Saturday, September 21, 2013

Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace - Ron Deibert at The Citizen Lab



Ron Deibert conducts some of the most provoking and controversial research around today in academica. His area of study extends beyond the international relations diplomacy to digital cyberspace all around us.  And it is all around us: we depend on it for everything we do.  Business, governance, and social relations around a planetary network rely heavily on the Internet. Ron Deibert, one of Canada's leading expert on digital technology, security, and human rights, reaches far into the dark corners of the hidden Web, and examines how seemingly powerful but mostly invisible agents are scrambling for control.

Deibert's Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto has been an innovative hub of excavating cyber criminal activities at the intersection of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), human rights, and global security.  "Cybergangs" such as Koobface have made social media their stalking ground, and that is where the Citizen Lab comes in.  Deibert's work at the Munk School of Global Affairs has completed some amazing findings, and its results form the foundation in the recent publication of Black Code: Inside the Battle for Cyberspace.  

Drawing on the first-hand experiences of one of the most important protagonists in the battle — the Citizen Lab and its global network of frontline researchers have spent more than a decade cracking cyber espionage rings and uncovering attacks on citizens and NGOs worldwide — Black Code takes readers on a fascinating journey into the battle for cyberspace.   It reveals how governments limit as much as possible how much is revealed about its surveillance and digital espionage wars with cyber criminals.  We only know partially the inner workings of Koobface, one of the deadliest computer worms out there that targets social networks, even though much of it has been researched thanks to government interference.  

Ron Deibert's background is equally fascinating as the work he conducts as an academic researcher.  Born and raised in the blue-collar Eastside Vancouver in 1964, Deibert was an occasional delinquent and mildly struggling student whose application to study journalism at community college was rejected. 

Interestingly, graduate studies in international relations at Queen’s University followed along with a fortunate encounter with a sympathetic professor who helped him secure a place in the doctoral program at the UBC Political Science department after being rejected on his first try.  A fledgling student with a fuzzy focus on what to write his dissertation on, Deibert eventually realized that information technology, particularly the nascent Internet, would revolutionize world politics and change his life.  The rest is history, of course.

Recommended Reading:
Koobface: Inside a Crimeware Network by Nart Villeneuve, with a foreword by Ron Deibert and Rafal Rohozinski. [Link]

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Vancouver Police Museum and Immersive Programming


The Vancouver Police Museum, the oldest police museum in North America, is one of my favourite visits in the city of Vancouver, BC.   Long considered one of the best police museums in the world by the International Police Association, is looking for a Foreign Language Programmer.  It's a wonderfully creative position and certainly one which I haven't seen before in public programming.  The Vancouver Police Museum's public programs are ranked among the best in the city by Yelp.com, and canoe.ca rated the museum's Sins of the City program one of the World's Ten Best City Walks.

Through its expansion of programs, museum is striving attract more foreign visitors, primarily from Europe (hence the German language requirement).  It is seeking an organized, motivated and creative individual to join its team, and will take the lead in transforming current English-based programs and literature, initially into French and German, and later into other European languages.  The Foreign Language Programmer will play a leading role in marketing the museum and its programs to European visitors, and have a clear voice on the museum's vision of public programs.   It's worth taking a look.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

From Open Stacks to Open Access - the Long History of University Libraries

Image courtesy: University of Idaho Library
Though difficult to imagine, the concept of the modern library with open stacks fully flushed with mass collections for faculty and students to browse through.  For much of the twentieth century, most academic research libraries functioned with "closed stacks", meaning staff had to retrieve materials as users requested them, so the loans and periodicals desks were busy as you can see from the image above.

It really wasn't until the 1970s that research libraries began to alter its relationship with its users. Shill's 1980 report in the College and Research Libraries is one of the earliest and foremost studies done on the impacts of open stacks.  Although the utility of open stack systems has been widely debated up to that time (there were some that still held back on "opening" up their collections), not much empirical research relevant to the so-called controversy was available until Shill's work.

