Tech Trends in Libraries

the Good News and the Bad News

and why library 2.0 is no big deal

[and not that new]

Jessamyn West


« talkin' 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/ short term technology plan
  • "I'll look it up" [useful in so many ways]
  • "Let's try it"
  • tech lion tamer
  • buy what's at the local retailer
  • reactive technology. change happens when things break. five year plans
  • "I don't know" [dead end]
  • "let's form a committee"
  • 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.

library 2.0 - L2 for short

First, there is Web 2.0. The public is getting used to having greater degrees of interaction with their institutions via technology. The technology allows libraries to do more outreach to more people without much more in the way of resources. One library director explains
"L2 is, to me, a service philosophy built upon three things; a willingness to change and try new things; a willingness to constantly re-evaluate our service offerings; and finally, a willingness to look outside our own world for solutions, be they technology-driven or not "
[example from my trip... rental car, plane tickets, "ask a question" this is NOT the cheeseburger in the library problem but more the "why don't we use what we have?" question] Bad News: "new" can mean buzzy, hypey, flakey and hazy, among other things [there will be more trial and error, it's sounds trendy and buzzword-y, old dogs, new tricks, right now it's still a bunch of white guy pundits talking about it]

« software - email me  »

Bad News: Everyone's email is different. Filtering sometimes blocks what you're trying to explain. You're teaching culture in addition to teaching technique, you risk opening information-pooor patrons up to a world of hurt
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 looked 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]
Bad news: filters! bad associations with "chat rooms," slow typists are even further behind
"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 Bad news: blog & wiki backlash and controversy, lack of maintenance can really show [it's like how for people like me, comptuers are video games and thus not 'real work']
a few blog search engines: daypop, technorati, feedster
wikipedia, sacred texts wiki, Koha wiki
definitions of "blog" - from Google
Libraries with blogs, law libraries with blogs & LISNews
Weblogs and Public Libraries article

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

It's getting so that point-n-click is too slow for just "scanning" news & blogs. Bad News: Privacy (example), echo chamber, information overload

Getting Started with RSS: The Fifteen-Minute Tutorial | What is RSS? [tons of good links] | RSS for non-techie librarians
search for feeds with feedster, waypath or bloglines
RSS readers: NetNewsWire for Mac, more options from blogspace and from

« hardware - various media "books" »

Books take many forms. We're comfy with books on tape/CD. What about books in Bad News: Using books in these formats involves not just knowing about technology but also knowing about licensing. Learn the term DRM, vendor entrenchment, librarian as tech support

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.

Bad News: Wifi can be cheap but the vendor won't tell you that. Confusing rules/policies and staff education. Technolust.

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: leaving "flavor of the month" stage. Not always interoperable. Different sites are good for different things. Yahoo is in the game.

Bad News? Schools are starting to worry. Privacy and sharing are unlikely bedfellows.

some sites:,,, Also dogster and catster.
some examples: my former library's pictures at flickr, progressive librarians tribe on
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.

Bad News: Great unknown, erratic documentation, geek culture may not be librarian culture and vice versa.
what is open source?
oss4lib - open source systems for libraries with project page.
some examples: 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 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