Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Stephen Abram and the World of Libraries

Stephen Abram is a smart guy. The first time I heard him speak was at the 2008 SLA Conference in Seattle. He was brilliant, to say the least. Abram's almost everywhere you turn your head, he is a workaholic to the nth degree. Abram is a innovative librarian who invests his energies in technology and trend forecasting.. Abram also has more than 25 years in libraries as a practicing librarian and in the information industry. In other words, I trust this guy.

Abram has also been highly acclaimed with numerous awards and leadership positions. He was named by Library Journal in 2002 as one of the key people who are influencing the future of libraries and librarianship. Served as President of both the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and Special Libraries Association (SLA). Here is a candid interview that Abram gave a year ago. He reveals he had to apply twice to get into library school, and how he learned the craft of public speaking.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Seasons Greetings

Seasons greetings everyone. This holidays, as you are enjoying your Christmas at home, please take some time in considering contributing to a worthwhile campaign. The campaign is Books for Darfur Refugees -- which give $1 for each book received as a holiday gift -- the website is:

Books for Darfur Refugees certainly appreciate your helping to spread the word, too. It is a 100% volunteer staffed; 100% of funds raised by this campaign for direct book related aid for Darfur refugees. The good news story here is the inspiration of Darfuris who self-organized their own English classes in refugee camps. For example, they view learning English as their "road to freedom."

Since sending two shipments of specifically requested ESL books to the camps in May 2008, the numbers of refugees learning English has jumped from 400 to 800 (as of July 2008) and now numbers more than 1,100! We are partnering with the British NGO, CORD, that runs education programs for UNHCR and UNICEF in the Bredjing, Treguine, and Gaga camps (60,000 refugees, about 20,000 students, about 1/2 are girls).
The website ( shows inspiring photos of the refugees smiling and holding up the ESL books that were sent to them. Happy New Year everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Professor Jerry Newman on Management

A while back ago, I had written on a book I recommended as a must read for those interested in management techniques and the ways in which people interact in a fast-paced workplace The book, My Life on the McJob, explores this, as Jerry Newman, a management professor at Professor at SUNY Buffalo, decided to conduct an experiment as he worked at seven stores over 14 months – two McDonalds, two Burger Kings, one Wendy’s, one Arby’s and one Krystal (a fast food chain in the South), with the stores being located all over America, in Michigan, Florida and New York. Newman worked all jobs, grill, register, custodian, and observed and documented experiences first-hand.

Newman's case study was so fascinating that I wanted to interview him and ask him more about his book and whether it applied to libraries, which often resembles a retail fast-food chain in terms of frenetic pace with customers and rigid tension between management and staff. Here is our interview:

Question: Libraries are every bit as dysfunctional as any organization. What can libraries learn from McJob? Is your book written for fastfood and retail only? Does it apply for all?

Newman: The book is relevant to any organization that has multiple shifts in the course of a day, or that has multiple units within the organization. I think libraries qualify on both accounts. The biggest problem in multi-unit operations, and this isn't just me speaking - mcd agrees with this - is the inconsistency across time and units. To be great, first you must be consistent. This isn't always "sexy", hence the reason for low interest.

Question: What can managers learn from your book? If there is one thing they can take away from your book, what would it be?
  • Fast food jobs are HARD – both physically and mentally
  • These jobs provide opportunity to learn important life skills
    • Dealing with pressure situations
    • Communicating with peers
    • Managing conflict (with customers, peers)
  • Fast food is more representative of our country’s diversity and makeup than other industries
  • MOST INTERESTING: The store’s manager (and not corporate operations procedures and values) determines the climate and ultimately the success of the workplace

Question: What works? You had mentioned the four four R’s. What are they?

  • Realism…People like predictability, set boundaries and expectations
  • Recognition…Be an ego-architect – reinforce self worth
  • Relationships…Build a social web, identify those employees that connect with others and use them to cultivate camaraderie among the troops
  • Rewards…Gold stars still work

Question: What were some challenges you found?

Newman: How to reward your employees when money is not an option.

  • Provide constructive feedback: Gold stars worked in elementary school, still work now
  • Recognize job proficiency by make an example of a strong employee
  • Offer flexible hours and job security
  • Facilitate social interaction – build a social web, make the work-place a fun-place to be
  • Advertise opportunities to advance
  • Build positive manager/employee relationships

Question: What are some key takeaways from your research in this book?