Using circulation, book availability, and search and library-use statistics of the main library at West Virginia University, major elements of the direct access debate were tested in a six-year study of the library that has recently undergone the transition from closed to open stacks in 1976.   The thinking at the time was that closed stack arrangements conserved shelf space and made detailed subject classification unnecessary.


Shill's findings disproved the conventional assumption at the time of a zero-sum game in which open stack systems would increase circulation to the detriment of book availability.  West Virginia University Library's three-year period revealed that was simply not the case; rather, a sharp increase in building occurred.  In fact, as the data reveals in Table 1, patrons actually used the library more with the novel idea of allowing them to physically access the books all by themselves.

This flashback is an example of how far the library has come in a relatively short amount of time.  Now the library world has moved beyond the physic collections, and is grappling with the notion of open access.  Academic librarians push hard for faculty and student research to be widely accessible for the online world.  I'm especially looking forward to this year's Open Access Week because we've finally reached the sixth year.  (It's felt longer!)

For more reading:


Shill, Harold B. "Open Stacks Library Performance." College and Research Libraries 41.3 (1980): 220-26. [Link]

Rovelstad, Mathilde V. "Open Shelves/Closed Shelves in Research Libraries."College and Research Libraries 37.5 (1976): 457-67.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

What Are Innovative Early Adopters Doing with 3D Printing in Libraries?

3D Printing at Rodgers Library 
Like a computer printer, a 3D printer processes directions from your computer and “prints out” those instructions. However, instead of ink on paper it prints in plastic and silicon – for those curious, even chocolate and frosting. Libraries have a central role to play in this emergent technology. In its position as a nexus for research on university campuses, academic libraries should function as universal access points for these technologies.

By offering 3D scanning technology,  libraries can use this technology internally for archival purposes whie also opportunities for self-education and lifelong learning for its students and faculty. For instance, Engineering and architecture students can create and manipulate 3-D designs in programs like AutoCAD in order to print inexpensive prototype versions of their designs, which they can review and rework as they see fit.  Can you imagine the possibilities of this technology?  What libraries are innovative in the area of 3D printing? Here are some early adopters:

Dalhousie Libraries - NextEngine 3D scanner and a MakerBot Replicator 3D

Dalhousie Libraries combines the NextEngine 3D scanner and MakerBot Replicator 3D printer. Since a higher end 3D scanner was already available in the engineering department, the NextEngine 3D scanner was a good starting point for other Faculties interested in experimenting with the technology. The NextEngine 3D scanner also allowed the various museums, archives, and the art gallery on campus to digitize various items from their physical collections.

Fayetteville Free Library - the Fab Lab

The Fayetteville Free Library, in Fayetteville New York, has opened the FFL Fab Lab where they offer diverse DIY (do-it-yourself) programming ranging from creative writing, book making, 3D printing and have free access to 3D printing technology.

3D Printing Studio at The University of Alabama Libraries

UA Libraries uses a Bits from Bytes (BFB) 3D Touch double head printer for its 3D Printing Studio. In its workshops, workshops, users have came from various departments such as Art, Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Biology and English. Studio location, implementation of a two-step training process, and independent user operation have all contributed to making the UA Libraries 3D Printing Studio
a successful pilot project.

Recommended Reading and Resources:

Groenendyk, Michael. "A Further Investigation into 3D Printing and 3D Scanning at the Dalhousie University Libraries: a Year Long Case Study." (2013). [Link]

Heater, Brian. “The shape of things to come: A consumer's guide to 3D printers.” Endgadget. Jan 29th, 2013. [Link]

Ratto, Matt, and Robert Ree. "Materializing information: 3D printing and social change." First Monday 17.7 (2012). [Link]

Scalfani, Vincent F., and Josh Sahib. "A Model for Managing 3D Printing Services in Academic Libraries." Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship (2013). [Link]

