February 21, 2014, 2:14 pm

Voices From The Past Reflecting On The Future (Number 5): Status & The Inferiority Complex

Continuing the Voices Series:

There was an interesting discussion by the College Library Advisory Board at the 1937 annual meeting of the American Library Association. This one isn’t a prediction on the future, but it definitely touches on a conversation that we’re still having today:

“Do you think it is intellectually possible for the average professor ever to come to the belief that a librarian is his educational equal?”

There was conversation about differences in salary and educational background. And one librarian offers this insight:

“We have tried having the librarian teach a course and have found that it works excellently. He teaches freshman English. In that way the librarian is looked upon more as a teacher than as a person who puts labels on books. If our librarians are not the intellectual equal of the rest of the faculty, they are not going to have equal…

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February 20, 2014, 6:40 pm

Voices From The Past Reflecting On The Future (Number 4): Dorothy Sinclair, Reference & Automation

I’m interested in the impact of automation on libraries. It makes sense to look at the topic from the collections lens, but I’m really fascinated by the service perspective. In the 1960’s we have Licklider talking about an Intergalactic Network of Computers and an electronic commons open to all. He gives The Mother of All Demos showing video conferencing, hypertext, word processing, dynamic file linking, and a collaborative real-time editor – essentially launching a computer revolution.

What were library leaders thinking while all of this emerged? Dorothy Sinclair, who served the president of the Public Library Association and was the president of the Reference Services Division during the late 60′s published this interesting paper: The Next Ten Years of Reference Service. Here are a few quotes:

“Contributors to this paper did not altogether agree in picturing the user of…

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February 19, 2014, 4:29 pm

Voices From The Past Reflecting On The Future (Number 3): Melvil Dewey & Our Book Fetish

Melvil Dewey needs no introduction. He is a household name and probably the most famous librarian ever… after Nancy Pearl. Much as been written about Dewey’s accomplishments as well as his scandals, but today I wanted to share a quote from a talk he gave at ALA Annual in 1926. Charles Beldon, who I profiled earlier in this series, invited Dewey to imagine the next fifty years. This is what he had to share: Out Next Half-Century

“Most librarians are inclined to make a book something sacred. But we ought to recognize and employ it as a tool to be used not a fetish to be worshipped. Perhaps the library of fifty years from now will have outgrown the present book and relegated it to the museum with the older inscriptions on clay. Our great function is to inform or to inspire, or to please; to give to the public in the quickest and cheapest way information, inspiration, and recreation…

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February 18, 2014, 5:41 pm

Voices From The Past Reflecting On The Future (Number 2): Angus Snead Macdonald, User Experience Pioneer

I’m providing space this week to voices from the past and highlighting bold speculations about the future of libraries.

Today I want to showcase Angus Snead Macdonald. He was the CEO of a library stacks company that developed standardized shelving. This innovation greatly improved planning since librarians could more easily quantify the physical size of their collections. The stacks were also designed to be lightweight and flexible in order to be moved around and adjusted accordingly.

In 1933 he provided The Library Journal with a vision for the future.

 “In the center of the hall convenient to the entrance, there is a circular receiving and delivery desk equipped with intercommunication apparatus and a mechanical system for conveying books to and from storage in other parts of the building. At either side of the delivery desk is waiting space with restful chairs and lounges….

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February 17, 2014, 2:28 pm

Voices From The Past Reflecting On The Future (Number 1): Charles Beldon & The Unification of Knowledge

Are we preoccupied with the future? There appears to be a steady stream of articles, books, blog posts, webinars, conference presentations, and other media centered on this theme. It seems we are all fairly focused on what’s next.

I’m guilty myself; the future can be intoxicating. This week I want to offer perspective from a different set of voices. A recent project took me deep into the archives of library lit and along the way I discovered some interesting speculation about the future from librarians in the past. Each day this week I’ll highlight a different visionary who helped shape the profession.

Charles Beldon
First up is Charles Beldon who was a library leader in 1920’s and 30’s. He gave a president’s speech at the 1926 annual meeting celebrating the 50th anniversary of the American Library Association.

