Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Librarian 3.0

I was recently asked in a job interview how Web 3.0 would work for a law firm. It's made me think on the fly: how would the Web of the future work in such a scenario? We're barely even half-way into Web 2.0...I had to think back to an article that Michael V. Copeland of Business 2.0 Magazine had written entitled, What's next for the Internet to envision a glimpse of the "future."
The semantic Web in the Berners-Lee vision acts more like a series of connected databases, where all information resides in a structured form. Within that structure is a layer of description that adds meaning that the computer can understand.

Since we're on the topic of visions and dreams, here would be my answer: Imagine the lawyer, Mr. X, flipping open his laptop (which by then would be priced similarly to a cell phone), and typing in "2 o'clock meeting with Angela at Starbucks." All of a sudden, his online calendar would pop open and a series of clients names would appear, and the correct "Angela Smith" would be sent an email with details of the meeting agenda sent to the printer. Starbucks would receive an electronic notification with the usual order of Venti Chai Latte (two cups) and a newspaper -- the Globe and Mail (his favourite) to boot. Because Mr. X's car is in the shop because of a recent accident and a replacement car isn't ready yet, a taxi has been order automatically for Mr. X and will be ready for him upon arrival for 1:30 at the entrance. The ride is estimated for 15 minutes to his destination, but his preference has always been for early arrival.

Finally, it's the library's turn now. Mr. X. sends an email to the librarian, (after all, she is the one responsible for the library's more intricate databases), simply with the message "Wang V. Granville LLP" (both pseudonyms of course), and immediately, the librarian works her magic and types in the necessary key terms. All of the acts, statutes, regulations, as well as updated case files relating to the case are electronically retrieved and stored onto a file which is automatically sent to the lawyer's dossier. (The librarian's job is behind the scene - she is the one who carefully collates the materials and gives them tags which the semantic databases will translate into its own readable language).

The lawyer walks out of the firm nonchalantly and begins his afternoon with everything he needs, but taking only one-tenth of the time and effort he would need back in the days of Web 2.0. That, in my hypothetical world based on user history and preferences and interlocking databases, is how the future of Web 3.0 might look like.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Paradox of Choice

As information professionals, we face a plethora of choice each and everyday of our working lives, from what brand of coffee to buy in the morning to the database we want to conduct for a search. So many choices, so little time to choose. Barry Schwartz, Professor of Social Theory and Social Action, reveals in The Paradox of Choice strategies that can refine our decision-making processes to more effective results. His book is worth a read. Here are some major points:

(1) Choose When to Choose -
If choice makes you feel worse about what you've chosen, you really haven't gained anything from the opportunity to choose. By restricting our options, we will be able to choose less and feel better.

(2) Be a Chooser, Not a Picker - Choosers make the time to modify their goals; pickers do not. Good decisions take time and attention, and the only way we can find the needed time and attention is by choosing our spots.

(3) Satisfice More and Maximize Less - Maximizers suffer most in a culture that provides too many choices. Learn to accept "good enough" since it will simplify decision making and increase satisfaction. Results are subjective sometimes; yet, satisficers will almost always feel better about their decisions.

(4) Think About the Opportunity of Opportunity Costs - The more we think about opportunity costs, the less satisfaction we'll derive from whatever we choose.

(5) Make Your Decisions Nonreversible - The very option of being allowed to change our minds seems to increase the chances that we will change our minds. When we can change our minds about decisions, we are less satisfied with them.

(6) Practice and "Attitude of Gratitude" - Our evaluation of our choices is profoundly affected by what we compare them with, including comparisons with alternatives that exist only in our imaginations. The experience can be either disappointing or delightful. We can improve our subjective experience by consciously striving to be grateful more often for what is good about a choice and to be disappointed less by what is bad about it.

(7) Regret Less - The sting of regret (actual or potential) colours many decisions, and influences us to avoid making decision at all sometimes. Although it is often appropriate and instructive, when it becomes so pronounced that it poisons or even prevents decisions, we should make an effort to minimize it.

