Friday, 2 October 2009

Personalise your output

In thinking about how and why libraries would let patrons choose their content output it becomes apparent that the broader web trend of increased personalisation could allow libraries to offer much more for people with vision and or hearing impairments.

At the moment libraries have to buy pre-formatted content from publishers. For example, you buy the print version of the book, and then you have to separately buy the audio book, large print version, and the ebook. If you are dealing with internal or locally produced content (e.g. oral or written memoirs in local history collection) and you want to make it available in different formats, you need to reformat in house. Not surprisingly, for most libraries, content suitable for people with vision or hearing impairments represents only a small part of their overall collection.

BUT,... if the ReadWrite Top 5 Web Trends for 2009 becomes mainstream, there may be scope for library clients to pick the output of their choice. If data is more structured and more and more things are tagged, content could be reformatted on the fly. This could open up much more of the collection and give patrons real choice. For example, patrons could choose if they want to read an book on a screen, printed it out, or a computer read it to them.

The does mean that the content has to be formatted to begin with, but as with XBRL for business reporting, the principle is that you format it once and then open it up to be used and reused in many different ways. Of course there would be copyright and content licensing issues that need to be addressed.

There is certainly a lot more software out there that can read xml, or listen to audio and render it as text, See following for a few examples.
Given more and more of this type of software is free the possibilities are huge.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Top Web Trend 3 of 5: Personalisation

As ReadWriteWeb said in their Top 5 Web Trend for 2009, "ultimately personalisation is about web sites and services giving you what you want, when you want it." While this is true, personalisation is also about giving people what they want in the formats they want. For libraries therefore, personalisation means being able to deliver the information people want, when they want it 24/7, and in the formats they want it. While this is easy to say it is not always easy to do. For example, commercial licenses and insufficient bandwidth, are two factors that can stand in the way of delivering anything and everything 24/7. Furthermore, even with Google Books a lot of information is still only available in print format.

Ultimately there is a tension between what people want and what libraries can technical deliver within their budget constraints. However, because good libraries understand their patron's needs and wants, they should be able to leverage off the advances in Web personalisation and offer even more responsive and relevant services that better meet client's needs.

So what does this mean in practical terms? ReadWriteWeb goes on to say that the personalisation is driven in part by:

  • Filtering the Real-Time Firehose: richer and better tagged semantic data means people can pull out only the bits they are interested in, and there are a growing number of dashboard services that make this happen by giving the user control over the filtering.
  • Open Web: More Data About You, Better Personalization: The growth in personalised filtering is made possible because the underlining data is richer and more structured. It is also possible because to quote ReadWriteWeb "the more data about you and your social graph that is available to be used by applications, the better targeted the content and/or service will be to you."
  • Recommendation Engines: watch what you are interested in and personalise their suggestions to your preferences.
Libraries have being offering personalisation for some time. My public library lets me identify what interest me and I get an email if new stuff comes in that is mapped against my interests.

Libraries (and of course web services and platforms) also offer users the ability to personalise their web sites. Example include:
Libraries are also increasingly allowing patrons to personalise the way they engage with the library through the use of widgets / gadgets. Patron can grab and embed a bit of the library into their own preferred web platform. For example (because they have been in the news of late) see Gone are the days when patrons had to go to a library's web site to use the library's online services.

While this is great, the type of services and trends mentioned by ReadWriteWeb will take personalisation to a whole new level. Mixing personalisation with the other 4 ReadWriteWeb trends (Structured Data, Real-Time Web, Mobile Web / Augmented Reality, and Internet of Things) will give libraries the potential to offer incredibly rich and compelling services that are directly targeted to each individual patron's needs and wants. Welcome to the brave new world!

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Top Web Trend 2 of 5: Real-Time Web

The "real time web" is no longer a future trend, its here. As ReadWriteWeb noted in its second top 5 web trends: Real Time Web "has become a core part of many Internet products this year: Twitter, FriendFeed, Facebook, Google, Delicious, Wordpress, and many others. Because real time web is about communicating information that is both immediate and public, it is also having a profound impact on what and how libraries can harvest information, as well as deliver information to their client base.

