Evaluating New Technologies for Libraries

High Tech on a Shoestring

Jessamyn West



« question: what is the REAL problem? »

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

teh intarnets

silly underline image to make it seem like it's mispelled

money and priority issues, it's not having the money, it's being reluctant to part with it
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.

ideas: l2

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 "

BUT, technology is where you save money, this decade. Seriously. 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. [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]
  • patron notification via email: overdues, holds, events
  • interactive web content: blogs, wikis, book reviews
  • right tool for the right job [use the brick and mortar building for the brick and mortar programs and services, know when to say goodbye]
  • using the technology to do the same jobs better, faster and with more familiarity.


Caution: "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] How libraries can take advantage of Web/Library 2.0
learn the words: radical trust, many to many, information architecture, cluetrain
learn to say: "rip mix burn" or maybe "gather create share" or "small pieces loosely joined" or "the power of many" or just "cluetrain"

« software: email me  »

The easiest freest thing you can do to increase your library presence
  • consider a class for patrons?
  • for staff and patrons, consider a domain for email addresses?
  • aliases for staff/friends/board/others
  • for reference, low cost "ask a librarian"
  • note: there are many web-based alternatives to Yahoo/Hotmail that are free and better

Caution: 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-poor 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 more than one account
guide for more options | email basics | what my email class looked like

« software: IM me  »

[transcript of an im conversation]

"remember, we also debated telephone reference"
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.
  • use it as a reference channel for patrons
  • make a quick query of the circ staff while you're helping a patron anecdote from senate
  • stay in touch with colleagues at other libraries, ask them questions
  • maintain a "buddy list" of people you contact frequently, know immediately if they're online

Caution: filters! bad associations with "chat rooms," slow typists are even further behind
article about IM in Library Journal
Walking Paper & Tame the Web blogs about IM in libraries
clients: Adium *~, AOL *, MSN, Yahoo, Jabber*, iChat ~, Gaim*, Trillian, Fire ~, more... [* open source, ~ mac only]
IM 101 - the basics
kids today are using Meebo [screenshot] and their phones *****

« software: blogs & wikis  »

Blogs - regular doses of links, commentary and discussion

- These regular doses of links, commentary and discussion are becoming a popular and easy way of sharing information.
  • tools are often free or cheap
  • templating makes design consistency easy
  • very little tech savviness needed for basic set-up
  • easy solution to the "how do you get them coming back?" problem
Wikis - online tools for collaborative whatever, editable by anyone

"it's a box, you can type in it."
  • simple to install and modify
  • easy learning curve, also becoming popular

Caution: blog & wiki backlash and controversy, lack of maintenance can really show
[it's like how for people like me, computers are video games and thus not 'real work'] a few blog search engines: daypop, technorati, feedster
wikis: wikipedia, sacred texts wiki, Koha wiki
libwikis: library success, ala conference, liswiki, blogging libraries wiki
blog reading: definitions of "blog" - from Google, LISNews, law libraries with blogs, special libraries with blogs, Weblogs and Public Libraries article

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

[rss and xml icons]     [new rss icon]

point-n-click too slow for just "scanning" news & blogs?

Caution: 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, icerocket or bloglines
RSS readers: NetNewsWire for Mac, more options from blogspace and from allrss.com

«  concepts: social software  »

a less dorky way to network - it's not just MySpace
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.

Caution? Schools are starting to worry. Privacy and sharing are unlikely bedfellows. MySpace MySpace MySpace!
HOT: superglu [mine], 43 things [mine], peoplefeeds [mine], myspace [mine]
some sites: tribe.net, linkedin.com, friendster.com, flickr.com. Also dogster and catster.
some examples: my former library's pictures at flickr, progressive librarians tribe on tribe.net
get technical: read about the FOAF project, BYO with ning, learn: tags, folksonomy, "open API"

« concepts - opp, other people's projects »

[pomegranate from wikicommons]

Open Source means free and redistributable, with an open code base
"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.

Caution: Great unknown, erratic documentation, geek culture vs. librarian culture
what is open source?, more definitions, oss4lib - OS 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

« hardware: WiFi  »

wifi = $30

Caution: understand the potential & choose service/security appropriately. Watch for abuse.
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]

«  so?  »

No amount of money will make a tech-phobic staff love technology.

No amount of dissuasion will keep a technophile away from technology.

Knowing who you're working with and [the full range of] what your options are is more valuable than any amount of money thrown at your technology problem. The good news and the Caution about technology: it is what you make out of it. Some things you can do even with very low-end tech skills...
  • CD listening station with one of your offline computers
  • Use your voice mail system to have a pre-recorded list of new books
  • Have a staff intranet as part of your web site with links to frequently-used staff pages.
  • Accessibility in web design and use of technology generally.
  • Create a nurturing environment where everyone can learn together

« questions & credits »

Jessamyn West is a librarian, community technology mentor, and the editor of the weblog librarian.net. She teaches email classes for seniors, builds tiny websites for tiny libraries and advocates for sensible technology use at all types of libraries.

IM her at iamthebestartist.

All 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 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.
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