Tweney, Dylan. "DIY freaks flock to hackerspaces worldwide." Wired, March, available at: www. wired. com/gadgetlab/2009/03/hackerspaces/(accessed September 24, 2012) (2009). [Link]

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gesture-Based Computing Technology Comes in Leaps and Bounds



The Horizon Report 2012 had accurately forecast that gesture-based computing would be an important technology to watch out for.   Although gamers are already familiar with Nintendo Wii and Microsoft’s Kinect system extend  that to hand and arm motions, or body movement, these first-generation technologies were often clunky and had limited movement and mobility.  Gesture-based technology (also known as motion control) is much more than just gaming as it promises to revolutionize the way we interact with computing technology.

One of the earliest companies coming out of the gate is Leap Motion, which has designed and will be launching a device that allows users to bring “motion control” to their computers.  How will it look?  Perhaps similar to how Captain John Anderton managed multiple computer screens using motion control in Minority Report.  Imagine that we could be seeing the end of the keyboard and mouse.

As Leap Motion becomes reality using a small box the size of a matchbox to handle motion control technology, users can navigate on their screens by waving their hands in the air, and launch and play games on PCs without ever touching the keyboard or mouse.  A sensor is placed on his desk in front of the screen and connects via USB. Once connected, gesture-based computing allows users to engage in virtual activities  with motions and movements similar to what they would use in the real world, manipulating content intuitively.

What type of learning applications can gesture-based computing be useful for?  In medicine, for example, gesture-based motion control enables virtual autopsy using a multi-touch table. Detailed CT scans can be created from a living (or deceased person) and transferred to the table where they are manipulated with gestures, allowing forensic scientists to examine a body, make virtual cross-sections, and view layers including skin, muscle, blood vessels, and bone.  Can you imagine what libraries and museum collections can do by adopting gesture-based computing?

More Resources:

Ne├čelrath, R., Lu, C., Schulz, C. H., Frey, J., & Alexandersson, J. (2011). A Gesture Based System for Context–Sensitive Interaction with Smart Homes. In Ambient Assisted Living (pp. 209-219). Springer Berlin Heidelberg. [Link]

Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., & Ludgate, H. (2013). NMC Horizon Report: 2013 Higher Education Edition. [Link]

Maiti, A. (2013, February). Interactive remote laboratories with gesture based interface through microsoft kinect. In Remote Engineering and Virtual Instrumentation (REV), 2013 10th International Conference on (pp. 1-4). IEEE. [Link]

Mistry, P., & Maes, P. (2009, December). SixthSense: a wearable gestural interface. In ACM SIGGRAPH ASIA 2009 Sketches (p. 11). ACM. [Link]



Friday, May 31, 2013

Winnipeg Public Library's Millennium Library

I recently had a chance to catch a tour of the magnificent Millennium Library, which is the main branch of the Winnipeg Public Library during the Canadian Library Association 2013 Conference.   Quite impressed with the size of the collection as well as architecture of this library, I decided to do research on this main branch of the library system after having attended the presentation of Kimberly Parry, now the Outreach Services Librarian at the Winnipeg Public Library, on "Getting Graphic in Consumer Health" and her previous experience of building and promoting a consumer health graphic novel collection.   Upon entering the Millennium Library, I was astounded at the diversity and public-friendly spaces and signage of the library's space.   Here are some facts about this library:
  • Redevelopment of this main branch involved the addition of 40,000 square feet of new space, construction of a new fourth floor and renovations throughout the existing 110,000-square-foot library
  • Aboriginal Reading-in-the-Round with welcoming spaces for the city's large Aboriginal population 
  • Art exhibition space along the Carol Shields Auditorium, Buchwald Room, Anhang Room space
  • Millennium Library Park - Finished only in 2012, the park is a rebuilt plaza on an artificial wetland aerated by a pair of windmills, a wooden walkway built out of sustainably farmed wood, birch trees planted in deep pots, two new pieces of public art, and low fences and a raised floor