  • Hiring decisions are key to store success and employee retention
  • Culture has the strongest impact on workers’ behavior – and managers are in control
  • Camaraderie and strong work ethic are a winning combination

Question: Were there any surprises during the extent of your experiences?


  • Fast food is not an easy job
  • No forum for employee feedback and unsolicited feedback on operations/best practices is not welcome
  • Wide disparities exist across stores – even those with the same name
  • Women are better managers
  • Recognition is a powerful motivator

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Gen-Archivaria

Archival programs in North America are few and far between. Only a handful of programs available, the majority of archive programs are narrowly focused on records management techniques. Unfortunately, for social and cultural historians, this narrow approach has its limitations. Although as a profession, archivists have worked side-by-side with historians through the ages, archival sciences is still a young academic field. As Alex Ben's Excluding Archival Silences: Oral History and Historical Absence Excluding Archival Silences: Oral History and Historical Absence argues,

archives remain, largely, material repositories of cultural memory. It is an accepted historical problematic, however, that culture is often resistant to material preservation. There exists an undeniable and profound tension between scholarly efforts to reconstruct history and interpret cultural traditions and the fragmentary, and often limited, material record. That is to say, scholarship is shaped by a sinuous negotiation around the historical silences that encompass all of material culture. Historical silences, however, can at times be marginalized (or at best excluded) by a sensitive configuration of material evidence with oral history.

The new generation archivist should be motivated by the long term preservation of moving images and by the invention of new paradigms for access to celluloid, tape, bits and bytes. It should be rooted in historical, practical and theoretical study - and rather than limiting itself to one methodology, it needs to assign equal importance to heritage collections and emerging media types.

One example of innovative ways of recording the past is UBC's First Nations Studies Program's oral history archive projects. In particular, Interactive Video/Transcript Viewer (IVT) is a web-based tool that sychronizes a video with its transcript, so as users play the video, its transcript updates automatically. In addition to searching a video's transcript for key words and phrases, and then playing the video from that point, IVT includes a tool that allows users to create a playlist of clips from interviews for use in meetings. While it took historians thousands of hours of transcription work, IVT transcribes in real-time. These are the types of technologies archivists need to be aware of, in order for us to create active archives. And this is where information professionals need to be aware - to anticipate the needs of its users.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Web 2.0 and its Identity Crisis

Web 2.0 seems to be facing an identity crisis. We don't know quite know what to do with it anymore. We're talking lots about information overload. Web 2.0 is said to be passe. Web 2.0 in fact, might never have existed at all. (It's just a fabrication of the imagination). Whatever Web 2.0 is, it's certainly an evolutwion of the world wide web, which is a reflection of human civilization. We live in a period of globalization, and the web is a manifestation of this. Take for instance. Queen Rania is launching her presence on YouTube and maximizing on the powers of the social web through her powerful video sharing.

On March 30, 2008, the queen of Jordan, Queen Rania launched her own channel on YouTube with a video in which she asked people to send her their questions about Islam and the Arab world until August 12, 2008 (International Youth Day). By intending to respond to those questions and explain the truth about various stereotypes about Arabs and Muslims, Queen Rania hopes to help heal cultural misunderstandings. She continues to post daily videos on subjects that including honor killings, terrorism and the rights of Arab women. Over the five month conversation, her YouTube site had more than 3 million views. Her success shows us the power of social media. True, Web 2.0 might have a fractured identity. But it's an imprint on globalization and our world.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Road to Web 3.0 for Librarians

Web 3.0 (Presentation)
View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Recently, I presented to a SLAIS class, LIBR 534: Health and Information Services. I gave a talk about Web 3.0, and more specifically, the continuum from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. I strongly believe that the road to Web 3.0 is linear, and that in between is the Semantic Web. While many interchangeably use Web 3.0 and Semantic Web, I differentiate the two and contend that only through harnessing Web 2.0's social and collective collaboration and applying it using Semantic Web's intelligent technologies can we realize the potential of Web 3.0.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Early Learning and Libraries

This is Malcolm Gladwell. His new book, Outliers, is an excellent read and in my opinion, confirms Gladwell as a public intellectual. His book makes a number of insightful findings, but perhaps the most mind-boggling is the argument that cultural heritage plays a strong part in a person's educational abilities. In his argument that Asians perform better at mathematics, Gladwell surmises that it is the inherited working culture of rice paddies which makes all the difference.

