April 20, 2007

Computers in Libraries: Day 1 Afternoon part 1

Me, MySpace & Eye: Privacy, Security, Social Networking and Libraries by Alane Wilson, OCLC.

This was an interesting session where OCLC's Wilson presented some statistical data from an ongoing project to study the privacy implications of social software, comparing in many cases the reactions of librarians to questions to those of young people. She noted that the statistics show that the two groups have very different definitions of privacy and that privacy in the new age often means anonymity. One interesting paradox of privacy that she noted was that we often think other people should reveal more than we do ourselves, so that we can know about them in way that makes us feel better without having to divulge similar information about ourselves. I look forward to when the full report is published so we can see the statistical analysis in full and not have to squint at teeny tiny charts on ppt slides.

Millennials and the Library by Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technologies and Research for the Jean and Alexander Heard Library at Vanderbilt University.

A very interesting and important presentation, highlighting the supposed radical generational change presented by millennials and the challenges they present to libraries and librarians in devising systems, collections and services. A lot could be debated here, a lot of assumptions that may or may not be valid, a lot of sweeping statements.

Breeding began by checking to see what cohort was the most numerous in the audience and Gen X & Boomers were the most numerous, yet the majority of the academic library population is millennials. Millennials can be characterized by an almost inate ability for technology, multitasking, a comfort with diverse digital media and a love of interactivity. Breeding did caution us not to overgeneralize generational differences (although, he proceded to overgeneralize generational differences non-stop for the rest of the presentation), especially in light of the growing tech sophistication of older generations.

He cited the Forrester study noting that millennials are creative, impatient skeptical, not impressed with status or auhtority, like to process information immediately and visually and like group work, they like to construct knowledge from experience, the old "sage on the stage" method of teaching is no longer as valid for them. Their approach to studying and learning is multitasking, doing many things while studying, like to be able to access stuff anytime, anywhere.

Now, the needs of the millennials do not conflict with older generations and are in tune with the strategic direction of most libraries anyways. The future of libraries is at stake and doing nothing is not an option.

Our collections must diversify in media, print is still good, but graphics are better, they love to use A/V materials and remix them. Our collections must embrace ejournals, ebooks, podcasts, video, news archives, datasets. These collections are our best opportunity to have an impact, but we must promote & provide access in an immediate, collaborative and intuitive way. Commercial sites like Google have heightened user expectations for a generation with good web skills, low tolerance for clunkyness, confident in their ability and reluctant to ask for help because they can always find something.

The status quo is not an option. The look and feel of our systems do not meet expectations, require the use of myriad interfaces, are overly complex, unintuitive and have different kinds of things in different places. The current tools we use, such as the opac, aggregators, openurl are loosely coupled. The distributed query model of meta/federated search is problematic. But change is underway: there are lots of people thinking about it, dissatisfied with current opacs, that want to break from the current mold, decouple the opac from the backoffice. The next generation of systems will have a more comprehensive discovery interface, better delivery tools, more powerful search and more elegant presentation. A comprehensive search service, get rid of product/discipline silos, cooperate better.

Web 2.0 is a good start, social and collaborative, blogs, wikis tagging, bookmarking, ranking, web services, xml, apis, ajax, microformats, opensearch. We need new opac tools with decoupled interfaces, more expected of catalogue data, alternative search engines, expanded discovery tools with comprehensive interfaces. Redefine the catalogue, challenge traditional notions, digital resources cannot be afterthought, don't force myriad interfaces. The web is the standard interface, rapid response, rich visuals, drill down results, faceted browsing, bread crumbs, ratings & rankings. Doscovery is important, we need new models, to take advantage of non-library search tools, like google, google scholar, wikipedia and others. Global discovery of local resources. We need to welcome the millennial generation.

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