Saturday, May 11, 2013

Being Decisive in 4 Steps

As librarians, decision-making is an ubiquitous part of our profession.  Whether it is systematic review searching on databases, collection purchases, staff hiring, or building renovations, we are constantly synthesizing information to derive at making a decision.  The Heath Brothers (Chip and Dan) have done it again in Decisive with another immaculately written book that is both practical and entertaining to readers.  In this book, the authors reveal that much of human decision-making is hindered by biases and irrationalities.  Not only are we often overconfident, we trust self-fulfilling instincts while getting distracted by short-term emotions.  I certainly enjoyed learning more about how to re-focus my lens when making decisions myself.  So I thought I'd share with you all the Heath's four-step plan to making better decisions:

Widen Your Options - Often we have a narrow frame and do not widen our options which are more plentiful than we think.  When we take out the binary "yes/no" options, we realize we actually have more options than we think.  In fact, find someone who's already solved your problem for an answer.

Reality-Test Your Assumptions - Because we naturally choose self-confirming information, we should discipline ourselves to consider the opposite of our instincts.  While we trust customer reviews on products and services, we usually don't do the same with our personal lives.  We often trust our "insider" view rather than the objective "outside" view enough.  To gather the best information, we should "zoom out and zoom in" (outside view + close up).  Rather than jumping in head-first, we need to make small steps to test-run our theories and instincts.  

Attain Distance Before Deciding - Because we often make decisions based on emotion, we should distance ourselves which could come from an observer's perspective such as asking "What would I tell my best friend to do in this situation?"  Another strategy is the 10/10/10 which focuses us to consider future emotions in 10 hours/10 months/ 10 year intervals so that we can detach ourselves from the short-term while looking at the bigger picture in the long run.  

Prepare To Be Wrong - Because the future is not a single scenario or finish-line, we need to bookend our future and prepare for multiple results -- both good and bad.  By preventing the autopilot syndrome which often happens when leaving past decisions unquestioned.  By setting "tripwires," we automatically have triggers that tell us when to be alert even without our consciously knowing it.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Higher Education: Blended Learning, Flipped Classroom, and MOOCs

Massive Open Online Course (MOOCs) has been dominating discourse in academia the past year, and is only going to continue to heat up.  The major question for MOOC providers and universities alike in the coming years will be whether or not these courses will be recognized for transfer credit in higher education.  While there has only been discussion on this topic with no on-campus university publicly acknowledging that they will begin accepting these courses in the near future, some academic administrators have proposed a role for MOOCs within traditional higher education.   What that role is depends on whom you ask.  For example, one Stanford University Vice Provost for Online Learning John Mitchell envisions substituting traditional lectures with MOOCs so that on-campus time is spent collaborating and discussing rather than lecturing.  Commonly referred to as the "flipped classroom," this is already happening with some university classes that integrate webcast lectures.  Another possibility is integrating MOOCs into the university admissions process, namely using them in high schools.  As MOOCs gradually integrate into university curriculum, changes will be aplenty.   Currently, there are three major institutions looking to re-envision how MOOCs will be used in universities.  Although still quite early in experimentation, they do pose questions for faculty and academic libraries: what role will they play in this transition?

EdX:  A non-profit company created by Harvard and MIT, it hosts nine online courses mirroring on-campus courses taught by these universities.  Although its courses concentrate in the "hard" sciences of computer programming, artificial intelligence, and quantitative methods, plans are underway to add social science and humanities courses to the platform in the coming months. While courses differ in their exact approach, generally students view prerecorded lectures, complete embedded exercises, and submit assignments for grades within a designated timeframe for course completion. Certificates of completion from EdX are awarded to students, but they do not receive transcript credit from the university offering the course.