Perhaps most controversial is the assertion that upper middle class children often score better on standardized testing because their backgrounds allow for concerted cultivation - that is, the abilities. It's the summer time that makes the difference. Rather than looking at test scores at one time period, we need to take a closer look at the test scores over an entire year, and examine the difference in improvement during the entire year. And what we find is astonishing. The reason for the disparity between the social classes is that privileged children are given more resources to practice and study during the summer time. Perhaps this is not surprising, as libraries play a huge role in the lives of young children. I certainly remember that as a young boy, I went to the local library often. (I only wish I had gone more now that I know how much a summer makes).

Libraries are seminal institutions in a child's early learning and educational experience. I like American Libraries' 12 Ways Libraries Are Good for the Country. It's an excellent thesis to why libraries are important for society:

1. Libraries inform citizens

2. Libraries break down boundaries

3. Libraries level the playing field

4. Libraries value the individual

5. Libraries nourish creativity

6. Libraries open kids’ minds

7. Libraries return high dividends

8. Libraries build communities

9. Libraries make families friendlier

10. Libraries offend everyone

11. Libraries offer sanctuary

12. Libraries preserve the past

Thursday, November 27, 2008

PR 2.0 for Information Pro's

Brian Solis, Principal of FutureWorks, an innovative Public Relations and New Media agency in Silicon Valley, along with Jesse Thomas of JESS3, has created a new graphic that helps chart online conversations between the people that populate communities as well as the networks that connect the Social Web. The Conversation Prism is free to use and share. It's their contribution to a new era of media education and literacy.

The conversation map is a live representation of Social Media evolves as services and conversation channels emerge, fuse, and dissipate. As the authors argue philosophically, if a conversation takes place online and you’re not there to hear or see it, did it actually happen? Indeed. Conversations are taking place with or without you, and this map will help all to visualize the potential extent and pervasiveness of the online conversations that can impact and influence your business and brand.

As a communications, service, and information professionals, we should find ourselves at the center of the prism - whether we are observing, listening or participating. Solis and Thomas' visual map is an excellent complement to The Essential Guide to Social Media and the Social Media Manifesto, which will help us all better understand how to listen and in turn, participate in the Web 2.0 world. A new, braver, world.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Christmas gift from Malcolm Gladwell came early this year. And I just bought a copy. His new book, Outlier, is a magnificent read. In Outliers, Gladwell, the ever-curious mind, examines why some people succeed, living remarkably productive and impactful lives, while so many more never reach their potential. Analyzing historical nuances from Asian rice paddies to the birthdates of Canadian junior hockey players, Gladwell forces us to re-examine our cherished belief of the "self-made man," and throws out the long-held notion that "superstars" do not come from nowhere. Although born with innate genius and talent, successful people are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.

While there are a plethora of intellectual points for discussion, 'practical intelligence' in my opinion, is the new key term to take away from Gladwell's book. PQ is a term that psychology Robert J. Sternberg proposed, when he argued that there are three intelligences in human cognition:

(1) Analytical intelligence - the ability to analyze and evaluate ideas, solve problems and make decisions

(2) Creative intelligence - involves going beyond what is given to generate novel and interesting ideas

(3) Practical intelligence - the ability that individuals use to find the best fit between themselves and the demands of the environment.

The three intelligences, or as he also calls them three abilities, comprise what Sternberg calls Successful Intelligence: "the integrated set of abilities needed to attain success in life, however an individuals defines it, within his or her sociocultural context." While society tends to have bought into the idea that innate talent, through such test devices as IQ tests, can predict the success of a person, Gladwell re-examines this piece of wisdom, and argues otherwise. This book will be useful for anyone with a curiosity for success. It gives us a better, more complex, inquiry into what fuels success. And it's not just about brains, you know.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Calling All Librarians - Reference Extract

Calling all librarians. Reference Extract is coming to you all. Envisioned as a web search engine, like Google, Yahoo and MSN. Reference Extracts will be built for maximum credibility by relying on the expertise and credibility judgments of librarians from around the globe. However, unlike other search engines, users enter a search term and get results weighted towards sites most often referred to by librarians at institutions such as the Library of Congress, the University of Washington, the State of Maryland, and over 1,400 libraries worldwide. The Reference Extract project is being developed by the Online Computer Library Center and the information schools of Syracuse University and the University of Washington. With a $100,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Reference Extract strives to build the foundation necessary to implement it as a large-scale, general user service.

