint, and less "narrowly" on the traditional concept of librarianship. What do I mean?

Everywhere I see, job ads are popping up with job descriptions that MLIS degree holders possess. Particularly in non-traditional settings, librarians are suited for positions once limited to business, communications, and computer science graduates. Because of the Internet, librarians are partitioned into positions that require unique and specific needs. Instead of a dying breed, librarians are part of a profession that is expanding into different horizons and possibilities. Indeed, physicals walls are crumbling and replaced by virtual ones. Why will we never disappear? I argue four reasons:

(1) Technology – Not just the internet, but social software, “wireless” technology, etc. Librarians are known to be at the forefront of translating technology to users. First it was the OPAC, then the internet, now Web 2.0.

(2) Intelligence – Librarians all have master degrees. The minimum admissions GPA is about at least a B (76%+ above at SLAIS). Librarians are intelligent, well-read, and usually pretty damn creative - all traits for success in the information profession.

(3) Searching – As long as journals and articles exist, there will be databases. As long as databases exist, there will be the need for people to not only search them, but also to train others. With free free search engines, even better.

(4) Management – Librarianship is one of those rare professions where managing is required practically from Day 1. As managers in such positions, these skills are transferable to almost any job. Hence, librarians take heed: it's our time to shine.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Introducing the Web 2.0 Ensemble

The Emerging Web 2.0 social software: an enabling suite of sociable technologies in health and health care education offers a very nice perspective of Web 2.0. Instead of concepts, it delves straight into the tools and offers a look into the different categories of Web 2.0 tools out there. Here are the 10 categories (including an example of each):

(1) Wikis - Pbwiki

(2) Blogs - Blogger

(3) Podcasting - Youtube

(4) Social Bookmarking -

(5) Social Search Engines - Cha Cha

(6) RSS Feeds - Feedburner

(7) Social Networking Services - Friendster

(8) Reputation-Management Systems - Digg

(9) Instant Messaging and Virtual Meetings - Google Talk

(10) Online Social Gaming - Second Life

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The Library as a Conversation

Participatory Networks: The Library as Conversation is an excellent read, one definitely worthy of serious consideration for practitioners who want to rethink the way the library will serve patrons in the future. Libraries need to be part of the conversation of its users, rather than trying to be the single point of entry. Conversations are varied in their mode, places, and players - moreover, conversations are intensely personal. This means that the library needs to be a facilitator, and therefore needs to be varied in its mode and access points. In order to do so, libraries must strategize how to use Web 2.0 tools. But to do that, we must first understand the main components of it. Here are what the authors deem as the core concepts of Web 2.0:

(1) Social Networks - The content of a site should comprise user-provided information that attracts members of an ever-expanding network. (example: Facebook)

(2) Wisdom of Crowds - Group judgments are surprisingly accurate, and the aggregation of input is facilitated by the ready availability of social networking sites. (example: eBay, Wikipedia)

(3) Loosely Coupled API's - Short for "Application Programming Interface," API provides a set of instructions (messages) that a programmer can use to communicate between applications, thus allowing programmers to incorporate one piece of software to directly manipulate (code) into another. (example: Google Maps)

(4) Mashups - They are combinations of APIs and data that result in new information resources and services. (example: Calgary Mapped)

(5) Permanent Betas - The idea is that no software is ever truly complete so long as the user community is still commenting upon it, and thus, improving it. (example: Google Labs)

(6) Software Gets Better the More People Use It - Because all social networking sites seek to capitalize on user input, the true value of each site is definted by the number of people it can bring together. (example: Windows Live Messenger)

(7) Folksonomies - It's a classification system created in a bottom-up fashion and with no central coordination. Entirely differing from the traditional classification schemes such as the Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress Classifications, folksonomies allow any user to "social tag" whatever phrase they deem necessary for an object. (example: Flickr and Youtube).