Udacity: A for-profit company founded by former Stanford Professor Sebastien Thurn, this institution has offered nineteen courses that have been developed by a team of four scholars, focusing on the hard sciences of computer science, physics, and statistics among others.  Once completed, students receive a certificate of completion from Udacity, as well as designations of "Accomplishment," "Accomplishment with Distinction," and "Accomplishment with Highest Distinction" based on their performance and involvement in the course. One of the most unique elements of completing a MOOC from Udacity is that students can elect to have their resume distributed to Silicon Valley companies looking for candidates with programming and quantitative skills.

Coursera: Currently offering more than 200 courses covering a range of subjects, this for-profit company hires faculty representing over thirty universities, including Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, and the University of Virginia, to create its courses.  While certificates of completion are awarded, transcript credit is not recognized by any university.

Recommended Reading

The Professors' Big Stage by Thomas Friedman [Link]

What do Librarians Need to Know About MOOCs? [Link]

Are You MOOC-ing Yet? A Review for Academic Libraries [Link]

For Making the Most of College, It's Still Location, Location, Location [Link]

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Assignment #1 - MARC Records


010 - 2013012755 (Library of Congress Control Number)
020 - 9780393082876 -(International Standard Book Number, ISBN - softcover)
020 - 0393082873 (International Standard Book Number, ISBN - hardcover)
100 - Townsend, Anthony M., | d 1973
245 - Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia (Title Statement)
250 - First Edition (Edition statement)
260 - New York | Chelsea House | 1986. (Publication, distribution, etc.)
300 - 384 pages; | c 24 cm (Physical description)
520 - Urbanist and technology expert Anthony Townsend takes a broad historical look at the forces that have shaped the planning and design of cities and information technologies from the rise of the great industrial cities of the nineteenth century to the present. A century ago, the telegraph and the mechanical tabulator were used to tame cities of millions. Today, cellular networks and cloud computing tie together the complex choreography of mega-regions of tens of millions of people. (Summary, etc. note)
650 - City planning | Technological innovations (Subject added entry -- Topical term)
700 - Townsend, Anthony Miller (Added entry -- Personal name)

Possible Personal Reflection Questions:




Sunday, March 03, 2013

Why Enterprise 2.0 Is Not Social Media

As a critic of social media and all its glorious benefits, BJ Mendelson is an ideal individual as he comes from the point of a view as a journalist who examines the "hype" of social media.  While some commentators have reacted negatively to Mendelson's controversial premise in Social Media is Bullshit that social media marketing is not only customized for enterprises, but also marketing authors are scam artists making money while not offering anything of value; in fact, social media marketing does not even work unless you have a multi-million dollar budget and a healthy media presence.  Mendelson makes no qualms in his expose of social media and he pulls no punches on the industry's icons such as Seth Godin, Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, and Robert Scoble.   At the heart of Mendelson's message is the central concern that capital enterprise has manipulated the communicative and collaborative value of social media.   How flawed is social media enterprise?  Here are some key themes:

1.  Offline matters more than online - Trying to make millions off a niche platform on the Web is not a good idea.  It's rare when it happens, and most those who do try are merely salesmen who got lucky because they were at the right place at the right time, had the right connections in the industry, and got backing from the media.

2.  Longtail is misleading - It's a terrible business model if you're not a media outlet.  Niches must have enough of a critical mass behind it to support your business.  Most don't.

3.  Viral is Driven Offline, not Online - 99% of viral videos are driven by real-world connections, traditional media, corporate support, and established celebrities.  It's like getting struck by lightning - it happens, but it's rare.  Making something go viral organically is not as easy as social media experts try to frame it

4.  The concept that merely posting something online people will see it is false.  YouTube videos generally are unwatched and most websites go unnoticed.  It's just too much out there.

5.  Metrics like "engagement" and "awareness" are misleading.  Social media metrics usually do not mean anything.  People who rave about metrics with promises of "ROI" have no solid proof that it can be easily replicated, unlike TV ratings which correlate to high ratings.  Large corporations use social media merely as promotion; it's usually viewed as a loss leader than a money-maker.

