Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Is Space Becoming More Valuable Than Information Resources?

If you have not had the chance, make sure you read over Lorcan Dempsey's recent article in Araidne and associated blog posting on the discovery experience. While he once again weaves in the idea of libraries needing to be in the flow of our customer's information seeking patterns, this time Lorcan discusses how the resources contained within the walls of libraries are no longer scarce:

"In a pre-network world, where information resources were relatively scarce and attention relatively abundant, users built their workflow around the library. In a networked world, where information resources are relatively abundant, and attention is relatively scarce, we cannot expect this to happen. Indeed, the library needs to think about ways of building its resources around the user workflow. We cannot expect the user to come to the library any more; in fact, we cannot expect the user even to come to the library Web site any more."

This observation is so true.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a meeting with Lorcan on this concept. In the "old" days, the resources housed in libraries were scarce. The only place one could access the resources contained on the shelves was by visiting the physical library. In the networked world, resources themselves are plentiful.

The challenge that academic libraries will face very soon is that although resources are no longer scarce, space is becoming increasingly scarce. Chances are that planners are already looking at the stacks of materials within the walls of many academic libraries as dead space. Libraries need to look at the information commons, small group study spaces, and other academic support services which could be offered within the library in order to protect their space.

These new uses of the physical library space could bring customers back into the library. Maybe they will not be using the library as we have grown used to, but maybe they will once again find the value of entering our doors. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What Do Henry Ford and the Online Catalog Have In Common?

While Henry Ford's assembly line process was revolutionary, it did have a downside. All of the machine tools were created specifically and fixed in place for the Model T. Due to the significant costs of re-tooling, the Model T did not change for almost two decades.

Similarly, traditional computer software development involves vertical programming architecture where everything required by the program including data, the core application, and the interface are all created and fixed within that program. The online catalog is a great example. The bibliographic data, the application which searches that data, and the customer interface are also fixed within the online catalog system.

The assembling line problem was solved by General Motors which utilized a flexible manufacturing approach in which sub-assemblies were created at different factories which used interchangeable tools. This allowed GM to make changes to any of the sub-assemblies without disrupting the entire manufacturing process. The manufacturing approach that Japanese automakers used to cripple the American automakers took the concept one step further. They interchanged parts between model lines.

In service oriented architecture (SOA), the data, application, and interface are separated so that each can be implemented using the best technologies for the task. The pieces can be interchanged or repurposed.

If one were to build an online catalog using this concept, each of the pieces of the online catalog would be separate software modules. Each would be designed using the best technology for the task. One could then replace the interface module without disrupting the application and bibliographic data processing modules.

As with the Model T the amount of resources required to re-tool from one online catalog system into another are so significant that libraries also rarely switch. One hopes it doesn't take libraries two decades to figure it out. Sphere: Related Content

More on Continuous Learning

Back in July, I jumped into the librarian continuing education thread with my post Continuous Learning: Making it a Priority...Period in response to the Continuous Learning: Making it a Priority Without Breaking the Bank post by Meredith Farkas.

Dave King has revised the discussion in his post Making Time for Web 2.0.

Learning new technologies is an essential part of the continuous learning process and should be a higher priority. Librarians also need to carve time out of their schedule to experiment as well as eat their own dog food. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, October 09, 2006

From Command and Control to Collaborate and Connect

Thanks to Michael Stephens for pointing out a World is Flat post by Will Richardson, “Learner in Chief” at Connective Learning and the author of Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms.

I would like to take the liberty of altering this post with a library POV:

"This is what happens when you move from a vertical (command and control) library system to a much more horizontal (connect and collaborate) flat library system. Your customer can do his and your job…Customers, if they are inclined, can collaborate more directly with more of their peers than ever before no matter who they are or where they are in the world…But librarians will also have to work much harder to be better informed than their customers. There are a lot more conversations between customers and librarians today that start like this: “I know that already! I Googled it myself. Now what do I do about it?” Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Moving Towards Consumption Management

Last week my home theatre audio receiver died. Over the weekend I began researching a replacement unit. (I'm not sure if the deep research of a future purchase is a male or a librarian trait). Since the dead unit was 10 years old, I had much to learn.

In the "old" days I either subscribed to different magazines or ran down to the public library to perform my research. Mail order companies like Crutchfield now have very helpful web sites that provide access to much more than a list of the technical specifics (watts per channel, sound processing standards supported, type of inputs) of various model available on the receiver group page. I was presented with a host of research options.

The site allowed me to compare any receiver models, read reviews, or narrow my search by a host of options such as those with HDMI switching. I was able to view photos of the fronts and backs of the boxes or take advantage of a context sensitive Hands On Research, which provides descriptions of all the features in that product category (including why I might need HDMI switching) . There is also a Home System Planning Center as well as an DIY Installation Center.

This exercise got me thinking about a Lorcan Dempsey posting about Bjørn Olstad's presentation at Ticer entitled the Advances in Search Driving Library 2.0. ( link to pdf download) This is the same Ticer program which Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine also presented.

As Lorcan points out, Olstad discusses a move from content management to consumption management. The example used is the disruptive change that Yellow Pages are experiencing - a move from a provider view with few details and a shallow understanding to a enriched consumer view with recommendations, maps, comparisons.

This was exactly my experience in research home theatre receivers. I was no longer limited view of audio receivers containing a few details and a shallow understanding of the products. I was presented an enriched product view with recommendations, comparisons, and how to guides -- all linked from, and relative to, any single product. I found out all I needed to know to make a decision from this one site.

Unfortunately for Crutchfield, they did not have the best price. Sphere: Related Content