Showing posts with label ebook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ebook. Show all posts

26.8.14

Public Libraries Still Matter in the Age of Amazon

Poets House in Battery Park City (Manhattan)
is a good model for how libraries should look and feel.
News flash: libraries have been offering e-books for free long before Amazon started doling out an e-book subscription service. With Amazon’s recent Kindle Unlimited service, readers can access thousands of books for free. The catch? It’s ten dollars a month. But libraries have been offering a similar service for free to patrons for years. Why not more press on libraries? To answer some questions about libraries, free books, and bridging the digital divide, I teamed up with New York University Reference Librarian Ray Pun to discuss how libraries are helping to mind the digital gap. The result is this commentary.
Use It Or Lose It
There's a saying that goes "use it or lose it." It’s an apt reason to keep your brain active, because, you know, you’ll lose it. The analogy applies to why we use libraries and how they’re helping to not only bridge the digital divide but adding more fodder to the trough. If you don’t use books — well — I don’t even want to think about what it would be like to lose it.
Libraries Matter
I have a hunch that people think that since there’s the Internet then libraries don’t matter. It’s just a hunch, but it’s hidden in the comments I get on being a librarian: “You need a degree to do that?” Yes, librarians need a degree to do “that.” Putting aside my rancor for such questions, I think it tells us a little bit about the current cultural zeitgeist and where we’re going.
There's a misconception that if I can Google it then it must be free. While the open Internet is indeed a treasure trove of knowledge, it's also a depository of useless junk. Librarians keep the door open between the open Internet and its mass chaos of information and the stuff that’s behind closed doors.
To give an idea of what I am talking about, take a look at the Internet Public Library. It’s a deceptively simple website, but it does something different that Google does not do. Behind the HTML code and links are a team of librarians who are constantly updating links to provide access to good information. So, if you need to get reputable and accurate sources you could Google it, but knowing that a team of information specialists curate and cull the “good stuff” makes the Internet Public Library, a unique place.
Knowledge Deserves To Be Free
We tend to think of libraries as brick and mortar buildings that house books, and while this is true, the concept of “the library” is less about locking knowledge up in a safe deposit box, and more about the free dissemination of ideas. The word free is cheap, and I do not mean to suggest that “free” equates with “worthless.”
Libraries are free in the sense that they keep us as a community free from all the nasty stuff that comes from not being free. What would it look like to live in the tyranny of a library-less world? I’d say it would be rather gloomy. And not too pretty.
We might think, “I already own an iPad, and my house has enough books, so why should I bother about using the library?” The logic that stipulates freedom with “I already have that” is the logic that one day could threaten the very concept libraries embody — equal access to knowledge. I use knowledge in the broadest sense of the term. Knowledge cannot be confined by a book, iPad, or even Google’s vast search engine. Yet -- not everyone owns an iPad. And while according to an April 2014 Pew Research study, 87% of adults have access to the Internet, it isn’t 100%. Some libraries have started to mend the gap by lending out tablets such as iPads to people, library users, and complete strangers with library cards! Other institutions such as the New York Public Library are experimenting with a new service: lending portable MiFi Hotspot devices to underserved youth and communities by allowing them to have Internet access outside of the library hours.
Knowledge is bound up with community. Knowledge is supposed to be shareable, and the access we enjoy through our libraries is only as free as we struggle for its freedom. That’s why libraries, even though they are strapped with mounting operational costs and the threat of being cut off from state, local, and federal funding, continue to innovate, to continue to bridge the digital divide. For example, the simple innovation of providing MiFi devices to users who cannot access library services during opening hours closes the gap a little bit. Or loaning out iPads and laptops to users who otherwise cannot afford these gateways to knowledge.
Support Libraries
Support your public library, starting today and in numerous ways: whether it is with monetary or book donations, paying off your library fines or writing to your state and local assembly person about why your library is important to you and your community. You need to stand up for your library because you are standing up for your community. When you keep visiting your libraries, it brings up their “public services metrics” or in layman’s terms, the “headcount” reader goes up, which translates into more resources libraries can roll out for public use. Keeping the building filled with people who use it is good for the library. They can then report to their constituents about the increases of public users in their libraries on a quarterly basis.
I'll End With A Story
It reminds me of a story a friend of mine told me that I thought reflects what libraries do. When he was a teenager, he lived in a small town in South Louisiana with a local municipal public library. He went to the library in the Summer to find a book he wanted to read. He told me, “I don’t remember who told me about the book, but it was called Birdy by William Wharton.” The library did not have it nor did any of the local branches, so the librarian looked at him with a smile on her face and said, “Let’s do an interlibrary loan.” He told me that he didn’t know what an interlibrary loan was, but it sounded neat. “She had me fill out a form — and mind you; this was before the Internet was all the rage,” he said. “In a few weeks, the book arrived from the State Library, and I was able to read the book. I had no idea such a small miracle was possible.” For him, it was like Christmas in July; he’s now a writer and teaches philosophy. Now that ninety percent of all libraries in the U.S. loan out e-books, interlibrary loan looks like an antiquated version of lending, but most libraries still have it and it’s the most thanked-for feature of public libraries by patrons.
Librarians intrinsically know the value of libraries. We just don’t talk about it enough. Let’s spread the word. A call to action: use it and don’t lose it — for the present and future lovers of knowledge out there. Including me. And you. All of us. You can still subscribe to Kindle Unlimited if you want, but check out the library too.
By Greig Roselli (with Ray Pun)

N.B.: The above article is a reprint from the same LinkedIn Pulse article.
Image Source: Poets House

4.8.09

Old tech librarians are not complaining, just saying the future will be “a lot more crazy change.”

