Archive for October, 2006
Author: Michelle Kowalsky
It’s tough to use a collaborative tool with folks you don’t know well. . .or don’t trust. Whether you’re creating a PBWiki or writing on a Writely document or trying to post data on a Google spreadsheet document or on iRows, the process is the same. You post your info. Someone else posts their info. You effectively sway to the music in time.
But then, you correct a typo on their part of the info; they delete a word of yours. Soon you’re both waving the proverbial sickle in a wheatfield. . .chopping off dead chaff with wide sweeps high and low. Soon the document is no longer the one either of you intended. What may be the result of a series of many compromises (or poor online interpersonal skills!) may not in actuality be a document of any usefulness at all.
This is where the features of reputation management like those on Wikipedia or eBay come in. . .many, many people post their info and the truth tends to surface naturally. When only a small group of people keep changing the figures on the business report, it can just as often be a power struggle. Collaborative online tools still work best for me when they have, ironically, a face-to-face component.
Sure, Myspace is fun in the fact that anyone can make a thousand friends. You can even add music, videos, customize the backgrounds and, did I mention, make a thousand friends. Eventually, it all becomes a little static. Ultimately, it is a personality profile… a really cool one at that, but all communication is done through typing and emails.
But actual Cyberworlds, now that is where the fun is to be had!
Massively-Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game-sites (MMORPGs) like World of Warcraft or Runescape (a free version of WoW) are not as much a collection of social introverts as people think. It’s not about sitting in their chosen room of darkness and defeating dragons of varying levels of difficulty… well, not completely.
The success of these games has little to do with storylines. There are challenges offered in order to advance a character’s levels and abilities but there really isn’t a true definitive end, just harder and harder challenges. The worlds are more about the social encounters, creating clans, rivalries, and alliances. It’s social cliques along with the action; real-world interactions within fantasy settings.
But it is more than that. Business deals have been made and sealed within the realm of WoW, marriages have been acted out here and then taken place in real life, virtual funerals have been held for teammates who died in real life but were too far away to pay respects. In fact, some of my friends from high school are held a reunion in WoW a week ago.
So, its not just about challenges, it is community as well. People’s personlity plays a big part in whether or not they are part of one clan or another, connections build a large part of success. Social networking is as integral as it is fun for players in these games, in obth the cyberworld and realworld (remember the business deal?).
Is it time to start changing our premonitions of gamers as social introverts?
“Why don’t we just turn the library into an arcade!?”
I tend to get this response from the more, umm, veteran professionals when I bring up gaming programs in the library. Truth is, I’ve gotten similar cynicism for other non-traditional teen programs as well (and I know I am not alone). I’m not completely sure what the issue is but it seems an odd reaction. Why hate programs that bring people into the library?
Or is the issue that these programs bring teens in the library?
Teens are not always seen as an asset in the library community and, sometimes, they are viewed as an outright nuisance among our co-workers. At my previous job, also as a YA Librarian, I had several co-workers flat out state “they do not work with teens.” In fact, a great crux in my job is battling for our teens’ rights to be wherever they please in a library.
I hear many of my cohorts express the same difficulties.
But why teens? Why teen programs? Why the feeling that teens have no place in the library?
When I asked my coworkers why they had issues with teens, I heard a lot of the same answers. When I asked them what their greatest frustrations were with patrons in general, I heard pretty much the same answers as before.
The following is a list of general complaints I have heard. As you read them, ask how many of these are exclusively teen issues and how many actually apply to the general patron population:
They are loud
They are rude
They use bad language
They only come here to use computers
They only come here to rent videos
They look at inappropriate sites
They steal books
They only read magazines
They sleep in the library
They disrupt other patrons
Feel free to add your own list, but ask yourself… are any of these really just teen issues?
As I am sure many of you have heard, on Sept. 25th, 2006 Pew Internet & American Life Project and Elon University released their latest survey “The Future of the Internet II.” If you would like to see a pdf of the full report click here. Results, including quotes and biosketches from the 750 tech savvy respondents can be found on the Imagining the Internet Web site.
According to the press release, themes in the predictions made for the year 2020 include:
- “Continued serious erosion of individual privacy
- Improvement of virtual reality and problems associated with ever-more-compelling synthetic worlds
- Greater economic opportunities for those in developing nations
- Changes in languages and the rise of autonomous machines that operate beyond human control.”
