“Spotlight on a Librarian” Royal Society Publishing (UK) — My interview

I recently had the pleasure to be ‘interviewed’ via e-mail by the Royal Society Publishing (UK) newsletter editor for their regular feature “Spotlight on a Librarian”. Here is the URL if the link doesn’t work for some reason:  http://newsletters.royalsociety.org/q/1N7XofzaQvq0eb/wv.

The interview appears in the issue about 2/3 of the way down. I thought the editor would tighten up what I sent but apparently left some of my long sentences in the published piece. If I’d have known I would have done another pass to edit it myself, but it still should be a decent read. It was fun to see I am in the same issue as a brief article regarding comments by the Prince of Wales, Prince Charles on the challenges of environmental problems contributing to the collapse of civilization.

Topics I discuss in the article include open source content access and affordable pricing to research articles among other points. I find myself in continued conversations with publishers about licensing costs and affordable access to research, particularly for non-profit and educational purposes. The institutional subscription and licensing charges are particularly completely out of line for museum and specialized research libraries who don’t have the student or faculty information access traffic that an academic institution typically has, yet publishers and content providers price access to that academic model. <sigh> This is a work in progress for all involved so let’s see how it goes in the future.

Holding tablet while giving a presentation isn’t creative

Anyone who knows me knows I enjoy technology though I’m not as early an adapter as others who must have the latest thing the day it is available. However, lately I’ve seen more people speak in front of an audience without a podium or table holding onto their iPads or equivalent tablets. Last week I heard a talk by an author about creativity and the only thing ‘creative’ was he read notes and excerpts from his book off his tablet holding it awkwardly on his forearm. If the tablet is being used to its potential to access interesting apps to show or other uses, great. But if it is only a replacement for simple index cards or similar ‘old fashioned notes’ vehicle, what are you trying to convey? OK, I get it, you have the latest gadget, it cost a bunch of money, maybe you want to write it off as a business expense, and at the very least want to show it off. However, that in itself is not creative or practical. It also looks quite awkward and the audience is waiting for it to careen off your forearm and crash onto the floor.
Let’s think about the tools we use, how we use them, and what impression we want to give to those viewing our use. Sometimes we get it right, but more and more people get it wrong. Let’s not be those latter people!

Cloud computing — everything old is new again

Cloud computing, an ability to get computing power without installing and managing a system locally, is growing fast. Think back to the 1960s and 1970s to time-shared computing systems and you will see a similar architecture. The difference is the elimination of the ‘connect’ charges, more functionality for cost paid among a number of things. The down side is there are security issues that need to be addressed, the charges for concurrent users, ‘search’ and more can quickly add up if you are not careful. Still it is a feasible, cost-effective way to take advantage of a library management system and other software as service offerings. I’ll be giving a talk about this at the Computers in Libraries 2012 conference in March in Washington D.C.

Open Source tools and services can be very useful if you understand what they can and cannot do

There has been a lot written about access to and use of open source tools and services, particularly library management and similar systems. Whether a commercial product or open source option is right for your organization depends upon a number of things including your needs, available resources such as budget, and in particular what technical expertise you have available or are willing to pay for from a service provider. It is important to understand your current situation and constraints so that you can make the best possible decision based on that information. Ideally you have done a careful analysis of your requirements through a strategic technology planning process that assesses physical and people resources, levels of expertise available, and policies and procedures which will influence what can be done and how. It is best to get information about all options available to make the best choice to meet your needs.

Given all that, you can then pursue possible solutions to address your requirements whether they are commercial products and services or those available as “open source”. One thing to keep in mind is that open source is not really ‘free’ but it can be an initial cost-containing alternative to licensing of a proprietary commercial product.

If you have expertise available in house to adjust and manage open source code to your requirements or are willing and able to pay for a service to do that for you, then open source tools can be a viable alternative to some available commercial (proprietary) products. However, should you not have that kind of expertise, then a commercial product may be a much better investment over the long term. It is important to evaluate your own situation and make decisions from what you need and what expertise you have available either directly or through contact. Ultimately, you will have to live with that decision so examine options carefully and make an informed decision.

