August 20, 2013, 5:56 pm

The-3-Click-Dilemma: are library databases nearing the tipping point of obsolescence?

I had an interesting conversation with a faculty member last week that went something like this: “Brian, I want you to know that it’s getting harder for me to get students to use the library— especially the databases— anything beyond three clicks is just too many.”

 

In some disciplines this would not really shock me, but it was a historian. This is someone who is passionate about the library. This is someone who advocates for primary resources and through research. This is someone—who from what I can tell—is a very sophisticated database user.

 

If our super users are frustrated with database interfaces – what does that mean? Many of us spend a lot of time promoting library resources to students, but if faculty stop encouraging (or requiring) usage—what then?

 

The assignment is actually straightforward. Explore historical events by comparing coverage…

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August 13, 2013, 8:52 pm

ENTERING THE ERA OF MICRO-EXPERIENCES? Using a lot of different things to do a lot of different things

Lauren and I were recently talking about the evolution of the social web. There had been some press about the kids today don’t use Facebook anymore. The articles use to be about how such-and-such was no longer cool. Now we’re starting to see a generation completely bypassing Facebook. They are not leaving it because they were never on it. Facebook is for grandparents!

 

So what’s the alternative? What’s next big thing? What’s the Facebook Killer? I’ve been out of the social media scene for a while now, but the shift seems to be away from the single solution and more toward multiple products for different needs. This is why Vine, Instagram, and Tumblr are popular. Each tool focuses on different things (strengthens?) as opposed to trying to do everything like Facebook.

 

We seem to be entering (or have entered) an era of specialization. The one-stop-shop is emptying…

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August 6, 2013, 8:01 pm

Common Book vs. Common Problem: the future of creating common experiences

One of the things I enjoyed at UCSB was co-leading the common book program. That effort wasn’t just focused on freshmen, but was open to everyone. We worked really hard to embed the book and theme across many courses and disciplines. We also worked with the local community college and public library  –  striving for it to be a community-wide  / county-wide experience each year

 

I’ve been considering the program here at Virginia Tech and using some good lateral thinking, I’m wondering how might we try something different? Or: what does a common book program look like without a book?

 

When you look at the goals (build a sense of community, encourage intellectual engagement, stimulate critical thinking, connect to VT values) it seems possible to do this in other ways. The book is really just a starting point. It gives students and instructors a common framework, but …

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July 24, 2013, 3:06 pm

The Decline of WIRED? What happened to the radical optimism?

wired_pubs

Wired, July 2013

Maybe it’s just me but I feel that the quality of WIRED has gone down this year. The latest issue touched a nerve. They outline how to get around academic publisher paywalls. One of their tips is to find someone in college who will give you their access info allowing you to proxy in. It bothered me and substantiated what I’m been feeling over the last few issues: an obvious decline in content and character.

 

Full disclosure – I’m a long time subscriber of WIRED. I’ve enjoyed their positive, progressive, future-oriented view of the world. But there has been a noticeable drop once Chris Anderson left. I mean, Long Tail, Free, and Makers are all awesome books. He is definitely a thought leader in economics-meets-technology. I didn’t fully realize it until it was gone, but Chris…

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July 17, 2013, 2:53 pm

Summer Grab Bag: does your jumping style limit your capabilities?

I hope your summer is going well. I wish that I could turn the calendar back to June in order to get more work done. It feels like a fast push into August and the new school year is looming. I just wanted to share a few random thoughts.

The Kids Today…

kidsWhen I read statements like this it always makes me think of Elvis, The Beatles, or Metallica— artists that parents blamed for corrupting the youth. Oh these kids with their horrible music, their wacky fashions, and so on and so on. It seems there is always a perpetual superiority complex among generations. They don’t read the same books that we did. They don’t write very well. They are so dumb. Why can’t they be more like us?

