Category Archives: FutureSpec

May 22, 2013, 7:55 pm

When in doubt… watch SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN

It has been an exhaustive academic year. This summer I am applying “energy management” techniques in order to be more effective. I’ve been way off balance this year. Some people make New Year’s Resolutions– for me it is Summer Resolutions.

I’ve been watching a string of dark movies lately (Argo, Django, Zero Dark) and a friend recommended I change it up with Singin’ In The Rain. I’ll admit that this movie was nowhere near my watch list: I don’t do musicals! But I watched and enjoyed it.

There is a pivotal moment in the film when a group of actors, producers, and others from the silent film era first encounter a talking picture.


  • First there is doubt:  “that’s not possible”
  • Then skepticism: “it’s a toy”
  • Then anger: “it’s vulgar”
  • Then fear: “aww, but will they ever use it?”
  • And…

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May 8, 2013, 4:31 pm

Adobe and the end of the world… of local software?

I’m still pondering the news that Adobe is dropping Creative Suite and betting it all on Creative Cloud. They are turning away from locally installed client software and moving fully to an online platform. It feels like a radical departure and I’m still trying to understand the business model. I’m also bummed that they are killing Fireworks, but maybe I’m showing my age?


We are working on a library renovation and a topic that comes up is desktops. A number of these are necessary for specialized software, but what if all software applications flow to the cloud? Maybe what we really need to plan is for really nice monitors and a fast data connection?


Thinking beyond hardware… does software become similar to journal subscriptions in which users authenticate and proxy in? Will we provide campus-wide subscriptions to everyone or perhaps on-demand (use as you go)…

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March 23, 2013, 8:03 pm

So I’m editing this journal issue and…

I have been looking for an opportunity to work with Damon Jaggars for several years now. Last October we caught up at the Library Assessment Conference (here is the paper I presented) and worked out a plan for me to be a guest editor for a special issue of The Journal of Library Administration. For me, blog posts and whitepapers are the perfect vehicles of expression; however, I do like to dip into the more formal side of publishing every so often.


Here is a taste of the framework:

Imagine academic libraries fifteen years from now or at some other inflection point. How do we define the academic library in this future? Where does the library begin and end relative to research and academic computing, and other campus and network services that will be available to faculty and students?  How will higher education change and how will the academic library align with that change? What…

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January 23, 2013, 2:50 pm

ITERATE OR DIE: Reflecting on Blockbuster & Atari

I’ve been thinking a lot about the downfall of Blockbuster and Atari. Both companies are in the news because of financial collapse. Can you believe that Blockbuster was once a $6 billion company? And Atari had the jump on everyone with regards to consoles and games. I spent countless hours playing Pitfall! and never beat it. Today I don’t even own a game console– everything I play is on my phone or iPad.


Articles about why they fell apart all point to failure to innovate despite knowing that change was necessary. This quote sums it up:


 “Blockbuster continued to see itself as a provider of movie and game rentals rather than a distributor of entertainment. By locking itself into this narrow view, they ignored the innovations happening around them and believed that people wanted to come into the store and talk to their staff, get recommendations, and make their…

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October 4, 2012, 12:51 pm

Our strategy: be regenerative

I was deeply involved in writing a strategic plan this summer. Actually—technically—it was a response to Virginia Tech’s long-range plan, but still– it is a vision for the future of our library. Many people contributed to this effort and we knocked it out in 90 days.


We spent time envisioning higher education in the near future and then imagining roles that libraries would need to fulfill. I prefer this to the more traditional (continuous) department-centered approach based on “making what we currently do a little better”— our effort was an attempt to design an aspirational vision.


We thought of future libraries abstractly as…


  • a platform for student success and faculty innovation in a global context.
  • a hub for strategic partnerships.
  • a regenerating entity that adapts to changing user needs and expectations.


