Libraries after the iPad and Top Technology Trends

I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the very popular (and long waiting listed) event presented by VALA , the State Library of Victoria and the Public Libraries Victoria Network. Here’s my notes from the afternoon seminar.

Libraries after the iPad – Christine McKenzie – YPRL

Our world is changing fast, so fast that the paper that Chris wrote four months ago and was presented at LIANZA is already out of date.

Kurt Vonnegut quote – ……………the people on the edge see them first.

Being on the edge is not the place to be, being well prepared, with the right equipment and safely landing is (parachuting story).

So what makes now ‘the edge”?  Digital books are here – is one of the tipping points. Books are no longer just books. Stories are all around that have predicted the demise of the book.

Beyond the book summit at Columbus. Will libraries be part of the digital world circulating materials? How sure are we that vendors will let us in?  What does a non-circulating library look like ? Are we asking the right questions?

The container is changing, after being the same for hundreds of years. The book is still the most ubiquitous format we have.  E-readers are mimicking books because they are the ideal size for the aim of the device.

Books will be longer in dying because we have a love affair with them – they have been around for 500 years and we have a personal relationship with them. The change will be multi-generational.

What is you personal comfort with digital readiness?  Do you think libraries are digital ready?  What about our users?

Need to be thinking about:

Making information accessible: who needs a reference librarian when you have the internet. The librarian CAN be a better friend than Google.

Provide free access to information: internet is like the mind of god – its all free. Libraries are providing quality info and provides context.

Promoting literacy: how do we engage the kids today when they are more comfortable with digital devices. Having said that, there is still a demand for literacy at all levels.

Encouraging reading:  article “Is Google making us stupid?” “The way we read is changing. “Most of the arguments against the printing press were correct” – but nobody could predict the myriad blessings.” (Clay Shirky)

Community connectedness:  libraries are non-institutional, non-welfare facilities which are open to all.

Free flow of information: don’t let our line of thinking be dictated by the funding bodies we report to. Having Chopper Read as a speaker or Philip Nitzschke. Last place where you can promote both sides of an argument.

Monopoly on lending:  leisure time can be spent in many different ways. There is no secondhand in digital, but libraries are in the secondhand business.

Traditional library skills:  cataloguing is not even a compulsory subject  at library school anymore. But cataloguers are the ones who will make taxonomies work.

Biggest challenge is – are we even going to be at the table?

Content control – big players are Amazon, Google and Apple. Will vendors let libraries into the circulationless environment. The interfaces are clunky at present. Freegal is coming – music offerings – not the best model, but models are changing.

Worrying restrictions – Harper Collins only 26 loans and UK ebooks can only be downloaded in libraries. In Victoria, libraries were told they couldn’t link to SLV which has databases which they no longer subscribe to.

Public Library Manifesto – IFLA.
Top 10 things about libraries:

1. Libraries have good stuff. Community learning spaces give none of the visual cues that libraries do. Content is recreational, information, directional, inspirational and more.

2. Literacy – programs in the US are run so that children are ready to start reading before they start school. This program changes generational illiteracy. YPRL partnered with the train system and handed out books which were Book Crossing listed and encouraged to leave the book to be left in the wild….

3. Innovative and adaptable – libraries embraced the internet. What lessons can we learn from our excitement and foresight from the introduction of the internet into public libraries. Web 2.0 also brought excitement, new services, training both staff and members of the public.  We are moving more to apps, so mobile computing is the way we are going, but we don’t have the excitement we had in the early days of internet introduction. How can we get that back?

4. Trusted brand – Far Rockaway, Meetingpoint@latsapalatsi, Book Dispenser in Singapore, are these libraries? Tank U at DOK – recognises mobile phones nearby and allows users to download audio, e-books or music – like a top-up of fuel. The Edge at SLQ – digital productions and installations, Swedish libraries are using RFID and PIN numbers to get entry to the library even after staff have gone from the day – cameras and gates keep the libraries secure. (Sonderborg)

5. Physical spaces – the heart of the community – Nilimbuk residents were polled on this question and their response was the Eltham Library because the library takes them to new places – knowledge and discovery, inspirational, everywhere is here, has all they need to study and focus, provides material in their language and in learning new lagnauges, library has taught them what they never thought they could learn, marketplace of ideas, connected, social – allowed them to meet new people and learn new things, world away – a place of serenity and quality time. Libraries – infinite possibilities. Libraries are a great place to be alone.

6. Physical destinations – they can be tourist attractions. Amsterdam – transformed from a lending library to an adventure library. Is the  most popular building in the city.

7. Wifi – changing the way that people use the building – using it for business, study and social and the provision of it encouraged use of the library.

8. Community initiatives – fight cancer in Queens – Queens library Helathlink program is improving early diagnosis na dtreatment. YPRLS Nemi butteflies project resulted in jobs and award wins for participants.