 

mixing Don’t these kids know they should be reading print books instead of mixing and editing audio files in the library? It’s almost as if…

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July 9, 2013, 3:50 pm

MUSIC AND WRITING & MY HIP HOP IMAGINATION or: if my next paper is bad blame Jay Z

I’ve been reflecting on my writing process lately. I’ve noticed that when I’m working on an article or a conference talk that I seem to gravitate toward a particular artist or album to stimulate my thinking. It’s not intentional but there always seems to be a unique soundtrack for each piece.

 

When I was writing my book I listened to a lot of Thursday and Three 6 Mafia. When I was writing startup it was a blend of Postal Service and Lil Wayne. The R&D paper was pretty much all Amanda Palmer and Dresden Dolls. ACRL’s discovery paper was classic grunge like old Soundgarden and AIC. Yet while preparing for that presentation it was early Metallica with a shot of Kanye and ASAP

 

Now don’t get me wrong—I don’t limit myself to just these artists. On any given day it could be back-to-back Danzig and Dr Dre in order to spark ideas or new emotions that I want to capture…

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July 1, 2013, 8:50 pm

Glass: my first encounter (and applying it to higher ed)

glass_Gardner_me

Gardner is in shock by Glass awesomeness. I’m looking mad that I have to wait twelve months for my own device.

Wow. I just experienced something special. This afternoon Gardner and I sat down with a Glass Explorer. It was a 60-minute meeting that turned into 160 minutes of mind bendiness.

Flashback I was in high school when the transition from cassette tapes to CDs happened. I was in college when my roommates and I dialed into the Internet to figure out “what’s the web for?” I was in Atlanta when I first held an iPhone and then bought one the very next day. Flash Forward Those were all critical technology experiences for me. Today, in Blacksburg, I had another one… it was Glass.

I should just end this post right now because I’m still trying to process what I saw. You may think I’m feeling…

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June 26, 2013, 7:53 pm

Aspirations: 100 elements

We’re revisiting our mission, vision, and values. It feels like we are in the early stages of a transformation—physical, virtual, philosophical, etc. This is very apparent in the types of positions that we’re hiring: Research Environments Librarian, Visual Literacy Instructor, Web Developer, and so forth. The whole concept of what we do (or what we can do) as an organization is greatly expanding as new capabilities are being added.

 

This summer we are exploring a big concept that I’m calling our aspirational identity. What words and images do we use internally to articulate why our library exists? What moods, feelings, and energy do we want to project outward? How can we support and amplify that Virginia Tech brand? It’s really about reframing the identity of the library and making a statement: this is who we are now. I’m drawing inspiration from The Container Store and …

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June 25, 2013, 2:56 pm

Haystacks vs. Algorithms: Is Scanning the Stacks for [Pretty] Books Really the Best Research Strategy?

One of my favorite courses during undergrad was Shakespeare. My professor had a performance-oriented approach but I recall writing a few essays and being amazed by the range of material in my library. Shelf after shelf held books about Shakespeare and other Elizabethan playwrights.

It was fun to flip through the pages and see what was contained. This was the mid-1990’s — the web was still emerging.

When I see faculty write about serendipity and the value of wandering the stacks I think back with nostalgia to that period in my life. It’s a very romantic idea—being surrounded by immense physical collections of knowledge.

Little did I know the university up the road had an even larger Shakespeare collection. Or that Folger even existed. My library contained just a thimble of information on this topic. If all I used were the materials in my library I could get a good grade…

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June 14, 2013, 12:58 pm

Are remote presence mobile systems the future of reference?

It’s been a little too serious around this blog lately, so here is something fun to stimulate your lateral thinking.

 

A good friend of mine is at InfoComm13—a tradeshow I wish I were attending. He texted me this photo:


beamApparently this woman was in California and interacting with folks in Orlando. She could hear him standing/walking nearby and engaged him in conversation.

This is BEAM. It’s a mobile, WiFi powered, video-conferencing, remote presence system. The features are listed on the website, and it is an interesting concept. The fact that it has wheels and can move at 3 mph following someone around is different;  I have not seen this full package  before.

At first I thought—could this work as a reference tool? Could it push us beyond the desk as a new twist on roving reference? Or what about tours? What about meetings? Could students or faculty use it for…

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