Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Stephen Abram, pt 2

Stephen Abram went through lots and lots of developments very fast, but overall he is focussing on lots of things related to change in how people access information (e.g. via devices and social networking sites) and how information is delivered to people (e.g. via localized Google results and so on).


What does this all mean for librarians? Abram says we have to change how we approach dealing with students and information in a new world. Become more open to a networked and a global, borderless reality.

"How do we support ideas and creativity in our spaces; how do we build an innovation culture? How do we become more open to comment?"


What he's not talking about very much are library goals: what is our aim in all of this? Goals and end aims should not be confused with technology platforms; how hardware works shouldn't affect the core aspirations of a good research and preservation oriented collection. Technology may make it easier to do certain things and make it possible to conceive of other things; but I don't believe that changes our core mission.

One thing I do particular appreciate is his exhortation to build our own services and try new things -- "you might not build the right thing yourself, but you'll recognize it when you see it because you've been trying to build it yourself."

Note: Abram does return to this idea at the very end of the presentation, however:
How do we understand how we inform, how we produced an informed student? There are not enough studies on the value of libraries, especially academic libraries.
How do we focus on results and impact? Circulation and reading habits are not, in fact down...

More observations he makes:

"Let's stay away from blocking statements -- e.g. "Management will never approve this" -- that's just not helpful. Instead, let's figure out what style of proposal management *will* accept and write up our proposal in that style.

"We keep trying to teach librarians OPAC searching skills, instead of teaching them research success!

"I've heard of some libraries banning USB drives... because God knows we wouldn't want people to take information *out* of libraries. "Honestly, people, what kind of library would ban USB drives?! That's not normal."


One thing I don't like in most talks about Web 2.0 is the oversimplification of talking about how people interact online. For instance, Abram tells a story about how he encouraged one library to edit their Wikipedia entry. "You don't need a committee to do this!" he exclaims. Of course not, but Wikipedia (I can say somewhat authoratively) is not that simple either; don't assume you know how to easily interact in every online community just because you can get to it.

In sum, Abram says that the big shift is where technology is and how it is connected; barriers to internet access are falling away (or at least changing). Moore's Law continues to apply.

He wraps up with five things to do:

* do the 23 things or 5 steps
* get a social networking presence
* learn your phone
* play together beyond the walls
* connect with your users in segments

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