6.  Cyberhipsters get defensive by calling detractors "dinosaurs" - People who are confident in what they know will sit down and have a conversation with you that doesn't involve outrageous superlatives like "engage or die."  Sales tactics involve making people feel left out if they don't adopt the latest platform are so effective.  Most of the time, they don't know what they're talking about.

7.  Social media platforms are bad for business - For example, Twitter is useful for cosmopolitan cities where strangers can be connected within a short distance and where it is difficult to break out of anonymity

8.  Those who sell you on the idea of "influencers" are usually influencers themselves.  Your presence on different platforms is redundant.  If it is a good idea or a product, people will do the work of sharing it for you

9.  Analysts repackage what they've read elsewhere and then sell it at outrageously marked-up prices.  If the analysts are saying it, it's likely too late to be ahead of the curve.  Selling insight is an updated version of the infamous snake oil salesmen.

10.  The 1% rule - 99% of users of the web are anonymous.  The minority of users do the majority of the talking on the Web while the rest of us just listen or lurking.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Selling, Communicating, and the Pixar Method

Daniel Pink's To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others is a fascinating look into the "art" of moving people.  Using a mix of social science, survey research, and rich stories, the book shows that white-collar workers now spend an enormous portion of their time persuading, influencing, and moving others. Then it reveals the personal qualities and specific skills necessary for doing it better.  What I found most profound about this is the keys to moving people, which really isn't just "sales" but more of thoughtful communication: such as rhyming; questioning; one-word pitch; and of course, the "Pixar Pitch."   What Pink argues is that in our knowledge-based, information economy - jobs have become more elastic and entrepreneurial.  As a result, anyone from doctors to accountants to teachers need to "sell" and convince more than ever.  (Librarians?  Information professionals?  A lightbulb moment for me here.)   This is a highly engaging and energizing read and I highly recommend you flip through the pages and take a look for yourself  In our knowledge economy, one that relies on connecting more than ever whether it be in-person or online, the ability to clearly and buoyantly communicate is critical.

Friday, December 28, 2012

e-Paper of the Future?



It's almost 2013, and with that, I wish everyone sincere wishes to a wonderful new year.  Although not quite 2013 yet, the tenth edition 2013 findings from the New Media Consortium Horizon Project is out. The report identifies and describes emerging technologies likely to have an impact on learning, teaching, and creative inquiry in higher education. Twelve emerging technologies are identified across the horizon over the next one to five years.

Flexible Displays is one technology I'm highlighting here.  Organic light emitting diode displays (OLED), which first entered the mass market in 2004 is different from traditional glass-based LCD units as OLED displays are manufactured on thin, pliable plastics, prompting the term "flexible displays.”  The arrival of the world’s thinnest OLED display in 2008 by Samsung introduced a screen that was pliable and could easily be folded — features that gave rise to the ideas of unbreakable smartphones and bendable tablets. By 2009, popular news outlets including CBS and Entertainment Weekly were including “video in print” inserts in smaller circulations of their magazines, demonstrating the new technology. Opportunities offered by flexible OLED screens in educational settings is now being experimented for e-texts, e-readers, and tablets.  Flexible displays can wrap around curved surfaces, allowing for the possibility of smart tables and desks!

What is the relevance for Teaching, Learning, Research, or Creative Inquiry?
  •  Flexible screens can easily be attached to objects or furniture, regardless of their shape, and can even be worn — making them far more adaptable and portable than standard computer screens and mobile devices.
  • Prototypes for flexible displays in the form of “e-paper” that can be crumbled up and discarded just like real paper.  This will be revolutionary to e-book publishers, librarians, and others to reimagine how digital textbooks and e-readers are produced and delivered with inexpensive low-cost e-reading devices (on paper!)  