More on those ideas:


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June 27, 2012, 3:19 pm

MOOC Fluency – some advice for future librarians

I’m glad that UVa reinstated their president. Seems like the only logical action after the backlash. I keep waiting for “the real reason” to surface because it’s hard for me to believe that the whole thing can be boiled down to MOOCs. Really? I guess it comes down to inventing the future vs. sustaining (current) excellence. But I do want to point out that this is exactly the type of thing I was referring to in my startup paper. There is growing pressure on higher education to change—and we, as librarians, will have to adapt to that.


Regardless of how you feel about UVa’s Board of Visitors – that type of thinking (ie: working with less funding) will continue around the country. Facing an uncertain future, we need to be ready for such seismic disruptions.


I do want to take a minute though to comment on MOOCs because I haven’t done so yet. I mentioned…

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April 4, 2012, 1:19 pm

Think Like a Start-Up: a White Paper

This project has been in the works for a long time. I think that the initial seed was planted during my time at Georgia Tech. It simmered while I was out in California. And it crystalized as soon as I arrived in Blacksburg. I thought this document would be a one-pager that I could finish over a weekend, but it grew into something much more involved.


I’ve been fascinated with startup culture for a long time and as I considered all the changes happening in academic libraries (and higher ed) the parallels were quite stunning. No, we’re not developing new products to bring to market, and no, we’re not striving for an IPO payday, but we are being required to rethink/rebuild/repurpose what a library is and what it does. The next twenty years are going to be an interestingly chaotic time for the history of our institutions.


Here’s a snippet that frames the paper:

The me…

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April 3, 2012, 2:38 pm

The (Social) Reader’s Dilemma: Content + Container = Context

“Content, not containers!” This has been a library theme for a while now: unbundling the meat from the sandwich. It’s about the text and/or images, not necessary the printed vessel.  As scholarly material migrates to digital platforms, the focus is on the content, not the boundaries of “journals” or “books.”


I could go along with that, for the most part, until yesterday. Here’s what happened.


There has been a lot of talk around the office lately about The Fourth Paradigm. Even our school newspaper is in on this thread, reporting about the emerging “third pillar of science.


Yesterday I downloaded The Fourth Paradigm: Data-Intensive Scientific Discovery, which is a free PDF. Thanks Microsoft. I’m reading it on my iPad via my Kindle app and everything is fine, right? No! It’s not a Kindle book. It doesn’t allow me take notes, share…

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March 12, 2012, 3:46 pm

Google Docs Will Free Librarians (to Engage Students More Directly in the Natural Writing Environment)

I had a vivid dream last night. I typically forget all my dreams, but this one stood out. In this world no one spoke directly to each other. Everyone was a ventriloquist and used dummies or puppets to communicate. I walked through restaurants, grocery stores, malls and a few other common locations– and everyone had their avatar on their hand. Perhaps it’s a metaphor for iPhones and digital devices and social media and how they are disconnecting traditional social interactions  – but that seems too obvious. I think the larger message is centered on the need to evolve with mainstream communication preferences and practices.


In the dream I didn’t have a dummy/puppet/avatar and hence everyone I tried to interact with just ignored me. This is likely a confluence of several things. I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of libraries, the future of information, the future of…

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March 6, 2012, 6:58 pm

My Evolving Feelings With E-Books or Content Begets More Content (or: I Want My Content to Be a Social Butterfly)

[I started this post during lunch with the intent of writing 600 concise words about my recent ebook experience, but that grew to double the length and became a stream-of-conscious vision statement about how I want to use digital content. In short: you’ve been warned!]

I’m a big fan of print. As much as I love the web I’m still very print oriented in my personal reading life. But that might be changing…


I’ve been enjoying Where Good Ideas Come From — it’s page after page of epiphanies. As I was reading it I kept taking notes or bending pages… and I then realized it would be so much easier to highlight and annotate content in a digital format. So I purchased a digital version of the book. (The book is that good! I mean come on– his chapter on Adjacent Possible is all about the kernel of library science and discovery.)


Anyway, in my case…

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