Let’s not forget that real time web functionality also allows a library's client base to communicate among themselves (as well as back to the library) in real time. However, because the communication is immediate there is an expectation that the response, or answer, will also be immediate. Despite the introduction of excellent services such as Ask a Librarian, are libraries really set up to meet this expectation? For example, on Sunday afternoon as I write this blog post the "Ask a Librarian" service is not available. In the brave new world of social media, real time web implies 27/7, and not 10 am to 7 pm Monday to Friday Australian Eastern Standard Time.

Of course real time information in a library setting does not have to be driven by physical librarians staffing some sort of online client contact centre (the mortal in the portal). News feeds, be they driven by RSS or Twitter, or links to community-of-interest forums, are two other ways of embedding real time updates into a library portal. These and other methods allow a library to provide real time information updates 24/7, though of course they can't necessarily answer specific reference questions.

It is interesting, given the growing importance of real time information, that library portals offering updated real time content on the fly seem far and few between. Interesting, because in my experience, embedding automatically updating information does help make for a very compelling library portal. For example, the library I work at has (like many libraries) an internal wiki. However, many of the articles in the wiki now present buttons which launch updated information harvested from specific news and blog searches. The underlying feed is often aggregated, filtered and de-duplicated before being presented in either relevancy or reverse date order. This means that breaking or more up to date information on the specific topic can be embedded directly into the wiki without the need of library staff (or patrons) to manually update the content.

Lots of libraries offer RSS feeds alerting clients when there are updates and changes in the library's content, but why don’t more libraries embed information that has been filtered and delivered on the fly? After all, it is the skill of the librarian as an information professional that is essential in setting up the filtering to ensure only the best results are delivered. Hopefully one of the top trends for libraries will be an increase in the use of embedded real time information.

In the meantime there is a very good post on the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) blog which lists some of the characteristics of the real-time library. These are:
  • The real-time library is socially networked but it’s about more than just owning social network accounts; the real-time library has an active presence and shares information in real time.
  • The real-time library updates its status regularly.
  • The real-time library offers targeted services to the networked community.
  • The real-time library is accessible on real-time communication devices.
  • The real-time library is ready and waiting – all the time – to deliver information services.
  • The real-time library monitors the multitude of emerging real-time web services and experiments to find those with the potential to enhance service in real-time mode.
  • The real-time library designs information services specifically for delivery and use on the real-time web.
  • Real-time librarians are adept at creating relationships with real-time library users.

Monday, 21 September 2009

The Library as a kids place

I have been looking at the Libraries for Children and Young Adults and Library Buildings and Equipment session at the recent International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) conference in Milan and keep thinking of the line "Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man" which is attributed to St Francis Xavier. This is also the quote which forms the basis of the long running Seven Up documentary. Basically the line means that who we are as adults is shaped by our childhood.

If this is the case (and I think childhood is incredibly important to shaping who we are as adults) then some of the libraries currently being built for children have the potential to make a real difference and inspire a joy of reading, learning, and discovery. If libraries want to continue to have a role for future generations, creating stimulating and fun places for children can only help. After all it is not only about technology. But back to the IFLA conference, there are a lot of very good papers in this session but the stand out for me was the paper from Denmark "The red tread - new central library in Hjørring, Denmark" [PDF].

This Danish presentation (with lots of great pictures) shows the new central Library in Hjoerring. It does not take long to read.
  • I love the red ribbon pathway through the library (it even encourages kids to crawl through one of the book shelves).
  • I love the slippery slide between the book shelves.
  • I love the more adult club chairs in the older kids reading area.
  • I love the messy activities area with paint and costumes.
  • I love the V.I.P. (Very Important Parent) corner, and
  • I love the tree structure and the soft floor mats in the kids reading area.
If only libraries where like this when I was a child. The librarians at Hjoerring are clearly very good at creating fun spaces that kids would love to use. They also seem very good at using technology, and (importantly) having fun. There is some very good information about this library on the web site and there is even a YouTube video of them building the fit outs for this library. Enjoy!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Top Web Trend 1 of 5: Structured Data

Structured data has always played a role in libraries. Think MARC and MARCXML. Therefore, any increase in the importance of, growth of, and reliance on, structured data will have an impact on libraries. If the process of adding structure to data is increasingly automated, or becomes a seamless part of building online content, this will also have a huge impact on libraries.