9. We add value – economic, social and environmental – demonstrates the value that libraries provide to their communities. Providing safe spaces, virtual spaces etc, how do you put a value on that?

10. We have stories – libraries need to give out stories – not about the container. Powerful stories – Sarajevo Library – Hatzida Demiorvic.  The library remained open, being refuge, inspiration, relief and more for the residents of Sarajevo during the four years of war.

Planning for the future: What is the added value of the library to the participation culture. Is it only the space?  How do we develop the combination of media, staff and users. Victorian project is looking to 2030.

We don”t know what happens when DVD and CDs disappear or what will happen with DRM. Will newspapers and magazines survive? What will happen with e-readers?  We know we have value and that people are still using us – new libraries are still being built. Its what we don’t know that we don’t know that’s the problem.

Where to now? Get mobile – more quickly. Get social – in there and creating our own. Get active – get a seat at the table, with publishers and providers Get a partner – the right one, makes life easier.

Fortune favours the prepared.

Library Hack 2011 – Hamish Curry
(Online Learning Manager – SLV)

Hack has a different meaning these days.

Library Hack is a mash-ups competition. Its about gathering library data from Australian and overseas, bringing it together to create new mash-ups.   There are already reams of data and ideas gathered on the library hack site. Encouraging library data and turning it into something else.

Some real life examples include Flinklabs, Visuwords, Timeglider, Trendsmap, We feel fine, Spezify, Personas.

Trying to take libraries away from just being consumers, to also being providers of data which can be reused for wider purposes. Information from the social space can be accessed and used in libraries.

Library hack is open to everyone. You don’t need to be a programmer – ideas are very welcome.

A lot of the data has been added to the website.

End of May, SLV is running some events – check the Library hack website for details.

John Blyberg – Tomorrows library: top technology trends & user experience design for the 21st century library – Darien Library

Data is the 21st century version of clay, which can be molded into a new product – digital clay=mash-ups.  Take the opportunity to look under the hood and check out the data and how it may be able to be mashed up.

How can technology be used to enhance the library experience?

Last ten years have been interesting in technology change. Today we all have mobile devices, ten years ago not many had them and they were just phones. Today’s phones have more computing power than the computers of yesterday. The rate of change is still growing.

Showed Microsoft  Labs 2019 montage. All the technology seen on the video is available today, but in a primitive form. Its all going to be a part of our reality in the not too distant future.

What does that mean for libraries? We need to be very good at customer service, so that people walk away having experienced an ideal interaction.

Why do we provide good customer service? Because the users like that. Its a feel good thing.

What is user experience (UX)? Its a design method that looks at the interaction between users, machines, environment etc, as an ecology rather than a discrete set of elements. It includes industrial design, interface, physical experience. Everything from the shrink wrap to the product itself is part of the user experience.

At its core, it is a planned, positive, desirable experience.  It needs a synthesis of multiple discrete interactions – everything in our collection, our staff expertise, what our users bring in with them, all need to be considered and brought together in systems which meets the aim of a desirable experience.

It is more than the sum of its parts. It can be the little things, like what you call your library users, all brought together to create a unique experience for your library attendees.

It doesn’t happen on its own, it needs successful process management. Fourth level of economy is the experience business.  Disney is the ultimate experience, although libraries aren’t on that level, but we can still bring something special to our users experiences.

Design context – Michael Cummings – the four legs of interactive design – users, resources, technology and organisation. Need to have a balance, but with technology always changing, the balance in other areas also need to change to address the balance. Changes in one area, will lead to changes in another and so the balance is always changing and needs continuous adjustment.

Have our community, with its culture and then its different levels of sub-culture. Twitter has a lot going on, which we can’t possibly consume, so there are sub-cultures online too. The library is a node in our society, which sits out there where anyone can access it, we provide and expect very little in return.

Libraries need to be major players in the voluntary networks. Social media is a very voluntary network – these are networks that people choose to be a part of – at some level (may be partial).

The Road ahead – constantly scanning ahead to see what the future might be like and to position ourselves for our users. We need to accept reality and fold it into our business practices.

In order to stay relevant we need to commit to a process of continuous sustainable change. Innovation is a necessary part, it helps us to move forward, to be a part of the future. It takes short term resources however, to achieve long term gains. This can be hard to achieve. Once you have made that commitment, it becomes a stable resource.

At Darien, they allow innovation to drive change and its not just about technology. They removed the circulation desk, introduced a new classification system that encourages browsing and re-organised the picture books into subject areas which in turn dramatically increased circulation.

Scary thing about innovation is that it can lead to FAIL. Failure is a good thing – lessons learned have helped drive us to where we are today. eg. Steam engine was very inefficient,but many people worked on top of the original work to develop it into the combustion engine we have now. You don’t get to a Eureka moment until you have had failures. But how do you fold your failures into your organisation? Adapt and make mid-course corrections. Waste of time to berate on failures, but instead invest your time in trying new things. No-one will die if we screw up. Our resilience to failure is one of our strengths.