My thoughts? It's not unlike similar attempts to outdo Google. Have you heard of Refseek? RefSeek does not claim to offer more results than Google; instead, it strips any results not related to science, research and academia. It’s different from Google Scholar in that it indexes documents that includes web pages, books, encyclopedias, journals, and newspapers. It also has more results from .edu and .org sites as well as various online encyclopedias such as Wikipedia and With Refseek and Reference Extract, are we having much of the same, except in a different shape and size? We'll see...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Secret Life on the McJob

If there is one book you need to read for this Christmas holidays, make it My Secret Life on the McJob. I just couldn't put it down after coming across it up from my local library. My first position out of university was for a big box retail bookstore, and it was tough. (It brings back haunting memories that resonates today). Retail is tough. And professor Jerry Newman of University at Buffalo's State University of New York explains this in pristine detail as he worked undercover in the lowest rung minimum wage labour world of fast food restaurants to reveal insightful, and at times, disturbing practices in retail culture.

In my opinion, My Secret Life on the McJob is a paradigmatic shift in the field work analysis of organizations. Too often Library and Information Science educators are narrowly confined to questionnaires and quantitative analyses and equally narrowly churning out generic, boring, and unusable data about user statistics. Instead of viewing from the top-down, Newman does the exact opposite. Jerry Newman turns a stunted methodology of interviewing and statistical analysis on its head by actually doing a personal sacrifice (physical risk included) through experiencing the problems and flaws of organization behaviour and working as a covert fast food worker. What does he discover? The inefficiencies of retail, fast food, and traditional hierarchical management techniques passed down by the Ford Assembly Line era are not working in our globalized, mobile workforce era.

What Newman forces us to review about our workplace is that people are important. It's about the people. Good ideas come from the front lines. This applies not only to the retail world, but businesses of any kind, and especially libraries.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Are Libraries Knowledge Cafes?

World Cafés are an emerging phenomenon. It's a conversational process based on an innovative yet simple methodology for hosting conversations about questions that matter. These conversations link and build on each other as people move between groups, cross-pollinate ideas, and discover new insights into the questions or issues that are most important in their life, work, or community. As a process, the World Café nurtures the collective intelligence of any group, and in doing so increases people's capacity for effective action in pursuit of common or similar aims.

The World Café refers to a living network of conversations that is continually co-evolving as we explore questions that matter with our family, friends, colleagues, and community. In helping us notice these invisible webs of dialogue and personal relationships that enable us to learn, create shared purpose, and shape life-affirming futures together, the metaphor of the "World as Café" is a growing global community of people, groups, organizations, and networks using World Café principles and processes to harness wisdom of the crowds.

As information professionals and librarians, we need to take notice of such trends and see how it can be applied in our own work spaces. Many knowledge managers today are introducing what they call knowledge commons in which employees can freely (or not) chat among themselves as they commute to and fro during the day. As a result, this space is turned into a knowledge hub where gossip, conversation, and useful ideas normally trapped within the confines of cubicle and office walls are broken free and released into the work place, making for a growth of a healthy work culture and environment.

In a way, this is done everyday in the form of Web 2.0 technologies through social network and instant messaging programs such as Facebook, Twitter, instant messaging, and blogs. Employers, especially knowledge workers, must find a way to integrate this into their working spaces. In my opinion, libraries and information centres need to look towards the knowledge cafes model. Libraries must turn towards becoming information cafes and less as gatekeepers of information.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Web 2.0 Publishing

In Vancouver, there are two publications which have very divergent approaches to not only Asian Canadian issues, but also the use of media and the web. Ricepaper Magazine, established in 1994, as a forum for up and coming Asian writers and artists in Canada, limits its definition of "Asian" to the Pacific Asian Rim ethnic groups Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Focusing mainly on writers of these ethnic origins, Ricepaper depends mainly on the quarterly print publication as its main point of distribution and have a very static website with limited updates.

Contrast that with Schema Magazine. Schema Magazine strives to reflect the most culturally mobile and diverse generation of Canadians, the generation it coins cultural navigators. We showcase their unique sensibilities, interests and their pursuit of ethnic cool. As Schema's focus on the Vancouver Asian Film Festival shows, the focus of "Asian" is broad and widely interpretable. Schema also uses Web 2.0 technologies as its main channel of communication. Not only does it use a content management system for its webpage, it also has a Youtube channel of Schema's interviews.

