Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Stephen Abram's Technoschism - Reflections

There will be more than enough posts about exactly what Stephen Abram said in his talk about technology, relevance, and how they meet (or don't currently meet) in libraries. So here are just my quick bullet points of reflection and contemplation.

  • "What librarians do best is context management, not content management": As Stephen often reinforces in his talks, we're not competing with Google, that's an apples to oranges comparison (especially when they're way too busy creating apps and taking over the online world). Librarians need to focus on creating a context for content, an environment for user interaction (as a sidenote, remember that Library 2.0 includes *offline* environment). We shouldn't be trying to reinvent the wheel (or besmirching the evolution of newly-evolved information management methods) on how to manage stuff.

  • Nexthead, not texthead: Are you ready for the next extinction of file formats? Do you know what you'll do when DVDs go the way of the dodo? Have you explored the ideas of preserving content by uploading it to file sharing servers, or using PodZinger and Podscope to get searchable transcripts of podcasts and videos, so you have some version of the content when it disappears?

  • Focusing on stuff that doesn't suck: Like, say catalogs. Patrons don't want OPACs, they want user-centered design in their online environments. So we should focus on creating great environments (in my mind, this means either shirking bad OPACs and creating better ones with the help of vendors or via creative Greasemonkey scripting, or going out to services like LibraryThing and uploading our catalogs to be where our users are), and spend less time complaining about the shortcomings of an antiquated utility.

  • Stop giving people information from a firehose: Stephen's talk took me back to my usability roots, with the reminder that we need to get better at user-centered design. No more showing patrons 300 ways to do something or 300 resources in a section, but more of really providing focused, customized information. This means getting to know our users, and not just sitting behind the desk and not making eye contact.

  • Get social: Go where everyone is online, make an account, and play. My Caveat: Do not try to force a use of the social software stuff into the library if it doesn't fit; assess your needs, and figure out if a branch in Second Life or an account on Facebook is right for your library. But, the benefits of being in social software environments is understanding the culture, which equals understanding a section of your patrons.

  • Do that 23 things thing: Not sure where to start? Go to 23 things. 15 minutes every other day can get you to a place where you'll start to get it.

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