Interface design – the veneer that gets put over everything. Its the first impression that people have.

People – (training + talent) x (temperament+communication style+ability to collaborate). We are institutions of people, so we need to make sure we have the right ones on staff. If we were making loads of money and were hoarding ideas, we wouldn’t be librarians.

Presentation – don’t have a messy home when you invite someone over for dinner – you want to show your visitor that you respect them. We invite thousands to come into our institutions everyday, so think of their visit in terms of hospitality. This is our library, which has some rules, but its your place too whilst you are here.

Content – core part of what libraries are about, but its form is changing, as is what is inside.

Persona – how is the library personified in the minds of your users. How would they describe you. You need to be thinking about that.

Physical space – there is still the need and if anything it is growing.

Convergence – mobiles are convergent devices – they are no longer phones alone. Social is happening both online and in person – need to be aware of this.

Events and programming – never used to have spaces for these things – its such a key part of what we are doing now.

Openness – openly show how we are making the decisions that we do – but also about open data and open source – we want to be able to access open data, so we can do interesting things and view the world in new ways.

“The library encourages the heart.” (Dr Michael Stephens). The most succinct description of what libraries are all about. We want to inspire wonder, discovery and connection, inspire imagination and help people build on it.

Simplicity – we need to make everything as simple as possible for our users, even if it is illusion. We need to hide the complexity – to take that burden on ourselves.

Resilience – we need ensure that our users are our biggest fans, they will tell the stories that ensure our future existence. We do this by engaging them at the experience level.

Coordination and collaboration makes this easier.

Feedback helps to stay the course -want the one on ones with our users so that we can get the qualitative feedback from them. So they will tell us what value we provide, whether we are providing what they want and how we are doing in their eyes.

Personal transformation – the fifth economy beyond the experience economy. That’s where libraries want to be – not every visit will be an epiphany, but every visit should have the potential for a transformative experience.

Inhibitors of UX:

Security = lack of trust. If you don’t trust your users, it becomes a one way experience, transactional rather than collaborative. We focus so heavily on prevention – stop them because they might do something.  Move our resources to mitigation – what will we do if it does happen – if it does, how will we respond – what framework will we have in place so front line staff can deal with it if it arises.

Dis-organisation – how are you going about achieving the goals you have started for your service.

Apathy – a lack of purpose. Generally systemic. Everyone will know about it, but how do you address. None of us are doing it for the money – we felt the calling – we need a sense of purpose. You can then end up saying No a lot. Next time, when you feel the need to say no – say yes and see what consequences will you have to deal with – the world will not end. Try to be an organisation that says yes, and only says no in extenuating circumstances.

Darien Library has highest circulation and door count in Connecticut. Get users from neighbouring cities, due to the quality of the library. Got the inspiration for their new library from Lockheed Martin who took staff, gave them a space and a large budget and told them to design what they wanted.  Some of their most successful projects came out of this. Darien’s user experience department was based on this premise.

IT department was eliminated as a separate entity and folded into the user experience department. Brought programs, strategic planning and teen programming into this department. UX team is charged with evaluating every point of contact with users and systems and users and staff.


Tethering. They spent a lot on making the building totally wireless.

Mobility: can be a 100 devices logged in during the day – staff are moving around so are using VOIP .

Roving staff: all want to be doing it, but difficult to get happening. Small desk with ability for users to page them if they were roving. Roving staff now have iPads. Have to think about practicalities – can’t carry phone, ipad etc especially if no pockets.

RFID: all business practices are based upon a successful implementation of RFID. Have same staff  as 2005, but in a building twice the size. Has paid for itself in 6 years (including automated returns system). All materials purchased, come pre-processed and ready to go. No time spent in tech services – just get unpacked, put straight into the returns system and then straight to the shelf. Once item returned, can be back on the shelf in 20 minutes.

Marketing – don’t do paper signage anymore – all electronic – with display screens throughout the library.

Display – used for movies and promotion.

Immersion – build the wow factor into the building – smart whiteboards etc.

Education – teaching about technology.

Control – over the environment, from a central location.

Convenience – access to power and the network, in central as well as wall locations.

Sharing – surface table installed but weren’t sure how to use it – children’s librarians built a sharing component into it.

Gaming – for teens, where they can engage socially with other people, whereas at home it is a solitary experience.

SOPAC : a module for Drupal which they use for their website. User usually clicks on library website, then goes to the separate OPAC.  SOPAC brings the catalogue back to the website.  John wrote and developed SOPAC.

Think about technology not only in terms of coolness, but how it will enhance the user experience.

And that was it for an interesting afternoon, which intrigued me with ideas relating not so directly to technology after all.

The presentations will soon be available on the Victoria’s Virtual Library – Infonet – podcasts will follow later.

1 comment

    • Richard Hayward on April 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    Michelle, thanks for a great summary report on the VALA seminar!

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