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Long Tail and Emily Dickinson

Librarians (and all information professionals) need to understand what the Long Tail is in order to fully comprehend the impact of Web 2.0 and the manner in which communication and publishing have changed. The Long Tail was first coined by Chris Anderson in Wired in 2004 which proposed that Amazon and similar Internet companies had changed certain business and economic models. While there are cultural, political, social, and business implications, I think using an analogy might be more appropriate for fleshing out these ideas.

Think of Emily Dickinson. Although she had lived during the 19th century, it wasn't until a century later that her works were "re-discovered," and appreciated by readers. True, the shift from the Victorian to Modernist had helped, but one can imagine what would've happened if Dickinson's ingenuity occurred during our times. According to the Long Tail, things would've been different. Her works wouldn't be hidden in her drawers, but perhaps would be published online or print-on-demand. With services such as Amazon and Netflix, the playing field has been leveled. (Think Thomas Friedman's The World Is Flat).

Because physical geography and scale are no longer important, artists no longer need sales to occupy spaces on bookshelves and video stores. Even the most obscure of artists can have their work published online (be it on Youtube,, or Blogger). In many ways, the "steroids" of wireleness, as Friedman had put it, has merely intensified Dickinson's rise to fame in a matter of months (or days), up from from years and decades. This is the power - or perhaps - inevitability of Web 2.0.

For libraries to move into the "next" level, they must consider how to integrate Web 2.0 concepts such as the Long Tail into their operations. It's not difficult; in fact, it's likely inexpensive and likely not very time-consuming at all. It requires only creativity and an open mind. Here is what Anderson proposes for maximizing the power of the Long Tail:

(1) Make Everything Available - Unlike bookstores, which shelves books based on sales figures, Web 2.0 services make everything available. Without the need to worry about physical space, all you need is a database or catalogue, and some marketing, and voila, you let the patron decide for himself what title(s) he wants. It doesn't matter if it the item gets used only once, what matters is that it's there at all.

(2) Cut the Prices in Half. Now Lower It - When you lower the price, consumers tend to buy more. If lots consumers buy bits and pieces of something, that adds up and in the end, everyone is a winner. (Think iTunes).

(3) Help Me Find It - You can't select what you can't find. Amazon is one service that cleverly employs its users' recommendations, social tagging, and uses encourages an element of social networking for patrons to browse its huge selection of merchandise. It must be the smartest marketing ploy since Coke's secret formula. If libraries can maximize on such creativity, the sky's really the limit. Especially since gate counts are decreasing...

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Librarian 2.0?

Library 2.0 has received quite a bit of controversy recently when Wikipedia community debated whether the term deserved a place on Wikipedia. In the end, Library 2.0 remained, and all is well. Or is it? How about the librarian of the "future," one who works in a Library 2.0? Stephen Abram has an innovative list of what constitutes this Librarian 2.0 model:

(1) Understand the power of the Web 2.0 opportunities

(2) Learn the major tools of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0

(3) Combine e-resources and print formats and is container and format agnostic

(4) Is device-independent and uses and delivers to everything from laptops to PDAs to iPods

(5) Develop targeted federated search and adopts the OpenURL standard

(6) Connect people and technology and information in context

(7) Doesn’t shy away from non-traditional cataloging and classification and chooses tagging, tag clouds, folksonomies, and user-driven content descriptions and classifications where appropriate

(8) Embrace non-textual information and the power of pictures, moving images, sight, and sound

(9) Understand the “long tail” and leverages the power of old and new content

(10) See the potential in using content sources like the Open Content Alliance, Google Print, and Open WorldCat

(11) Connect users to expert discussions, conversations, and communities of practice and participates there as well

(12) Use the latest tools of communication (such as Facebook) to connect content, expertise, information coaching, and people

(13) Use and develops advanced social networks to enterprise advantage

(14) Connect with everyone using their communication mode of choice – telephone, Skype, IM, SMS, texting, email, virtual reference, etc.

(15) Encourage user driven metadata and user developed content and commentary

(16) Understand the wisdom of crowds and the emerging roles and impacts of the blogosphere, Web syndicasphere and wikisphere