Internet Librarian 2011

Internet Librarian will once again be held in Monterey, CA October 16-19, 2011. Check out the online program and the other information about the conference! On Tuesday October 18 at 10:30AM I will be giving a cybertour about technology as a catalyst for change. I will also be moderating an entire track of sessions about content management on Wednesday October 19 from 10:30AM to 3:30PM. This conference is consistently an excellent venue for librarians and other information professionals to learn and share knowledge about technology and its use. I hope to see you there!

What is the VALUE of Professional Associations to new and aspiring professionals?

The following was originally posted on 01 May 2011 on the SLA Future Ready 365 Blog site
(http://futureready365.sla.org/05/01/the-value-of-professional-associations/)

I am re-posting it here because I wrote it and I think it is imperative that this be more widely disseminated and discussed. What do you think?

I started out a blog submission talking about how success in explaining and showing value of information services in an organization can be achieved one conversation at a time. While formulating this submission, I had an experience that I thought should supercede that one, namely an understanding of the value of our professional affiliations and memberships by graduate students and new professionals. If they don’t feel an association is worth their time and money for enhancing their career, how can we expect them to see our association as a resource to help them on the job and in their future growth?

I recently had a lengthy, lively discussion about the value of membership in SLA and other professional information organizations with a graduate student. His comments included:

“I am told to join a professional library association because I won’t get a job unless I do – I think that is extortion.” He asked “would you hire me if I wasn’t a member of SLA or another organization?” First I said “no” which he of course said “See!!” Then I clarified by saying I would have a concern as to WHY he didn’t join any association as that would signal to me he may be a good worker but maybe not a longer term contributor to the profession, so I would need to understand more about that. Well, we had quite a lively and noisy interaction over that one!!
“Don’t the associations understand that I have a choice in investment between education and other things such as eventually buying a home?” That ”because I chose education, I will be paying back a huge debt for a long period of time and maybe never be able to buy a home? How can membership in an association help with that?”
“Why are there so many student groups for a relatively small cohort — can’t there be one student group that can be affiliated with multiple associations? It seems the same 20 people out of 100 belong to the various student groups and the rest of the students see no value in joining any of them.”
“Our student group does regular service in prison libraries and other socially conscious activities that were started BY students, not the library school faculty or professional associations. What are associations doing like this? Why should we join an association to conform to what they are already doing when we, the students, are doing more for society than those associations?” I indicated an example of how SLA had a full day of service in New Orleans and he said “big deal, one day — we do ongoing service!” Oooh, boy, we had more lively discussion on this one too!!
“Isn’t it time for ALA, SLA, ASIS&T and all to think about merging and working together for the good of the profession instead of being splintered like they have been for so long? Is there any reason why these groups should still be separate?”
There were some more, but I lost track!!

Anyway, after agreeing to start the conversation over and hear out each side, we ultimately centered around this point that we both agreed was valid:

* It is clear the professional associations, the professionals in those associations, and professors in library schools (and their equivalent) are not conveying the value gained from membership and active participation.

In speaking with a professor at a major library school, she agreed that more and more library schools have instructors who are not in the library profession and/or who don’t belong to a professional organization, so they have no context or experience to convey about the value of associations to their students. As a result, students don’t know much if anything about associations and do not join or actively participate in them.

So here is the challenge. What are the key values of a professional association that will ring true to the current graduate student and new information professional? This is not about who or what is right or wrong, but rather being able to articulate the value and help our new colleagues be “Future Ready.”

Again, what do YOU think?

2011 a year of many possibilities!

This past year has been one of many changes and transitions, all with the framework of a horrible economy and other world challenges. Even so, being an information professional enables us to be a part of moving things forward, whatever can be defined as ‘things’. I finally bought an iPhone 4 after several years of using an iPod Touch with its WiFi capabilities. Yes, I know many of you already have an iPad and I likely will too after the next generation becomes available sometime in 2011. It is important for us to know and use these tools so we can understand when, and when NOT, to use them for information services enhancement. More on that as the year progresses!

Meantime, I look forward to the ALA Midwinter conference in San Diego to explore the exhibit hall and meet many colleagues there to commiserate on where we are and where we are going. Then a few short weeks later will be the SLA Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. where I formally become chair-elect of the Museum, Arts and Humanities Division. Now working as chief librarian at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, I firmly believe there is so much information housed and being developed by researchers in such institutions and we need to creatively find ways to take advantage of that knowledge and get it more ‘active’ in the educational process and the community learning environment. Let’s see what we can do!!

Me in temporary digs at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County