Librarians and eco-conscious culture and practice

Librarians manage a lot of information, much of it still in paper or other ‘analog’ formats (microfilm, videotape, etc.). There are many ways we can help minimize the impact of information services on the environment. It can be just what we do personnally, in our departments, in conjunction with others in our organization and also how we help to promote a culture of eco-friendly practices. I recently was an invited speaker to address this subject at the Southern California Association of Law Librarians (SCALL) Institute in Ventura, CA.

Going ‘digital’ is a good way to reduce and minimize the use of paper and the environmental impact paper has through its production, distribution, storage and disposal. At the same time, we have to understand that digital content and its access also has an environmental impact. For instance, in the article “Revealed: the environmental impact of Google Searches” in the London Times Online January 11, 2009 ” “a one-hit Google search taking less than a second … produces about 0.2g of CO2” according to Google. The article has an interesting overview of the environmental impact on searching and there are a number of others available. This is all a work in progress, but it is good that we examine the issue holistically and each do our part, however small or large, to counter-act the impact our presence and practices have on the environment.

Vendor negotiations and partnerships SirsiDynix Institute webcast

One of the key relationships in the information business is that between buyers and vendors of information products and services. The relationship often starts out simply as a buyer-seller connection, but because of the complexities of purchasing or licensing content in print or electronic form, the connection typically grows stronger. Negotiating licensing contracts becomes a key component and knowing how to conduct a good negotiation is important for any information professional responsible for obtaining content. Sometimes a more cohesive relationship between buyer and services provider is needed and that is where a partnership comes into play.

On Tuesday, February 9th, I gave a webcast on these points as part of the SirsiDynix Institute series. The webcast was recorded and you can see it by clicking on the image of my first slide of the presentation below.

Negotiating and partnering with vendors a key skill

You will have to register with the Brighttalk webcasting service to view it if you aren’t already registered, but registration is free and it is likely you will want to play other webcasts in the series as they are a great way to broaden knowledge about information services-related topics. Please make comments about the webcast as I’d be very interested to hear thoughts about it.

Librarians and Info Pros need to focus on services

In an article in the NY Times about I.B.M.’s continued success due to more focus on services and less on hardware and software, Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a former senior technology strategist for I.B.M., is quoted saying “As the components of technology — especially hardware — become inexpensive and commoditized, you want to focus less on the components and more on how customers want to use technology.” The article is: “Huge Payoff for I.B.M. After a Shift” – http://nyti.ms/62TKeb

Substituting the words information and ‘print materials’ or other formats for content in this quote, I think you get an interesting thought: “As the components of [information] — especially [print materials?] — become inexpensive and commoditized, you want to focus less on the components and more on how customers want to use [information].”

It is very easy for information professionals to focus on managing objects, ensuring they are in their right place for retrieval, etc.. But the harder, and frankly more interesting work that is likely also much more valuable is collaborating with clients to help solve their questions — being an active services provider. Something we should all keep in mind as we see the increasing pace that information is being made available to all via e-books, Twitter and whatever else is on the horizon in our future. It is not about the format, it is about the information in whatever container it happens to reside. With this bit of a shift in focus, which a number of  information professionals across all kinds of libraries and services are already doing, our value can be made that much more evident.

KMWorld redux, Cloud Computing, Mobile info access, SLA alignment & name change vote

Lots of topics to blog about and I’ll do that soon. Just wanted to post this to show some things I’m thinking about. Heard a lot of interesting things at KMWorld in San Jose this past week and will blog shortly with more details.
Meantime, if you are a member of SLA, please be sure and vote regarding the name change from SLA to Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals. I am voting FOR the name change as it is more inclusive and sets a direction for the future. More on that topic soon too!

Social network tools aggregation on its way

A few months ago in March 2009 I was conducting workshops in New Zealand on social networking tools for business and research (see my presentation displayed elsewhere on my blog). At the time I discussed the many benefits of using these tools, including networking, career exploration and competitive intelligence (in networking tools such as LinkedIn where the information is very trustworthy). I also indicated that these tools were a bit of a pain because you had to re-enter a lot of information you already entered in another social network site as there was no leading way to easily share that information and do it in a reasonably secure way. However, I felt that it was only a matter of time before this was no longer a problem. I had no specific predictions, only that I was confident we wouldn’t have too long before we would see some action. Meantime, apps are being industriously created to supplement this by enabling you to link and share status updates between Twitter and Facebook, for instance. That alleviates the need to update you status in both places, so that can save time and effort. There are many more examples of this, but you get the idea.