Using structured data libraries will be able to build content that is richer as well as more accurate. It also means that information can be harvested and reused in more meaningful ways. For example, XBRL is structured data for financial reporting. Using XBRL companies can code up their financial reports and all the various regulatory authorities can automatically harvest these reports and process the information they contain without the need for humans to "read" and decipher them. A lot of companies and governments are hoping this will significantly reduce reporting and compliance costs. For libraries it means we could more deeply and accurately harvest mashed up information.

Structured data by its very nature is created through establishing links (structures) between bits of data. These links are based on meaningful associations and as a result they help turn data into information. One example cited in the ReadWrite Web top 5 web trends is Calais. The library I work for is already using Calais to categorise content relating to specific people, places, companies, facts, and events.

But what does this means, how does it work, and why is it important? Well, there is a good description on the Drupal OpenCalais project site which says "Using natural language processing, machine learning and other methods, Calais analyzes your document and finds the entities within it. But, Calais goes well beyond classic entity identification and returns the facts and events hidden within your text as well. The web service is free for commercial and non-commercial use."

Another good example which helps explain Calias (and structured data) relates to the Calais Wordpress blog plugin which is called Tagaroo. With Tagaroo, as you are write your post, is automatically analyzes it and suggests both tags and images from Flickr to enhance your blog. Other applications would include linking relevant geospatial information to information on an entity or event.

There is also a promotional video on the Calias web site. Yes it is a promotional video, but it does provide an easy to understand overview. And by the way, Calais has been developed by Thomson Reuters so there is some serious money been thrown at building structured data on the web.

Top 5 Internet web trends of 2009

Every year so many of us look out for the top trends from ReadWriteWeb and this year is no different. However, what do these trends mean for libraries and how will they shape the library of the future?

In 2009 the ReadWriteWeb top 5 trends seem particularly relevant to libraries, so ignore them at your peril. I was a bit surprised that a commentator of Stephen Abrams's stature just listed the trends and did not offer any commentary. Maybe Stephen thinks these 5 trends are self evident, or maybe he was just busy. Anyway, given the importance of these trends, and the fact they are starting to have an impact in many of the libraries close to me, I thought I would add my two cents worth (see the following blog posts for details). As you are no doubt aware the top 5 listed web trends are:

ReadWriteWeb has also posted their 5 top web trends presentation on to SlideShare. It is definitely worth the look. Question: How many of these things are you doing or about to do?

Friday, 18 September 2009

The Machine is using us with reCAPTCHA

Like a lot of people I am a big fan of Mike Wesch and his videos on the impact the Internet has had on society and learning. Like a lot of people I have enjoyed his take on The Machine is Us/ing Us.

A really good example of how we have become personally intermeshed into the workings of the Internet (and as a result are inadvertently building content or teaching computers to think) struck home when I saw that Google had announced they had purchased reCAPTCHA. For details see Teaching computers to read: Google acquires reCAPTCHA.

Over the last 12 months I have set up a digitisation project at work. As with a lot of other digitisation projects we faced hurdles when we had to digitise poor quality and / or old documents. As humans we could read the old text but the scanners could not make sense of faint, fuzzy, and or distorted text. What makes reCAPTCHA so interesting is that you can pass onto reCAPTCHA the images of the words your optical character recognition (OCR) scanning software has trouble reading, and then you leverage off the concept of crowds teaching computers so that the "Internet" learns to interpret and therefore process text that has otherwise stumped your OCR software.

The win win is that you are populating "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart" or CAPTCHA security devices, at the same time as "teaching" your OCR software to overcome difficulties associated with processing poor quality and distorted text. So it looks like the Machine is really Us/ing Us after all.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

OECD on your iPhone

...and in case you missed it, the OECD now offer for free 100 economic indicators from their 2009 FactBook in a format specially designed for your iPhone. For more information see the OECD 2009 Factbook section on

Education matters (and so should libraries)

At a time when there are cuts to library budgets, and large library systems such as the Free Library of Philadelphia look like they might close for good, it is interesting to see that the OECD has come out with its Education at a Glance 2009: OECD Indicators that demonstrates that investing in education will beat recession and boost earnings.

According to the OECD "going to university pays dividends in later life through higher salaries, better health and less vulnerability to unemployment... In most countries, the difference in pay levels between people who have degrees and people who don’t is continuing to grow." The OECD goes on to say that not only do "Government budgets and the overall economy also reap an advantage from higher numbers of graduates", but that there are many other social benefits.

