For the past three years, the Queens (NY) Library has embarked on a project to radically improve the way library customers discover and access digital content and information resources (which from this point will be referred to as “digital information”). Queens Library invests with a variety of providers to license a rich array of digital information for our customers, but like most libraries, has been forced to rely on a complex set of proprietary interfaces to navigate and deliver them. Only the savviest customers are able to keep track of a large number of separate usernames, passwords, and website URLs. Even when this barrier is crossed, accessing this digital information (or even finding out what is available) requires them to follow links out of the library’s system and over to the digital in- formation provider’s system.
The Wired Library
I was once giving a presentation on circulating nontraditional items. When one librarian stood up and casually mentioned that her library circulated bicycles, I nearly fell over. Others told me that their libraries circulate cake pans, power tools, musical instruments, paintings, and more. I once heard, and I half hope this is not real and half want to hear the assuredly amazing stories, of a library that was circulating costumes.
Community access and technology training are crucial components of public library services. The American Library Association’s (ALA) 2015 Digital Inclusion Survey found that “those who receive formal digital literacy training were significantly more likely to use the Internet to pursue economic opportunities and cultivate social ties.”1 In this context, at Forest Park (IL) Public Library (FPPL) we decided in 2016 to revamp our programming efforts to serve our suburban population of 15,000. Helping patrons effectively use technology to achieve educational, economic, and social goals became our shiny new objective. We were eager to launch a new lineup of programs. However, beyond the many questions and dilemmas inherent in launching a new initiative, I wondered who in the world would facilitate the workshops?
In August 2015, I invited Evan Silva, fantasy football author/podcaster/expert, to speak to an audience at the Skokie (IL) Public Library (SPL). Silva, though well known in the fantasy football world, had never spoken at a library or similar educational institution and wasn’t sure why I would contact him. To me, the connection was obvious. Librarians help and teach our patrons to find the best information possible in order to make the best decisions possible.
Failure hurts. It really, really hurts. But painful failure can be a great teacher if you have the right mindset and work in an enlightened organization. Your mindset can make the difference between making positive changes and repeating old mistakes.
As learning is the point of libraries, it is time to consider the best ways to serve our communities. That means we need to do more to learn how people learn. There is an incredible amount of well-researched, well-documented learning theories. Two theories that we are currently drawn to are experiential learning and connected learning.
THE WIRED LIBRARY | How to Keep Your Library’s Facebook Page from Getting Hacked: A PLA Podcast Transcript
Editor’s note: Our regular columnist, Dilnavaz Mirza Sharma, will be back in the next issue with a new The Wired Library column. For this issue, we chose to share a partial transcript of a podcast we recorded live at the PLA 2016 conference. Visit http://publiclibrariesonline.org/category/media to listen to this podcast in its entirety. Thank you […]
The Wired Library explores tech topics relevant to public librarians.
Zetta Elliott is working with the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School to produce an anthology of middle-grade student writing. Maybe the anthology will be picked up by a mainstream publisher, maybe it won’t. It doesn’t really matter to Elliott. For her, the solution to the lack of diversity in children’s books is simple: Stop begging at the doors of traditional publishers and publish diverse books yourself. It sounds lofty, but thanks to the explosion of digital publishing tools, it’s now possible for just about anyone to publish a professional-looking book—simply and affordably, online or in print.
Simply put, a Geographic Information System (GIS) is a tool for organizing data so that it can be displayed and analyzed based on its geospatial characteristics. Using GIS allows users to combine multiple data sets in order to suss out connections in the subject matter that might not necessarily have been fully apparent without the added element of geographic references.
The pendulum, it swings. Eight years ago, my charge as a technology librarian was to herd the cats — to introduce new technology and ways of serving the digital patron to an organization that was largely skeptical of change. Cut to now, and I’m … still herding cats. Only, this time, it’s the folks at all levels of the organization who want to incorporate tech into every service they can think of. Sunrise, sunset.
Does that mean we’ve had a complete polar shift in the way technology operates in libraries? Yes, but also no. Maybe we’ll even throw a “maybe” in there for good measure. The pendulum will keep swinging, meaning we’ve got to be ready for shifts in either direction. Sound confusing? Of course it is. There’s a tremendous tension between the wish to provide stability and the urge to forge new ground. In our quest to provide quality service and access to all, it’s no wonder we feel pulled in all directions at once.
The web always has its eye on the future, but online culture is not immune to nostalgia. The last few months have seen several attempts to revive a fascination for the dial-up age. A pair of French artists launched windows93.net, a tongue-in-cheek homage to early browsers filtered through a seriously absurdist sense of humor. Writer Paul Ford launched tilde.club, an ASCII-laden throwback to spaces like GeoCities and the communal webring culture that eventually became the blogging world we know today. Sprinkle in a generous dose of animated GIFs, and it’s like we’re on AOL all over again.
The web always has its eye on the future, but online culture is not immune to nostalgia. The last few months have seen several attempts to revive a fascination for the dial-up age. A pair of French artists launched windows93.net, a tongue-in-cheek homage to early browsers filtered through a seriously absurdist sense of humor. Writer Paul Ford launched tilde.club, an ASCII-laden throwback to spalces like GeoCities and the communal webring culture that eventually became the blogging world we know today. Sprinkle in a generous dose of animated GIFs, and it’s like we’re on AOL all over again.
Customer service is an ongoing balance between quantitative and qualitative elements. On one hand, our profession’s “killer app” is its ability to identify an individual’s needs through a combination of probing questions and intuition, done with courtesy and without judgment. On the other hand, the steady flow of patrons and the need to keep statistics counts up means that many aspects of the user interaction have to stay uniform. It’s this balance between uniformity and personalization that makes every act of customer service something new. Throughout the days, weeks, and years of a library’s life, each of these transactions start to run together.
“A library is a collection of possible futures.”—John Barth, Browsing1
The future of libraries is a lot like my office clock. It has your standard 1-12 numbering around the outside edge of the device, along with an inner ring that marks off the minutes in five-minute increments. Each hand ends in a circle, and you can read the clock by checking to see which numbers are inside each circle. In order to do so, you’ve got to realize that the hour hand is the bigger of the two—countering more than 1,000 years of conditioning telling us which clock hand is which