The two rival Asian Canadian organization offer an insightful examination into the changing landscape of media and publishing. Staff-wise, both are similar - yet, when it comes to coverage and reach of audience, Web 2.0 simply wins out.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Web 3.0 in the Era of Pledging

Are you ready to be tracked, monitored, and followed? Every step of the way? Well, you better get ready. That's what Web 3.0 technology will be about I predict. That's where we're going, and that's where we'll be. But is PledgeBank a Web 3.0 service?

PledgeBank is a service that helps people get things done, especially things that require several people. How does it do this? Heather Cronk argues in Pushing Towards Web 3.0 Organizing Tools that is a Web 3.0 tool. Couldn't be farther from the truth. If it looks like a Web 2.0, smells like Web 2.0, and quacks like Web 2.0 . . . then it's likely Web 2.0. Which is exactly what is. No matter how many ways you analyze it and dissect the features, it's simply an aggregated social networking engine. Perhaps not even that.

PledgeBank allows users to set up pledges and then encourages other people to sign up to them. A pledge is a statement of the form 'I will do something, if a certain number of people will help me do it'. The creator of the pledge then publicises their pledge and encourages people to sign up. Two outcomes are possible – either the pledge fails to get enough subscribers before it expires (in which case, we contact everyone and tell them 'better luck next time'), or, the better possibility, the pledge attracts enough people that they are all sent a message saying 'Well done—now get going!'

That's not Web 3.0. That's simply wishful thinking. Web 3.0 is about third generation web computing. It's about the webtop. It's about digital outreach in its purest form. It's about the ability to have the intelligent web at your hands, having your settings uniquely tailored to you. It's beyond the Web and into our daily lives. Something that PledgeBank simply is not. So . . . back to the drawing board . . .

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Information Architecture for LIS Educators

I remember back in LIS school how a prof had told the class that LIS was no longer 'library' school. We didn't need to think so narrowly about working in physical 'libraries.' I didn't quite believe him, and didn't quite understand what options were available for someone with a LIS degree but wanted to pursue other fields. I ended up in an academic library, but that's because I enjoy the university environment and still get to play with emerging technologies for my position. But what my prof had said is true. A friend of mine is currently working in Japan, as a virtual librarian for a North American-based company. I think it goes to show that the world-is-flat-theory is even more true - wirelessness is enabling the world to communicate and collaborate in ways never imaginable before. This is where information professionals come in. Take a look at the job description below. It's a perfect fit for an LIS grad that has the skills, flexibility, and foresight to go far.

Interactive Information Architect - Carlson Marketing Canada - Toronto

As an Interactive Information Architect (IA), you will be responsible for designing new and enhanced functionality for new and existing Client sites, with an emphasis on usability. The role requires well-demonstrated skills in interaction design, solidly informed by usability principles, user interface design standards, and best practices. To be successful, you must quickly understand current applications and new requirements, be able to derive the IA from documented functional requirements, and collaborate with fellow designers, account managers and programmers. Multiple stakeholders will have input and feedback on design output. Expect work to be highly interactive.


(1) Must communicate clearly and effectively; strong analytical and oral communication skills, able to collaborate actively with cross-functional teams.

(2) Must be organized, independent, and able to switch rapidly between different projects in a fast-paced and exciting environment.

(3) Must be able to develop new approaches to complex design problems and meet aggressive deadlines.
(4) Must have an eye for detail and can put ideas into a tangible form.

(1) Must have experience in E-commerce, custom application development, brand sites and consumer promotional environments (game theory background an asset)
(2) Thorough knowledge of the web site design process: creative brief, user interface design, task modeling, wire frame and user flow diagramming, usability testing, etc. Be prepared to show interim deliverables, rather than final work in the interview process.
(3) Proven skills in information synthesis, conceptual modeling, task modeling, UI design principles, human factors, User Centered Design, interaction design, usability methodologies, industry standards and trends, platform standards, and software development process.
(4) Strong understanding and experience with HTML, Java, JavaScript, Flash, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator, Microsoft Visio, Dreamweaver, Axure
(5) Capable of adhering to project schedules and effectively tracking progress to meet challenging deadlines and corporate initiatives.
(7) Ability to work both independently and as part of a team
(8) Proven track record of successful IA deliverables.
(9) Designing for wireless devices a plus