Monday, December 24, 2012

The Weightless Economy According to Chris Anderson



Best known for his coinage of the "long tail" and then the "free economy," Chris Anderson editor of Wired magazine is at it again with his latest innovation: the "maker."   We're in the midst of a 'new industrial revolution,' -- the first one took off in Britain between 1700 and 1850 with factories and industry mills; the second one was in 1850 to the 1920s with the T-Ford Model assembly line and the Taylor's scientific management.   The Web has allowed for a do-it-yourself (DIY) model that's paved the way for a 'weightless economy' in which trade is intangible information, services, and intellectual property rather than physical goods - literally realizing Marx's assertion that "all that is solid melts into air."

Makerspace should be a key term in 2013 and beyond.   Digital experts such as Don Tascott has discussed elements of this in Macrowikinomics but Anderson furthers the boundaries of the digital into the physical arguing that entrepreneurship can be democratized and opened up to anyone with an internet connection.  But why stop there?  Makerspaces can exist in learning and education.   The blogosphere is already buzzing with early prototypes of makerspaces, including the a recent Forbes article about Fayetteville Free Library's first makerspace lab featuring 3D printers and a hackers laboratory.

Education is the next realm.  Take a look at the website Makerspace, which takes  the makerspace concept and applies it in an educational context. Why not allow educators and students to learn from one another? Makerspace introduces high schools to small-scale, distributed digital design and manufacturing technologies in order to help their students realize the creative potential of cutting-edge hardware and software tools. The goal is to show students that they can have an idea, design it on a computer, and make it into a real object. It supports this goal by designing tools (software and hardware) that are low-cost with interfaces that are powerful, yet intuitive. Its byline is simply:
Building a resource for Educators and Makers working to inspire young people to make projects in art, craft, engineering, green design, math, music, science, technology, and more

Saturday, November 24, 2012

No Shelf Required - e-Books In a Time of Transition

No Shelf Required® is a blog about eBooks, loosely defined to discuss eBooks, audio books, and other digital content found in libraries as well as the technology needed to read and listen to this digital content. Created in 2008 by Sue Polanka, now Head of Reference & Instruction at Wright State University Libraries, the blog has evolved as a forum for librarians and publishers. particularly focuings on the issues, concepts, current and future practices of Ebook publishing including: finding, selecting, licensing, policies, business models, use (tracking), best practices, ebook readers, and promotion/marketing. She recently edited a follow-up to her first book, No Shelf-Required 2, which is a strong compilation of articles dealing with eBooks in this time of transition and uncertainty. In this book, I find a number of thought-provoking issues raised:

Do E-books Bridge the Digital Divide? - The digital divide spans much more than just digital and information literacy -- it also includes the access to hardware and software.  If  we look at the average income of Americans, the disparity between the rich and poor is high.  Access to e-Books is only possible if you have the means of owning e-Readers!  Not everyone has the luxury of broadband internet access; desktop computers, MP3 players, cell phones, and e-Readers.  Many students across North America struggle to print out their research papers at the local public library due to lack of access at home.   This is where libraries come in.  They must advocate avenues for every patron to have access to these new e-book technologies through grants and new government policies - it's happening in other parts of the world. Now it's our turn here in North America.  

E-book Preservation - With e-books as the new rage, and e-Readers coming out by the dozen, we forget that the formats that accompany these e-books are impermanent and will be outdated eventually.  As librarians, how do we maintain and preserve these formats?   How do we sort through the digital rights management?  We're still in the early stages of wading gently through the legal waters of the e-book industry.  Do we just idly wait?  These are issues that libraries will eventually face once e-Readers become obsolete and patrons and customers turn to us for help with their content.

E-book Sea Change in Public Libraries - HarperCollins' Overdrive announcement on February 24, 2011 sent a shock wave throughout the library world.  Although it mostly affected public libraries, HarperCollins' imposition of limiting each e-book to just 26 circulations before it simply disappeared from the library's digital collection was a stark reminder to the library world that publishers are not our friends and the same effects could spill into the academic library hemisphere, too.  While publishers insist that the new cap on e-books circulation is simply to protect sales, it caused some leaders in the library world to respond with some harsh utterances.