During this era libraries were considered a movement….

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February 12, 2014, 6:35 pm

DO LIBRARIES NEED A USER MANIFESTO? Policies that inspire rather than prohibit

nuspark2Last week was the opening of NuSpark in Blacksburg.  It’s a pre-incubator for startups—I guess that makes it a conception center? Basically people who have business or project ideas can gather and hack at it. Teams can apply for (reserved) workspace but there is also an open commons area for anyone to drop in.

nuspark1

I’m planning to do a full post on their story and philosophy sometime in April. Co-working environments have been a great inspiration to me for library renovations; we can learn by watching groups build ideas. This space is ideal for students and I want to explore that theme a bit further.

This is something that caught my eye:

user_manifesto

 

 

 

 

 User Manifesto

  • Create and innovate
  • Always add value
  • Encourage others to express their thoughts and opinions
  • Actively listen to feedback
  • Hold information of others in confidence
  • Validate ideas with…

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January 29, 2014, 6:26 pm

OUR SIX ASPIRATIONAL QUALITIES: openness, curation, creation, community, catalyst, knowledge

Last summer I posted about our aspirational identity project. We started with a long list of words and explored many concepts. We wrapped that up just before winter break and officially launched yesterday.

This is what we came up with:

OPENNESS
We design pathways to information, access, ideas, and discovery.

CURATION
We partner with people to produce, disseminate, preserve, and use information and data.

CREATION
We enable people to design, make, and express their ideas.

COMMUNITY
We bring people, ideas, and resources together.

CATALYST
We ignite people’s curiosity and sense of possibility.

KNOWLEDGE
We stimulate creative, cultural, social, and intellectual endeavors.

Obviously these are very broad—that was our intention. We wanted to keep one hand in the past (ideals of librarianship) while stretching the other hand out toward the future. The qualities are all very…

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January 21, 2014, 6:40 pm

… It’s How You Say It

The theme of language keeps popping up in my conversations. I’ve become very conscious with how we communicate with users – not just the content, but the tone as well.

A recent interaction with Google stimulated by thinking. They offered me a Glass upgrade and this was their confirmation message:

glass_email

I was struck by the informal conversational nature of the email. It’s totally on brand for them, but it made me feel happy. Obviously getting free hardware is a positive occurrence, but the whole sequence of transactions left me with a good memorable experience. They want me to feel excited about their product and my ongoing relationship with them.

Lauren and I have been talking about this concept. Could you craft a personality for a library? A common voice for all written transactions? An experiential brand that manifests through text? Think about how you would want to be treated…

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January 14, 2014, 7:45 pm

MIXED BAG: MOOCs, eBooks, Circa, and Bulldozers

Our spring semester begins next week. It’s always a shock to the system when the students return to campus. This is especially exaggerated in a small town like Blacksburg where they account for over half of the population.

I have several blog posts in the pipeline, but today I wanted to tie a few loose ends together.

MOOCs & NASA
There is a commentary in the Chronicle today about MOOCs. This sums it up:

 “Instead of 2014 being the year when talk of disruption in higher education ends, why not make it the year when pioneering ideas converge?”

The MOOC narrative has changed so rapidly. The Hype Cycle piece combined with Fast Company’s bubble bursting piece has taken us from 2013 being The Year of the MOOC to the death of the MOOC in twelve short months.

I’m very curious to see what happens next. This topic came up at a recent ASERL meeting and there were two…

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January 6, 2014, 3:41 pm

THE HARM OF BOOKLESSNESS

bookless1

The future of libraries… actually looks like an Info Commons from 10 years ago?

You’ve probably seen the press about BiblioTech, the first bookless public library system in the country. It is being hailed as a “big success” and “the future of libraries.”

While I can appreciate the marketing tactic they are using, I actually think they are doing more harm than good. This library has been hyping the “bookless” concept for a while now. In fact, I’ve had faculty and administrators on my campus forward me renderings/press and suggest that we move in a similar direction.

My primary concern is that this might (or already has?) create false expectations of what “all libraries” should become. It’s setting a precedent. The key issue for me is funding. Why do we need a library anymore? Let’s…

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