Ramblings, citations and "brainwaves" of a college librarian in Toronto. 475 square feet refers to the size of my home, not the size of my office or library.

Digital Cameras at Auto Shows: Disruptive Technology

As an annual auto show attendee, this year seemed to be the tipping point for digital camera use at the show. The vast majority of attendees were frequently using their digital cameras (stand alone or embedded in a phone or PDA) to document their viewing, sitting in, or experience with the vehicles on display. In fact, it was so disruptive (people blocking the shots, people trying not to block shots, etc.) it took away the traditional quality of the experience. There were lots of nasty glances from those without cameras, and the odd confrontation between photographers. Females or all ages seemed to be having as much fun as the males of all ages, with their cameras. Paparazzi became a defacto barrier between the roving hordes and the vehicles themselves. No doubt, many of these pictures would be shared in a variety of channels (email, FlickR, Chat, Websites, etc) the same day they were taken. I guess a picture is worth a thousand words when you want to tell others about what you saw for your 20$.

I'm, guilty as charged, I too had way too much fun with my digital camera, one dream car below. BMW Alpina B7.


Are Libraries Innovative Enough?

Stephen Abram has been riding the library/information industry conference circuit for some time now talking about children, teenagers, millennials, and their use of emerging technologies and online services. He's great at concisely summarizing "who, what, where, when, why and how" and connecting the dots back to libraries and education. A few weeks ago at OLA's 2006 SuperConference in Toronto, he asked the probing question, "Are Libraries Innovative Enough?"

After reviewing current and emerging practices involving computing hardware, software, and online services, he suggested that libraries are not innovative enough. He knows his audience, and what they're thinking: the professional optimism, felt by so many librarians in the mid 1990’s, as the Internet “changed everything”, has waned somewhat after a challenging decade of transition. Libraries are loosing their traditional position in people's lives, and the absence of a widespread "innovate or die" mindset is to blame. Libraries are not experimenting enough, they don't know their customers as well as commercial retailers know their customers, libraries are not financed well enough, and on and on. Stephen has weighed and measured us and we've been found wanting.

The topic he routinely avoids, because it would bring down his philosophical scaffolding, "access to content", however, is the real reason libraries are loosing ground in the network society. In terms of online content, the marketplace either ignores libraries or is hostile to them. What do people want access to in any digital format of their choosing?
  • Images: local, global, current, historical, professional, amateur, legal, illegal, art, photography, logos, maps, ads...
  • Video: local, global, current, commercial, amateur, legal, illegal, television, movies,video games, concerts, events, ads...
  • Sound: any music ever recorded, speeches, audio books, sounds and sound effects (natural and man-made)...
  • Text: programming code, books, magazines, newspapers, journals, reports, directories, newsletters, pamphlets, video game cheats, computing hardware/software hacks...
  • Data: statistics, marketing, geographic...

Now contrast this list with what libraries provide today, and what products and services are available for purchase. It is a big problem Stephen. If libraries are places to access content, and get help accessing content (we should be in the business of helping people shop for paid content), we're in trouble. Rogers Video offers Video on Demand, what VOD services do libraries offer? Limited if anything. I agree there are an increasing amount to sources of freely available content, but its still a very small fraction of what people want and need.

Okay, the current commercial environment suffers from a lack of ubiquitous and robust DRM(Digital Rights Management) technologies, but even when DRM ceases to become an issue, do you really think commercial providers are going to pass up the lucrative direct-to-consumer market, to sell to libraries? Do you ever think we'll be able to develop innovative solutions for providing access to all that illegal/unauthorized creative content people are making and sharing? Look at student work, built by cut-and-paste, on the copyrights and trademarks of commercial entities, like Hollywood, advertising firms and the music industry. Is it easy to store, catalogue, index and serve out to the world. Yes. Can we? No.

Next time you hear about how some new device, service or technology is going to change the library world, think about the 'access to content' problem.

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