(8) Anticipate Adaptation - Learning to be satisfied as pleasures turn into mere comforts will reduce disappointment with adaption when it occurs.

(9) Control Expectations - The easiest route to increasing satisfaction with the results of decisions it to remove excessively high expectations about them.

(10) Curtail Social Comparison - We evaluate the quality of our experiences by comparing ourselves to others, so by comparing ourselves to others less, we will be satisfied more.

(11) Learn to Love Constraints - As the number of choices we face increases, freedom of choice eventually becomes a tyranny of choice. Choice within constraints, freedom within limits, is what enables us marvelous possibilities.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Long Tail, Searching, and Libraries

The Long Tail is the essence of Web 2.0. Understanding how the Long Tail works not only helps in examining how social software such as blogs and wikis impact users and libraries, but ultimately in evaluating how future products (i.e. not invented yet) can be used more creatively and maximized to its full potential. Chris Anderson's concept of the Long Tail analyzes how the media and entertainment industries can succeed not by pushing only mass market hits that are popular among many but by also mining the collective of interest among a few in less-popular books, songs, movies and more.

In other words, although thousands may want to buy a hit song, if you add up all those who want to buy lesser-known titles, they might generate as much or more revenue than the hits themselves. Working in a library or information centre, it is important to tap into both the "head" of interest and the "long tail" that follows behind. Here are the major concepts if applied to libraries:

Rule #1 - Move Inventory Way In . . . or Way Out - Take out physical products and replace them with "virtual inventory."

Rule # 2 - Let Customers Do the Work - Have user-submitted reviews, which are often well-informed, articulate, and most important, trusted by other users.

Rule #3 - One distribution Method Doesn't Fit All - Some want to go to stores, some want to shop online. Some want to research online, others buy in stores. Some want them now, some can wait. Let the customer choose.

Rule #4 - One Product Doesn't Fit All - Allow for different formats of the same thing. A CD album can be "microchunked" into music videos, remixes, all in a number of formats and sampling rates. One size fits one; many sizes fit many.

Rule #5 - One Price Doesn't Fit All - Although this doesn't apply to most libraries, it's important to keep in mind that different people are willing to pay different prices for any number of reasons, from how much money they have to how much time they have. Whatever the library charges should reflect room for flexibility.

Rule #6 - Share Information - More information is better only if it's presented in a way that helps order choice, not confuse it further. Thus, information about buying patterns, when transformed into recommendations can be a powerful marketing tool.

Rule #7 - Think "and" not "or" - In markets with infinite capacity (virtual ones), the right strategy is almost always to offer it all.

Rule #8 - Trust the Market To Do Your Job - Online markets are nothing if not highly efficient measures of wisdom of crowds. Collaborative filters, popularity rankings, and ratings are all tools that reach this goal: don't predict; measure and respond.

Rule #9 - Understand the Power of Free - A powerful feature of digital markets is that they put free within reach; since costs are zero, their prices can be, too. Services such as Sktype and Gmail attract users with a free service and convince some of them to update to a subscription-based premium that adds higher quality features. Libraries need to use digital economics to their advantage: perhaps use free as a starting point for profits?

Friday, August 10, 2007

Web 2.0-ness

Tim O'Reilly offers an intriguing hierarchy of Web 2.0-ness. In this hierarchy, the highest level is to embrace the network, to understand what creates network effects, and then to harness them in everything you do. It's not just about social software; it's much, much more conceptual. It looks something like this:

Level 3 - The application can only exist on the net and draws its eesentaial power from the network and the connections it makes possible between people or applications.
Level 2 - The application could exist offline, but it is uniquely advantaged by being online.
Level 1 - The application can and does exist successfully offline.
Level 0 - The application has primarily taken hold online, but it would work just as well offline.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Friday, August 03, 2007

Happy Long Weekend

It's BC Day here in British Columbia, Canada. Have restful, happy, and sunny long weekend everyone. Here's a fireside chat between Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Wales to keep us in good company.

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)