My favorite quote from the experts:
“It is better to be actively, thoughtfully and humanly adapting technology than to be creating inertia to resist it.”
“Losses from internet-related crime and terror will exceed losses from all natural disasters.”
Most hopeful quote:
“Enhanced communications and access to information are on the evolutionary path to freedom.”
Click here to view more select quotes.
Note: This piece originally appeared in slightly different form in the NJLA Fall (2006) Newsletter.
We are currently experiencing a unique convergence of three societal trends, and that convergence is creating an unprecedented opportunity for libraries.
The first trend is that people are increasingly using the internet in the privacy of their home for activities that were previously conducted in public spaces. Shopping, banking, conversing, researching, listening to concerts, and watching movies are just a few examples of such activities.
The second trend, pointed out by Robert Putnam in his insightful book, Bowling Alone, is that Americans are experiencing a marked decrease in social interaction as we become increasingly disconnected from our family, from our friends, and from each other.
The third trend is more subtle and presents a threat as well as an opportunity: Businesses are increasingly embracing the value of being a “destination of choice” and modifying their environments and their services accordingly. For example, we used to go to the hardware store to buy grout or drywall; now we go to learn how to tile our bathroom or put up a wall. We used to go to the bank to deposit our checks; now we go to attend a retirement planning seminar. We used to go to the bookstore to buy books; now we go to hear music, drink coffee, and, dare I mention, bring our children to story time…
Our customers have a greater need for shared spaces and social interaction than they ever have before, but they also have more options regarding how, and where, they choose to spend their free time.
LIBRARIES ARE TRANSFORMATIVE PLACES
Libraries are transformative places. By our very nature we offer people a “third place” (not home, not work) where they can come to explore, imagine, think, learn, play, and reflect. Our function as a “third place” has never been more important to our continued health and relevance. If libraries are to survive and thrive we must redouble our efforts and refocus our energies to ensure that we are not only “third places” but destinations of choice.
Thinking of “library as place” goes to the heart of the matter. It invokes the big question: Why would someone in our community choose to spend their time here rather than somewhere else? Related questions might be: What does the library look like, smell like, feel like, and sound like? What do our signs communicate? What kind of environment are we offering to the community and how do library staff contribute to the creation of a friendly, welcoming environment?
The thriving library of 2010 will have thoroughly considered these questions and be guided by the answers they have discovered. Many NJLA members are probably familiar with Mount Laurel Library’s success with their use of retail merchandising techniques. Those techniques were implemented as part of the “Trading Spaces” project. A do-it-yourself kit, replete with documentation, signage, photos, furniture vendor contacts, prices, and more is available at the project website http://www.sjrlc.org/tradingspaces. Taking a look at this resource page is a great place to start if your library is interested in becoming a destination of choice in your community.
SIX THINGS YOU CAN DO TODAY
Detailing a strategic direction for your library is outside of the scope of this short piece. But in the interest of practicality, here are six things you can do today to enhance your library’s status as a true “third place” in your community:
1. DO A SIGNAGE AUDIT: Have everyone on your staff, and maybe a couple of customers, walk through your library with these questions in mind: What makes it easy to find something? What makes it difficult to find something? Are signs readable from a distance? Are signs jargon-free? Do you use Dewey numbers instead of natural language? (Don’t.) Get rid of ripped signs and visible tape. Eliminate handwritten notes. Use positive, respectful wording and avoid parental tones.
2. OFFER FOOD AND DRINK IN THE LIBRARY: (Notice, I don’t say “permit”.) Having food and drink in your library helps create a welcoming environment. The role of our olfactory senses in creating a positive or negative impression of our environment cannot be underestimated. Translation? Coffee smells like comfort.
3. OFFER A VARIETY OF PROGRAMMING FOR DIFFERENT AGES/INTERESTS: This fits in very well with our traditional role and mission, and many libraries already do a wonderful job with programming. Do more. Take some risks. Ask yourself who’s NOT coming to the library and try to offer a few programs for that demographic. Think of five new places to advertise your programming (bulletin boards in laundromats, the Y, the Rotary Club, the carwash, etc.)
4. MAKE THE COLLECTION THE STAR: Use themed displays of face-out materials to highlight and promote portions of your collection. Tie themes in with current events, pop culture, current library programs, or anything else that seems relevant, playful, or fun. Make your collection browseable and your customers will reward you by circulating materials in record numbers.