An article in The Washington Post by Chadwick Matlin on August 16th about Facebook buying FriendFeed  titled “Facebook Cornering Market on E-Friends” talks about the potential of social aggregation. This begins to address my previously expressed concern with the many disparate social networking tools, so this is definitely something to watch.

On a related point, the latest Mac-compatible version of Skype (2.8) for Mac OSX now allows you to share your screen with another user. This is great and very easy to use. I had been using free YuuGuu.com that enables screen sharing and real time collaboration and links to Skype among tools, but then you and the other person have to be logged into both YuuGuu and Skype to make it work. That is still useful if the other person does not have the latest version of Skype, but it is great that such useful enhancements are happening!

Future of library user experience webinar by Urban Libraries Council

I became aware of this webinar that was done about 2 months ago which does a good job of outlining some of the issues surrounding assessment and improvement of the library user experience on websites. The keynote is by Nate Bolt of Bolt|Peters and is followed by a panel reacting to his comments. It is geared toward a public library audience, but the principles discussed are appropriate to all libraries.

A key take-away is that a user experience should be assessed by watching at least 3 people access your site from start to finish, without interruption or discussion, and to NOT ask them what they think of the site. Actions show reality much better than people’s perceptions of what they are doing or just did. I have found this to be true in interface assessments I have done in various venues.

Near the end is a question and brief discussion about what to call a person who interacts with library services:

  • patron (traditional nomenclature used by librarians, particularly in public and academic settings)
  • customer (often associated with commercial interactions/sales and disdained by many librarians, though that may be changing),
  • client (typically used by consultants and in corporate information services settings)
  • user (adopted from the computer community)

This is a long webinar, about 1 1/2 hours, but moves along well. One word of caution is that about half way through the audio continues in describing particular websites of 4 libraries and comments about them, but one slide stays on the screen for a long time and then the rest of the slides are in sequence but completely out of sync with the audio. Still, it is an interesting and useful webinar.

An interesting side thing to me is that a science fiction author in Seattle is quoted recently as saying people think SF authors predict the future, but they don’t. That same statement was made to me and others attending the SLA Information Futurists group meeting in Seattle June 9, 1997 [thus more than 10 years ago] by Greg Bear, award winning SF author, who coincidentally also resides in Seattle. There are many SF authors in Seattle and a wonderment, don’t you think? Anyway, SF authors may not predict the future, but they sure give the general public a view of how the future might happen — sometimes coming very close to reality as it happens. Just look at Greg’s earlier writings that have library-like aspects in them (Blood Music is a good one), or that of Neal Stephenson (I recommend Snow Crash) or David Brin (Earth has a very interesting perspective on a Web-like environment and on wearable computers).

Workshop presentation on social networks & Second Life

SLA-Fellows together June 18, 2009 Washington, DC Convention Center

01551-SLA-Fellows,-June-200, originally uploaded by jtchobanoff.

The annual group photo of SLA Fellows who were able to attend the Fellows business meeting on Sunday June 18, 2009 in the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC as part of the Special Libraries Association annual conference. 2009 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of SLA. I’m in the middle near the top of the photo, which was taken by Jim Tchobanoff.

Data Visualization – another way to look at information

Long lists of search results can be overwhelming and may not necessarily give you a ‘big picture’ of your topic of interest. Data visualization tools enable another way to look at information and are particularly valuable to those of us who can manage text, but often think in visual terms. Thanks to a Tweet by Matt Sawyer (@mattuk on Twitter), there is an interesting post on the webdesignerdepot.com site showing examples of a number of data visualization tools with links to more information.

One interesting example cited is a depiction of videos from the TED conference on a ‘videosphere‘ by Bestiario that has 3D navigation capabilities. Go ahead and link to this and the other cited tools and I think it will spark some interesting thoughts about the potential uses for information navigation that extend far beyond that provided by library systems and other tools we use in organizations today.

Videosphere of TED conference

Videosphere of TED conference

A view of Boolean in 3-D

Ever wonder what Boolean logic would look like in 3-D? There is an art exhibition at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) at its Pacific Design Center location in West Hollywood. For those who can’t get there, here is a link to some information about it.

One view of "Boolean Valley" at MOCA Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood

From the MOCA website:

“Adam Silverman and Nader Tehrani

Installation view of Boolean Valley at MOCA Pacific Design Center, 03.22.09–07.05.09
photo by Brian Forrest”