Hot Hot Robot

Sensible Approaches to Technology in Libraries

Jessamyn West


Where We Are, Where We're Going

Libraries used to mainly be all about books. I think we may be able to agree that at some point in the future before the sun goes supernova they may -- while still containing books -- be mainly about digital information in its many forms.

Don't Freak Out

I don't mean to be all YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED about this, because honestly, it may take decades, many of you may move on before this happens.

Tweens, Robert Frost and You

No, you are not the only one thinking "haven't I seen that image before someplace?" But I think many of us can agree, the awkward in-between years are where we are now. Robert Frost described his mixed feelings about the world as a "lovers quarrel" and I think I could be described as having a lovers quarrel with librarianship. Put another way I've seen the best minds of my profession destroyed by tech support and spam. My publisher pal told me "sometimes I want to break up with technology..."

Our Greatest Skills Can be Our Undoing

We know a lot. We know where to find a lot more. We are entering a playing field where our users may know more than we do, about a lot of things. You all remember the guys from the reference desk who were experts on something or other and would still come and ask questions. If you worked it right you'd often learn as much as you taught but the library was a good place for guys like that. Now that guy is at the reference desk dangling an ipod or a disk on key or needing to hop on email to print plane tickets or IM to tell his wife he'll be late..... plus he's frustrated and doesn't know why he can't get on a computer NOW.

So What Are We? Hybrid Librarians!

Hybrid sounds sort of sexy and efficient at the same time, don't you think? We can't, we just can't, be all things to all people. What is in our toolkit, then? In the US, nutrition guidelines went from teaching people how to eat more to telling them to eat less. Similarly in our public libraries, we see ourselves in the "may you live in interesting times" type of situation where we need to learn how to limit access to our resources, not promote them. anecdote: Outreach quandary at my library.... Let's see where this can take us... and what's HOT.

User Interface Design: OPACs and databases vs the web

To many people, the interface IS the software. search box Remember the search/find distinction and know whether you are creating a tool for users or a tool for librarians. if you want my business/patronage, ask for it by making your tools genuinely easy to use. jamesian geniune options. if we know why these products are better to use but CAN'T MAKE THEM LOOK THAT WAY we need to be prepared to intermediate

What's HOT? customizeable and accessible interfaces, downloadable search sets, alerts [rss, email], federated searches that work

Copyrights and 'wrongs

all these books belong to you We don't have to choose sides, but just reading the warnings on the side of the box and failing to put those through your own filter is a side as well. dealing with a lay population who only know about these rules and policies by watching tv, or reading MPAA/RIAA press releases in the media, copyright infringement IS theft? Don't be timid

What's HOT? open source and free alternatives to DRM and heavily licensed items, platform independence in ebooks and audio books, proactive information about the confusing world of copyright and an understanding that copyright is NOT the same as natural law, it's an evolving process and librarians are part of it.

If you must filter...

anecdote about new job, seeing pictures of myself on the intarweb but not being able to get to This is a professional problem, even if it is not [yet] your problem. filtering gets crazy sometimes Collection development is serious work and choosing a filter should be thought of as a type of pre-weeding and given close scrutiny accordingly. If you must filter, tell your patrons, explain the process, err on the side of access. examples: tell adults they can get the filters turned off, have copies of the supreme court decision, explain what your filter does and does not block, have an explanation of why you chose it. consider an open source filter that you can more accurately monitor.

What's HOT: open source filtering with user configurable whitelists.


We're learning a new "expert balance" with our colleagues and patrons.

Large consortiums and bundled take-it-or-leave-it software, confusing technology and increasingly complex user needs are going to make Our jobs will get tougher before they get easier.

Easy interfaces on the Internet raise the bar for everyone.we all know about information searching behavior where people ask their friends

Software, gadgets and nifty web tools will come and go. Librarianship is becoming a profession for people who at least like technology [and love challenges] more than ever before.

What's HOT: Good technological challenge and elegant staff- and patron-empowering solutions to them.

Questions or Comments?

Questions or Comments?

Jessamyn West is a community tech mentor for AmeriCorps working with the Kimball Library in Randolph Vermont. She runs the weblog and is an American Library Association At Large Councilor. She thinks computers are fun. IM her at iamthebestartist.

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. Thanks to Scott Thigpen for the background image.
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