5. INVOLVE YOUR CUSTOMERS: Ask your customers what they would like to see in the library. Ask them for help with walk-throughs and signage audits. Ask them for display ideas, or enlist their help in creating displays. Any way you can involve your community directly will pay off tenfold by giving you an inexpensive and highly effective marketing tool: a cadre of invested community members who will promote the library through word of mouth.
6. GO WIRELESS: Wireless Internet access is a must-have infrastructure. If you’re not offering it already, do it now. It’s cheaper than you think, and your wireless customers will come out of the woodwork.
Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place. New York: Marlowe & Company, 1999.
Rippel, Chris, “What Libraries Can Learn from Bookstores”. Webjunction Marketing Forum. Dec 10, 2003 <http://webjunction.org/do/DisplayContent?id=1191>.
Rockwood, P. E. and Koontz, C. M., “Media Center Layout: A Marketing-Based Plan”, School Library Media Annual 1986, Volume Four. Ed. Aaron, S. L. and Scales, P. R. Littleton, Colorado: Libraries Unlimited, Inc., 1986. p. 297-306 <http://www.geolib.org/pdf/slma.pdf>.
Stanley, John, “The Third Place: The Library’s Role in Today’s Society”, MLS Marketing Library Services. Nov.- Dec. 2005: 1,8.
Any of the quotes above spark an interest in you? If so, you will very much like the fact that The World eBook Fair site opened the International Book Fair Month of October earlier today with an offer that you probably cannot refuse–at least that’s how I feel about it! That’s right–1/2 million ebooks await you for your personal reading pleasure (most free) this month!
The World eBook Fair, a very large showcase for ebook authors and publishers, beginning today and continuing throughout October, will allow us to download our selections from their collection of 500,000 ebooks. I actually think this is only fitting, since according to the Fair site, we are now celebrating the centennial birthday of the public library system, which probably enabled many of us and our parents and grandparents to read their first free book and continue to do so today.
Anyway, I blogged late last month about the Google Book Search-WorldCat link-up, providing us with an improved way to find the book we want within the libraries near us, which I find very useful. I also very recently published a short article in MultiMedia & Internet at Schools (a great magazine/guide to K-12 technology and education resources), where I listed some of my favorite places to go on and via the Web to get free full text books, articles, and more, but due to the limited scope and length of the article, I could not mention more there. And although I have updated my original Wow!–Full Text and Free?! hotlist site with more “places” to explore, especially Open Access directories and sites, this World eBook Fair site can lead you to a much more organized listing of free ebooks.
This World eBook Fair site is truly one you must visit. For instance, while browsing it, I visited the Classic Literature Collection there and, being a sci-fi fan, immediately downloaded one of my favorites highlighted on the first page as one of the most popular selections–The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. I then downloaded an MP3 of a favorite by Poe–The Telltale Heart. I also really liked browsing the Online Educational Resource Collection, especially since I am library liaison to faculty and administrators in the School of Education at Rider University–I knew that many there would be interested in the full text of the Innovative Pathways to School Leadership report, by U.S. Department of Education and the Office of Innovations and Improvement, listed on the “favorites” page.
I am very impressed with this entire World eBook Fair Consortia site and, of course, for the free offer to search or browse and download or read online. By the way, although I liked browsing the 112 collections, and Michael Hart with Project Gutenburg recommends this, too, you can also find the title you want by using their full text search option. Note that Michael Hart’s Project Gutenburg is partnering with, among others, The World eBook Library, Digital Pulp Publishing, and the Internet Archive (my favorite digital library “place” to frequently visit for free full text) to bring us today’s World eBook Fair.
I also found that the World eBook Library site lists some other interesting tidbits that I wanted to share, including the following:
“Each year, the World eBook Library nearly doubles its entire digital holdings. Boasting over 500,000+ eBooks and eDocuments, making the World eBook Library Consortium the world’s largest eBook site. More than one 15 million Internet patrons have visited our library, making us one of the most visited libraries in the world. Since our initial launch time our webservers have had a 99.98% up time 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and in all of that time our programs and files have been free and open to the public.”
Time to get back to my family, but I must say that I was so happy to be able to search, browse, and now blog about this site today. I highly recommend starting your browsing or searching experience immediately as this is such a tremendous collection! I hope you like it as much as I do–enjoy and share it with others!