So what has this got to do with libraries? Well,... if you believe that we live in the information age, and that libraries (because they are about information) have a role in education, this must mean that libraries play an important role in building (and maintaining) an up-to-date, educated, and informed civil society. The OECD figures also suggest that the benefits that accrue from building and supporting such a population far outweigh the costs of supporting education (and by extension) libraries.

Of course before you get to university you need to get through school, and after you have left university you need to keep your education up to date, so these OECD figures should also give comfort to school libraries as well as the public libraries who support life long learning.

The challenge for libraries is to measure the benefits they deliver, not in terms of how many people walk through the door, borrow books, or use their databases, (though these metrics are still important), but rather measure the impact they have in boosting their population's social cohesion (though educated does not always mean people are any more cohesive), employment opportunities, health, affluence, and general wellbeing.

Following is the OECD TV report that provides a summary of the benefits they say comes from investing in education. I want to avoid participating in party politics, but the OECD findings also seem to support the Australian Government's AUD $ 16.2 billion dollars Building the Education Revolution economic stimulus programme. A considerable amount of this money has gone towards building and redeveloping Australian school libraries. At a local level it looks like we might get some very good libraries that will make a difference. Lets hope so!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

RSS in the cloud

There is an interesting post on about WordPress is going for RSS Cloud. It is interesting in that the post reminded me how far we have come as we move from listservs to RSS, to twitter to... whatever comes next.

RSS cloud will bring bloggers and podcasters will get a step closer to real time updates on WordPress. I agree with "the big question is whether or not bloggers will be willing to shift from social networking sites to RSS Cloud to get regular updates on their feeds." I also wonder if RSS Cloud will work with Yahoo Pipes. After all Yahoo Pipes is a great way to consolidate, filter, and dedup multiple RSS feeds.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Get your library listed in a mobile phone augmented reality

Augmented reality on your mobile phone! It had to happen sooner or latter. Check out WorkSnug. It's a pity that as of September 2009 it is only available in London, but their web site does say they are going to go global.

Worksnug provides an information overlay on top of your phone's camera. Point the phone into the street or down the road and the WorkSnug overlay tells you about what you are looking at. Designed for all those road warriors in the business community, it shows you the nearest and best places to go online, it even rates the coffee. How cool is that!

If you look really closely at their promotional video you will notice they feature a library as a place to go. How very wise. After all, many libraries have become seriously switched on and hip places to work, study, learn, socialise, and play (and of course read). The text on the WorkSnug video says the featured library is a "friendly, vibrant space, lots of varied activities going on, encourage mobile work." Need I say more.

But here's a word of warning, the WorkSnug team go out and rate sites. So if you want your library to get a favourable mention you better make sure there are no grumpy staff on desk duty when the WorkSnug reviews come and visit. Not that you have any grumpy staff now do you.

As an aside it is also interesting to see the simplicity of the WorkSnug web. There is very little text. Most of the content about what it is and what it does is all in the 1 minute embedded video. Does this really mean that YouTube is wining over Google as the search engine of choice for the digital natives?

Books or no Books? But is that the right question?

Like a lot of librarians I was interested to read that the Cushing Academy in Massachusetts had decided to discard all their books and move to a digital future. Instead of a library full of books they plan to spend their money building a learning centre with flat screen TVs and datapoints, and in place of the reference desk they are going to build a cafe.

What is was really interesting about this news item is that it generated so much debate as well as so many comments in the media. Cushing Academy even got a mention on Why? Universities across the world have been busy for some time building learning centres with little or no books. Just look at the following floor plans that popped up when I did a search Google Image for "Learning Commons" - Q. What do you notice? A. No to little books.

In 2008, Princeton (which of course is an Ivy League University) opened its new USD $74 million Peter B. Lewis Science Library. At the time the asked "But where are the books?" The "stacks you'd expect to find in [the library] have largely been banished to a surprisingly small high-density storage space in the basement." Clearly Cushing is not alone in "banning the book" - but is this Fahrenheit 451?

I have refrained from adding my two cents worth about Cushing and libraries without books until I noticed the following post and associated comments in Kathryn Greenhill's excellent "Librarians Matter" blog and I quote.

