Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Computers in Libraries 2013 Summary

Last week I spent half days attending the 2013 Computers in Libraries conference here in Washington, DC.  This year's theme was "Evolving in New Directions."

Keynote Speakers
This conference likes to bring in speakers from outside of the library/information profession world and have them apply their expertise to the theme of the conference.  I felt that only Wednesday's speaker, Daniel Rasmus, was able to really circle back to the library/information profession world with his talk.  The other two speakers' messages got lost in infomercials for their books (or Amazon) or awkward speaker techniques. Videos of each of the talks are posted here on the LibConf blog.

Here are some takeaways I had from the three keynote speakers:
  • The pace of technology is increasing.  There are more iPhones being bought than there are babies being born. 
  • There is a shift to a subscription economy, companies are trying to keep customers coming back to them each week/month/year, where true service does pay off. 
  • Customers don't want a generic experience - they want the experience customized to them.
  • Libraries need to harness the power of citizen led communities and crowd technologies to revitalize our services. 
  • When thinking about the future of libraries, remember that we have no data from the future so it is hard to be evidence based.
  • Document the uncertainties you face and actively engage with the uncertainities when making strategic decisions. 
  • Use scenario planning to help think about possible ways the future may turn out; then plan for contingencies and mitigate risks.
Session Highlights
Below are highlights from sessions that I attended.  I was only able to be at the conference for the morning and early afternoon sessions.

Making Libraries - Getting Into the Hardware Biz​ by Jason Griffey (slides)

Jason was my mentor in ALA's Emerging Leaders program back in 2010.  I'm always curious to see what interesting things he is exploring within the technology world.  This year's talk was about how libraries can get into the hardware building space using open source hardware.  I had never heard the term open source hardware before until this talk.

Two principles influence the open source hardware world - Moore's Law which states every 18 months, processors get more powerful for half the price &  Koomey's Law  which states every 18 months, the amount of power needed for processors are cut in half. 

There are two open source hardware platforms
  1. Arduino single board micro controller - digital board that allows you to measure things in the physical world - control sensors, inputs, lights ($30); thousands of ready to go library driven modules using Arduino via GitHub and other places
  2. Raspberry Pi  -a full computer - has memory, input and outputs; runs Linux, runs memory - no hard drive, has slot for memory card
Jason provided some comparisons between building and buying hardware which highlighted the financial reasons for libraries using more open source hardware.

ItemVendor CostOpen Source Cost
Patron Counter$200-300$70
Temperature/Humidity Loggers$200-1500$85

Taking a step back, Jason shared an example of how hardware can give us the ability to measure things that we couldn't before.  If a library hooked up a XBox Kinect in front of a book display, they could measure patron behavior as they browsed.   Jason challenged us to make the tools that measure the future which will provide more data about what our patrons do in libraries and help focus our services to our patrons needs.

Evolving Libraries: What's At Our Core? by Rudy Leon (slides)

Rudy heard John Seely Brown speak at Internet Librarian 2011 and was inspired to focus on the question "Who are libraries if we don't focus on warehousing books?"

Libraries provide access to information via findable content and learning environments and skilled professionals to teach, train and lead users to content.  Given this statement - she challenged us to consider if the physical items on shelves really define libraries or not.

Rudy stated that libraries are makerspaces. (Aside - Makerspaces has been the buzz topic in the library world & #MaykersMondays in the recent months.

Rudy left us with the following question to ponder: What are we, if all the books go away?

After her presentation there was a good 20 minutes of discussion and sharing between the session participants about what is working and what isn't working for them.  This session seemed to go fast and I felt like the discussion could have gone on for another hour. 

Change Without Pain by Laura Botts & Jill Sodt (slides)

We often assume that our staff will learn tools without much training during a period of change. Jill encouraged us to take time to survey your users and staff before implementing a new process and plan out support for the new tool/process.

Laura provided the tip of finding mentors online who have dealt with similar change.  These mentors could be within your professional organizations or by contacting the authors of articles or blogs.

Don't just look for a mentor, but also be a mentor to someone else.  Keep in mind "Someone knows what you need. Someone needs what you know."

"Lazy consensus" is a methodology for collaborative change.  When a decision needs to be made, someone steps up with a proposal about how to proceed and the whole group gets a certain amount of time to speak up against it.  The default answer is always yes.
Tools Providing Outcome Measures  - Charlotte Mecklenberg Library
Staff from the Charlotte Mecklenberg Library shared their stories about two development projects that helped provide better metrics around their summer reading program and year round programming. They tackled these development projects in response to having a 30% budget cut and feedback from a patron task force.
Charlotte Mecklenburg Library revolutionized its approach to summer reading and year-round programming by developing technology-based tools to provide outcome measures that are meaningful to funders and advocates.
  • Program Portal - a cloud-based database that is accessible to all programming and management staff and facilitates planning, full-costing, and evaluation.
  • Summer Reading Online Database - created for the annual summer reading program for all ages, captures in real time the progress toward specific targets such as minutes read per participant and completion rates, tied into research about summer learning loss.
I liked that the IT & Library staff presented the tools together at the conference. I would love to see more of these two groups presenting together.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your notes! You went to sessions that I could not attend.