When researching this blog post on the future of information technology, drinking a cup of coffee, I assumed I would find happy Web 2.0 advocates (and excited librarians for Web 3.0) proudly discussing new trends in the field of library and information science.
While one may find an uncommon, optimistic librarian, like this very optimistic teacher hilariously touting “digital citizenship,” this is not always the case. The professionals are not completely pessimistic but many question their identities as librarians and feel ALA has lost its verve a long time ago. Blogs written by professionals in the field joke about technology and some write objectively about new advancements. Whether it is tongue in cheek or written in nebulous prose, an RSS feed of good blogs give a decent feel for the current pulse. Thinking intuitively as I read blog posts, I sense librarians blasé about the newest trends, even to the point of mocking librarians who seem to spend their hard-earned MLIS degrees serving adolescent teens wanting to get on Second Life (an online simulated world like The Sims) or acquiring a trendy gaming system at their local library rather than true grit research or simply finding information for their homework. Consider the Annoyed Librarian’s humorous quips. She or he is one of the tech bloggers I am talking about: seriously knowledgeable about trends but seriously opinionated about it too! S/he has a spoof virtual reference desk called Library Five-O to share with the world: to search the library’s OPAC go to Amazon; If you need a reference question answered, go to Google; if you want to consult an encyclopedia go to Wikipedia; Need storytime for the kids? Go to Youtube!
Librarians are in a predicament because on the one hand, librarianship is a civic idea, designed to simply provide information no matter how glitzy. Librarians are somehow also supposed to package technological finds in attractive ribbons to make it more palpable to the masses. He uses a marketing strategy from Trent Reznor (of Metallica fame). Reznor apparently draws consumers by throwing thumb drives to fans replete with songs and allowing free downloading of podcasts on the Metallica web site. Should the technological librarian do the same and follow the “Trent Reznor Experience?” Is it true the technological library ought to be built according to the equation CwC + Rtb = a dynamic library. Where CwC is “connect with community” and RtU is “reason to use.”
It seems to me tech does not necessitate community. A community has to pre-suppose tech. If there is initially no community then technology will not work -- or worse. create a false community. Although, I don't agree with everything he said. a prelate from Britain talks about the dangers of pseudo-communities on the internet. Although I do not agree that Facebook and myspace lead children to commit suicide. But. I am not going to get into that here. Back to libraries.
The disconnect between librarian’s professional identities and community needs is widening. It is no wonder there is a common collective exasperation in the professional library world when it comes to advances in technology. The pioneers of information technology reminisce about their first foray into the technological world of librarianship when computers first became standard in local public libraries and schools. Now that most libraries have computer labs and most librarians are expected to have some kind of computer skill, the once optimistic and forward-thinking attitudes librarians dreamed of has become a reality. But, with more advances, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to integrate new trends without a full-time systems librarian on hand. Not all librarians are systems librarians, but because librarianship has become so permeated by technology, every librarian has to have not only working knowledge of the principles of librarianship, or even working knowledge of information literacy, BUT working knowledge of how to use and implement information technologies. Librarians are becoming exasperated because librarianship has become ipso facto systems work. It is no longer feasible to be purely analog these days; a librarian has to not only be able to evaluate an HTML page but also create one.
Also, librarians are not necessarily happy about new technological advances. Some are nostalgic for the old days of technology when things were simpler! Stephen’s Lighthouse has on his blog a link to a Wired magazine article about “100 technological advances our kids do not know about” And another link to “50 gadgets from the past”! Sadly, VHS players and stamp vending machines are now as nostalgic as jukeboxes and BETA. I hate bloggers who bemoan the imminent loss of LCD displays, music CDs, Anti-Virus software and stamp vending machines. But, thankfully, one techie admonishes her readers that obsolescence is necessary for innovation (sorry, if you can find the origin of this phrase I will kiss your left nut).

But, anyway, what do you do with those people who just won’t give up their tried and true, who stick to the obsolete? Fire them? And even the most dogged among us still want our traditions. We have reached a point in information technology when we can be nostalgic. With librarians chucking their VHS tapes for DVDs some wonder when they will have to yet again overhaul the collection for the newest digital format. And God bless the library who invested in Beta or Super 8 tracks! The ephemeral nature of free Web 2.0 products and services that libraries often utilize sometimes fail. If a web 2.0 company busts, then all the work and content is lost related to the service. One example is Mag.nolia, a popular social bookmarking web site that folded recently (thanks to information wants to be free!). Once a library adopts a free service (like Wet Paint or even Google Docs) the workload is sometimes doubled especially when a new version comes out that negates previous work or newer operating systems cannot read older files.

Then there is the talk about the future of technology that is more speculation than actual hard technology. Mash-up is the new way of talking about technology. All one has to do is imagine what the future of the book will be like, as in a mash-up of a future e-book reader in this youtube video. The utopian world of book size screens that act as iPhones; the ability to flick through pages with the flick of tap; the ability to scan a book at the bookstore and have it sent to your e-reader; super thin e-readers that allow you to zoom; edit content; add notes with a stylus and more are all utopian ideas librarians talk about but no on really believes these new technologies will not come without a price.


But before we get to the utopia librarians dream some librarians think up I think we need to get people to do a simple, effective Google search. We have a long way to go before technology utopia. I mean, come on, let us be caustic: most folks don't know fuck. It is so fail. Sorry. I mean, it is not always people: the internet is fail. For the most advanced among us, the ostensibly easy "task" is fricking difficult. I want library 3.0. Sure. But, something has to happen. Get rid of proprietary bullshit and let the memes run the show.