"During community consultation about the new library in the last few years, the requests have been for books, books and more books. Some of the new libraries I most admire have created more room for users and less room for books. There are so many new formats, accessed so many different ways. To me much of print publishing has morphed into a “push that product, move those units” cynical marketing exercise, that often does not give or expect sustained intellectual effort by either writer or reader. How can I support what the community obviously wants while bringing to them also the online, alternative and exciting content that exists in other formats and via other channels?"

Kathryn raises some very real concerns, and like a lot of librarians I feel we are all still working this out. Don't get me wrong I love books, and as I write this post I am in my study surrounded by bookshelves groaning under the weight of many, many books. BUT...

Are the options available to us really limited to books or no books, and how much of the debate is driven by a very deep emotional attachment to the physical item rather than a objective debate about the future of libraries and the best way to deliver information? Notice this is a question, not a statement. I work in a law library, and more and more legal information is only available online. Yet when we recently moved the library we were obliged to take 9 bays (almost 50 metres) of the UK law reports, not because the clients use these reports (on the contrary they use the online version), but because they like the look of the bound volumes lined up on the wall. If we had discarded these bound reports we would have had some very unhappy campers.

For me there is a place for both book and the online. I suspect the balance depends very much on the type of library and the type of collection. In disciplines such as science, medicine and technology, by the time something some thing is published in a book it can be very much out of date. Yet I still like being surrounded by books, and going to bed with a Kindle is not the same as going to bed with a book.

Libraries cost money to run, and money is increasingly harder to find. So for me the debate has to be about what is the most cost effective and efficient way of delivering information to the client base, and what best meets the needs of most of the client most of the time within the allocated budget. I love books, but as a responsible librarian I don't think I can allow my love of books to get in the way of what is best for the clients and the future relevance and sustainability of the library. I also take comfort in the Aarhus Public Librarian's comment in the article about Cushing Academy in which Rolf Hapel say very simply "The library has never been just about books".

Friday, 11 September 2009

Web applications and fun stuff

Way back in 2007 when I started this blog as part of a Learning 23 Things exercise I had to have a look at cool stuff such as Flickr's the Color Pickr. Color Pickr of course let's you find public photos in Flickr that match a specific colour. I was therefore curious to see the BokehType experiment from The Man in Blue. the man in blue is (and I quote) "the alter ego of Cameron Adams, a Web Technologist in Sydney, Australia. (That means he does graphic design, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, writing, server-side jiggery pokery, and anything else that takes his fancy that day.)"

Cameron has quite a few other experiments which are worth the look. Some are useful, some are fun, and some are both. For example check out his Mouseboard, widgEditor, Circtangles, and Technicolor.

It is also great to see that Cameron has embraced the whole open source approach. The widgEditor code for example is released under a GNU General Public License. Cameron, you're a living legend (and I was not paid to say that).

Thanks also to Chris for putting me onto BokehType.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Keeping the costs down via an expensive city

A magazine arrived today from the USA. It had been sent to me via airmail and while there is nothing remarkable about that, I did stop and pause at the postage (once a serials librarian always a serials librarian). I noticed that it had been shipped to me via Zurich, Switzerland. In fact the return address was not in the USA but was an address in Zurich-Mulligen. Isn't it interesting that in order to keep their costs down, the US publisher air freights my magazine via one of the world's most expensive cities. I guess there must be something in the Swiss Post tag line "We get things moving" that is for real. Something to ponder on as I read James Wolcott’s essay in my magazine on the impact of Kindle, iPods, and flash on highbrow literature.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

VALA2010 Keynotes: I'll be there

This week Australian librarians have received notice of the keynote speakers for the VALA 2010 which is being held in Melbourne in February 2010. I'm biased, but with speakers of this calibre, VALA2010 is shaping up to be the best Library IT conference in this part of the world.

As well as these six international keynote speakers, VALA2010 will feature a number of new and practical programmes sessions, so watch the VALA2010 web site for details. And yes, the very popular VALA L-Plate series of introductory presentations (free for VALA delegates) is coming back in 2010. The Conference will also feature quality papers from the Australian, US, New Zealand, and South East Asian library and information sectors.

Here is a list of the VALA2010 keynote speakers. Even though these people are internationally recognised and respected, I think more detailed blog postings on each may be in order.

