Emerging Technology and Libraries: A Good Fit?

making technology choices that work for your library

and [maybe] help the world

Jessamyn West



« preface - helpful tech vs. helpless tech »

It's like spelling... bad spellers just don't know how to fix the problem.

useless  less useful
  • comparison shop incl. online vendors
  • implementation w/ technology plan
  • "I'll look it up" [useful in so many ways]
  • tech lion tamer
  • buy what's at the local retailer
  • reactive technology. change happens when things break
  • "I don't know" [dead end]
  • tech victim

There will be new things to understand and new ways to understand them. The more you know, the better you help others. Everyone in the library can help.

What Does This Have to Do With Saving the World?

We work with and for the public. We can use our public resources to address various sociopolitical concerns, if we decide to. Such as... What else? it's all about choices, and choosing FOR one thing often means choosing AGAINST something else.... like the internet being the world's biggest library.... overt rules and decisions often create unforseen and unintended consequences. I'll talk about a few of them

« software - email me  »

gmail - google's mail solution in beta, lots of storage, privacy issues?
ftml - no ads for people who have one account
guide for more options | email basics | what my email class looks like

« software - IM me  »

We use the phone for everything interoffice. The immediacy of the phone is tough at the reference desk and encourages the chained-to-desk approach. Instant Messaging allows quick targeted chat without disrupting other communication lines. Popular with teens.
[transcript of an im conversation]

"remember, we also debated telephone reference" article in LJ
Walking Paper & Tame the Web blogs about IM in libraries
clients: AOL, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber*, iChat, Gaim*, Trillian, Fire, more... [* open source]
IM 101 - the basics

« software - blogs & wikis  »

Blogs - These regular doses of links, commentary and discussion are becoming a popular and easy way of sharing information. Wikis - Online tools for collaborative whatever, editable by anyone
a few blog search engines: daypop, technorati
wikipedia - a collaborative free-content encylopedia, sacred texts wiki, Koha wiki
definitions of "blog" - from Google
Libraries with blogs, law libraries with blogs & LISNews
Weblogs and Public Libraries ePub article from PLA by Steven Cohen

« software - rss [really simple syndication, really!]  »

It's getting so that point-n-click is too slow for just "scanning" news & blogs.

Getting Started with RSS: The Fifteen-Minute Tutorial - by Karen Schneider
What is RSS? [tons of good links]
RSS for non-techie librarians by Steven Cohen
search for feeds with feedster, waypath, bloglines, or LISFeeds for library blogs
RSS readers: NetNewsWire for Mac, more options from blogspace and from allrss.com

« hardware - various media "books" »

Books take many forms. We're comfy with books on tape/CD. What about books in Using books in these formats involves not just knowing about technology but also knowing about licensing. Learn the term DRM.

project gutenberg has free ebooks & the wikibooks project is making more
teleread tracks ebook developments
listen ohio & listen illinois are offering plug and play audio book system
trendy: ipods with ebooks. read about it in Wired, macobserver

« hardware - WiFi & PDAs  »

The reference desk is one of the few places at the library that isn't near the books. PDAs + wireless = reference from anywhere in the library.

Wifi could mean a roving reference desk & unlimited BYO computers on your network. Authentication is possible. Users can choose filtered or unfiltered access. Easy to limit to authorized users.

While low-end Wifi is inexpensive to implement, larger scale projects will require infrastructure and some trained staff. Tablet PCs are sexy, but not cheap.

Bill Drew's Wireless Librarian blog & Mobile Tech in Libraries page
Tablet PC possibilities for libraries
some example library wifi pages: King County, Boston Public, Juneau Public
article: Extending broadband to rural communities with wifi [UK]

« concepts - social software  »

An updated way to network. Where we once just had email discussion lists, now we can have "tribes", groups, forums and interest groups. Trusted friends-of-friends and colleagues-of-colleagues can share information in an easier fashion than by waiting to meet up at conferences.

Status: still in "flavor of the month" stage. Not interoperable. Different sites are good for different things. Yahoo just got into the game. Schools are starting to worry.

some sites: tribe.net, linkedin.com, friendster.com, flickr.com. Also dogster and catster.
some examples: my library's pictures at flickr, progressive librarians tribe on tribe.net
get technical and read about the FOAF project

« concepts - open source »

Open Source means free and redistributable, with an open code base [read more]
"The money we spent on getting Koha MARC compliant will never need to be spent again (as opposed to every library using a given proprietary system having to purchase the same module from a vendor multiple times--sometimes even yearly)." [cite]
Many standard applications have open source equivalents. OpenOffice is a Microsoft Office equivalent. Firefox is much more configurable than IE [and safer]. Think about Thunderbird instead of Outlook.

what is open source?
oss4lib - open source systems for libraries with project page.
some examples: ibiblio.org archives, Koha opac system, rakim virtref tool
Georgia Public Library Service is developing an open source integrated library system
Linux in action: A public library's success story

« synthesis »

The good news and the bad news about technology: it is what you make out of it. Some things you can do even with very low-end tech skills... For what it's worth, I'm not totally sold on

« questions & credits »


Jessamyn West is a librarian, community technology mentor, and the editor of the weblog librarian.net. She's an elected representative to ALA Council where she tries hard to advocate for sensible technology use at all types of libraries.

IM her at iamthebestartist.

Thanks to squidfingers for the background patterns. All other images were grabbed hither and yon, if one belongs to you and you object to its use, let me know.

This presentation was created in HTML using CSS. There was no PowerPoint involved in this presentation except as a nagging bad example. The layout and stylesheet are available to borrow via a share and share alike creative commons license. See source code for details.
slides | printable