The librarians who are thriving most consistently in the digital era are those who have found a way to operate as a node in a network of libraries and librarians. They are agents of change, actively creating the future instead of constantly reacting to it—or worse, resisting it.
Gerontologist Debbie Dodds developed a tablet-based workshop program with the Santa Cruz Public Libraries, CA, for people with early-stage memory loss. She and library representatives will present on the pilot at LJ’s all-day virtual event The Digital Shift this October 14. In the run-up to the conference, LJ caught up with Dodd to learn more.
Even at large libraries that have staff dedicated to digitization projects, the additional effort needed to enable researchers to extract data from these collections—such as transcribing OCR-resistant text, or adding item-level tags to large collections of images—would be an untenable chore for a library to take on alone. So, in the past half decade, libraries have taken cues from long-running projects, using crowdsourcing as a way not only to outsource work that would be impossible for staff to attempt but also to engage volunteers.
Librarians have always taught patrons how to use the tools that serve their information needs. We had to explain card catalogs, vertical files, microfilm/fiche, photocopiers, and OPACs. The fundamental difference about the tech needs of the 21st century is the ever-changing variety of personal devices that patrons use to access our services. Some libraries are lucky enough to have dedicated staff with special training to serve these patrons directly, but most of the time it’s a library generalist fielding question after question about something new every day. How do frontline staffers with self-taught or very basic knowledge of technology stay savvy about the latest and hottest gadgets? How do we train nontechnical staff to troubleshoot effectively and train our patrons to use their own gadgets?
In March 2011, the Boise Public Library (BPL), ID, used $3,300 in Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant funding to purchase four iPad 2 tablets and all of the trimmings. As it turned out, BPL may have been a couple of years ahead of its time. This conversation is now coming full circle. Technological advances continue to make tablets lighter, faster, and more affordable. Vendors have recently launched interfaces that make it possible to use a staff tablet to perform tasks ranging from weeding books to signing up new cardholders. Also, applying lessons learned about these devices during the past five years, many libraries are rebooting or enhancing the way tablets are integrated into roving reference, off-site programs, and other workflows.
Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) has announced “Designing for Digital,” a two-day user experience (UX) conference on February 25 and 26, immediately following the 2015 annual ER&L conference at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin, TX, held February 22–25. The new event builds on the success of the full UX Day launched last year at ER&L 2014, according to conference officials.
The future of libraries won’t be created by libraries. That’s a good thing. That future is too big and too integral to the infrastructure of knowledge for any one group to invent it. Still, that doesn’t mean that libraries can wait passively for this new future. Rather, we must create the conditions by which libraries will be pulled out of themselves and into everything else.
Few things can be more frustrating to library patrons—or staff, for that matter—than a self-check system that’s ill-suited for its setting. But when such a system runs smoothly, it increases efficiency, protects materials, promotes library programming, and instills confidence in patrons, which translates into increased circulation and a staff with more time to focus on things like programs and services.
This first edition of Library Systems Landscape, the successor to LJ’s annual Automation Marketplace feature, will examine how library systems are currently evolving, specifically focusing on recent advances in ebook integration, the emergence of next-generation library services platforms (LSP), new tools that are expanding the boundaries of what library websites and catalogs can do, and the maturation of open source options as competitors to commercial products.