Karen Calhoun is Vice President, OCLC WorldCat and Metadata Services. In this role, she is charged with charting a course for the future of cataloging and metadata services and extending WorldCat’s global reach. With a background at OCLC and at Cornell University, Ms. Calhoun is active professionally in research and as a speaker. Recently Ms. Calhoun was principal investigator for The Changing Nature of the Catalog and its Integration with Other Discovery Tools, a Library of Congress-commissioned study that proposed new directions for the library catalog in the digital era. See also

Xiaolin Zhang is Executive Director of the National Science Library of Chinese Academy of Sciences, one of the largest research libraries in China. He has also been active at the national level for coordinated and collaborative development of digital libraries, for strategic planning of the National Scientific Information Platform, for promotion and experimentation of knowledge-oriented services, and for leading the national effort in digital library standards. He led the large scale study of copyright issues and policies for the Chinese Science Digital Library, was one of the first to be involved in the Open Access movement, and was instrumental in organising Chinese studies on digital preservation policies and infrastructure. He has been a Governing Board Member of IFLA and is a Standing Committee Member of Asia and Oceania Section on 2005. See

Stephanie Orlic is head of the Unit "Projects and Partnerships outside the museum", in the Multimedia division of the Cultural Production Department at the Musée du Louvre. Stephanie is in charge of the joint Louvre - DNP Museum Lab project (, which is using geospatial tagging, mobile devices, and multilingual systems to engage with patrons. A graduate in Art History and in Information and Communication Sciences, she worked in multimedia companies with the audiovisual group CANAL+ before arriving at the Louvre in 2005, where she has been working on the issues of multimedia mediation for art museums.

Marshall Breeding is the Director for Innovative Technologies and Research from Vanderbilt University ( Marshall is also the person behind, as well as being the author of the annual survey into library automated systems, and of a number of important ALA Library Technology reports on open source ILS and next generation catalogues.

Lee Rainie is the Director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, a non-profit, non–partisan "fact tank" that studies the social impact of the internet. Lee is a co-author of Up for Grabs: The Future of the Internet, Hopes and Fears, and the forthcoming Ubiquity, Mobility, Security, a series of books about the future of the internet published by Cambria Press and based on Project surveys. Lee is also co-authoring a book for MIT Press about the social impact of technology with sociologist Barry Wellman that will be published in 2010. The working title is Connected Lives: The New Social Network Operating System. An internationally respected speaker, Lee gave the opening keynote address at the recent 2009 US Computers in Libraries conference. For further details on Lee, see

McKenzie (Ken) Wark is the Associate Professor of Media Studies, Eugene Lang College and the New School for Social Research ( Ken is a theorist of media and new media with interests in new media technology, intellectual property, computer games, and new media art and culture. He is the author of A Hacker Manifesto (2004), Gamer Theory (2007), and other works. Ken was a member of the Nettime network of new media artists, theorists, and activists for many years and served as co-editor of their anthology Readme! (1999). He has also worked with the Institute for the Future of the Book

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The Main Announcement and Registration Brochure will be available in August 2009 - contact the VALA Conference Office at if you would like to be added to the list to receive a copy.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Video versus Text in the Library

Yesterday I had a conversation with a colleague about kids using YouTube rather than Google as their search engine of choice. I've heard a few people say this over the last 6 months, and while it kind of makes sense, I wondered if anyone has any hard facts on the matter. If "video killed the radio star", could YouTube supplant Google? Is this why Google spent so much money to buy YouTube?

Using both Google and YouTube as search engines I went looking for answers and this is what came up.

Using Google as a search engine I found that there is a post from November 2008 on ReadWriteWeb titled "Is YouTube the Next Google?". This post considers the fact that YouTube is now the second most used search engine. However, according to to YouTube still trails behind Google and Yahoo.

Using YouTube as a search engine did not bring forward much that was relevant (or useful) about YouTube over Google as a search engine. The YouTube search results did however bring back results relating to YouTube versus Viacom and MSN which was interesting in itself.

So what does this mean for libraries? Well..

* There is obviously still much more text based information but you can no longer ignore video as online content, or video as a vehicle to promote the library services. Therefore if you are not already doing it...
* Consider populating your library portals with appropriate video as well as the usual textural content. Moving forward libraries will no doubt be offering a lot more online video and audio content so get with the flow and be an early adopter.
* The instructional, skilling, how-do-I modules on your library portals may be more useful if presented as short videos rather than text based instructions. (Honestly, did you really read the instructions last time you purchased white goods, so why should library patrons be any different). The University of Arizona is doing some great work in this area with their library minute series of instructional and promotional videos. These short and engaging videos are all under one minute, with each video focusing on just one topic.
* Promote your library using you Tube. Personally, I like the fabulous promotional library video "Discover a New World at Columbus Public Library" in the USA. See following for details.

If you can't afford to pay for a high quality promotional video, consider running a short video competition among your patrons and staff. The University of Technology, Sydney did this with very good results. Check out their "LIB:Flicks 2009 Video Competition". The winning video by James Shepherd (it is not clear if James is a patron or a library staffer) is both amusing and engaging.

YouTube as a consumer advocacy tool

David Carroll, the lead singer with Canadian band Sons of Maxwell, has used humour and the Internet to get back at United Airlines for breaking the band's guitars.

In the face of denials and disinterest from United, the band created a music video called “United Broke My Guitar” which they then posted on YouTube on July 6, 2009. As of 24 July the video has been viewed 3,719,721 times. As a result United has woken up to the fact that their reputation has compromised and it has forced the airline to finally compensate the band.

While David Carroll is not the first person to use the Internet, or indeed YouTube, for revenge, he has been highly effective. Does this underline the power of the Internet as an agent of change? Well, the technology enabled the message to be delivered far and wide, but it was the creative humour of the video that made the message appealing and started a viral marketing process. I guess this is a reminder to any organisation - be wary of delivering bad service to creative types who are technically savvy, they can fight back.

What we now need is someone to create a music video on Youtube targeting Lyn Kosky and drawing attention to her shocking incompetence as Victorian transport minister (and before that education minister - remember the RMIT financial fiasco) and the resulting crappy service delivered by Melbourne trains and trams.

To find out more about the United Airline versus the Sons of Maxwell saga check out David Carroll's MySpace profile.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Library of the Future: Interactive RFID Information Touchwalls

One of the key attractions at the 2009 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival was a huge multi-user “Touchwall” created by Schematic that served as an information hub. Multiple delegates could interact with this touch screen through RFID chips in their delegate's badge.

The multi-user wall offers interative maps, a schedule application and integrated social networking.

It does not take too much imagination to see how an RFID enhanced interactive touchwall could work in a library. Using their RFID enhanced library cards patrons could interact with the wall to check out events, work out where they are located on the interactive map, and then book themselves into the session. By touching their library card up the screen patrons could renew items, search and download content from license databases, or see where physical items are located in the building. Being interactive, patrons could use the wall to transfer information from one user to another, or use the wall as a medium to transmit social networking content.

Such a touchwall could help underline the library of the future’s role as an exciting place for interactive and immersive learning and discovery. Now all we need to do is iron out the bugs and get the price down. However given Coca Cola is releasing multi-touch vendor machines maybe the prices will come down.

For more comments see:

* RFID Touchwall: The touch screen with RFID effect,
* Schematic’s Intelligent Touchwall Serves as Information Hub of Cannes Lions 2009,
* Cannes Attendees Find Future Is Now for Touch-Screen Tech

and the watch the following videos:

Touchwall Demo from Joel on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Is the Education Revolution Boring?

It was interesting to see a recent news article in the Australian titled "
School designs 'outdated' as rushed Kevin Rudd rebuild a missed opportunity
". In this article "the global head of architecture giant Woods Bagot's educational division has called for a move away from outdated school design templates and towards modern, collaborative learning classrooms, while warning that the Rudd government's schools rebuild is being rushed." Also quoted in the article "is head of the Australian Institute of Architects, David Parken, [who] urged the government to consider environmental sustainability during the primary school rebuilding rollout. Mr Parken said the plan was relying on 10-year-old templates "pulled out of the bottom drawer" and said a vital chance to reduce CO2 emissions was being missed."

I'm a librarian (and I don't work in a school and I don't work for the Victorian Government) so have no agenda or axe to grind in this dispute; and where I recognise that Woods Bagot is indeed one of Australia's leading and most innovative architectural firms, I wonder whether they have seen the Victorian Government school templates. These templates are designed by the architectural firm of Gray Puksand and they appear to be anything but boring. They also seem to support and promote environmental sustainability.

Back to Woods Bagot for a minute, this firm designed the University of South Australia's Future Learning Space. While this space is very corporate looking, and as a result probably not suitable for a school, it did win an interior design award in 2009 and so is worth the look.

You can view a fly through of the Victorian Government design templates at the following URL.

The Victorian Department of Education has not posted them on YouTube because that would make too much sense. Like derr, why would you want to make them readily available to everyone when you can bury them in

Speaking of good library design, the Brisbane City Library by the firm of Denton Corcker Marshall ticks lots of boxes. While this is not a school library there is lots of things you could apply in a school library. They have done some some very interesting with their use of space, their dedicated sports and gaming areas has been very popular, they have a great kids area, and technology is interwoven throughout the design. Check out the following images, or see more at the always popular Free Range Librarian's Flickr album.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

The Handheld Librarian 2009 Virtual Conference

It is exciting to see that in a week and a half the first ever Handheld Librarian Virtual Conference is being held in the USA. Dedicated to understanding and exploring how mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPhones, and Blackberries, can be used by libraries to deliver services to patrons 24 / 7, no matter where they are, this conference is a great idea.

Also of interest is the fact this is an online conference, so you don't have to travel to New York to participate. BUT, if you live in Australia you need to be prepared to start at 1am in the morning and carry through to 7:30 in the morning! Let's hope they podcast the proceedings so you can learn what is going on and not have to stay up all night. The conference web site does say that "Registration includes access to all three interactive, live online events, as well as the recordings of the sessions after they take place for up to six months."

Building the Education Revolution

As part of the Australian Government's "Nation Building Economic Stimulus Plan", 14.7 billion Australian Dollars will be spent over three years as part of the "Building the Education Revolution" program. This includes building quite a few school libraries, as well as gymnasium, and science and language centres.

While this big spending is not without controversy, it is without doubt the biggest single boost to library building across the country. As an aside, use the following two links to see the latest news and blog postings on this government spending programme:

• For the latest news on this education programme click here, and
• For the latest blog posts on this education programme click here.

Still, it is interesting to see what resources are now available online to help schools build 21 century libraries and learning places. In Victoria the State Government has a comprehensive Building the Education Revolution (BER) web site that includes templates and supporting material.

What is particularly encouraging about the Victorian example is the fact that the need for flexible learning spaces, as well as embedded and integrated information and communications technology, is being factored into the plans. From the point of library functionality and future proofing this is good. For more information on all this, there is a overview [PDF document], which unfortunately is buried within the Victorian eduweb site. If you use the link provided in this blog post you should be able to view it. The document outlines:

• Key design principles,
• Primary learning environments,
• 21st century Learning neighbourhoods,
• Teachers as learners,
• Active student centred learning,
• Embedded and integrated information and communications technology, and
• The 21st century library.

There are even a number of tag clouds popping up that group a lot of these school building resources in one spot. For example:

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Library on your iphone - Go AirPac

On Monday last week I blogged in despair that there appeared to be no Australian Libraries putting their portals / catalogues onto a mobile (read iPhone) platform. Well I should have looked at Deakin University Library in Geelong Victoria. While the Deakin iPhone platform does not appear to be as snazzy (Snazzy is a highly technical term describing both technical functionality as well as end-user experience) as the mobile platform used by Orange County Library in Florida USA; good on Deakin for giving it a go. Orange County seems to have the edge over Deakin in that they have already linked in video content as well as a calendar into their Library's mobile platform.

For those interested in the nuts and bolts of it all, Deakin is using the same Airpac platform as that used by Orange county. Airpac in case you don't know is delivered by Innovative Interfaces. Deakin is promoting it's mobile platform via its main library portal so check it out.

Deakin was one of the first Australian Universities to set up a presence on Facebook (I think they were one of the first 10 universities in the world to do this) so it goes to show what you can do if you have great systems staff on deck.

P.S. I have never worked or studied at Deakin so there is no hidden agenda or bias in my comments. I have also never worked for a library using Innovative Interfaces, so while I had heard of AirPac, I missed the news that Innovative was enhancing AirPac so it could be used as a platform for iPhones. I guess you can't be across everything all of the time.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Order of Australia Honours and Libraries

Congratulations to the people on the 2009 Queen's Birthday honour list who received Medals of the Order of Australia (OAM) in recognition for their work with libraries. They are:

Mary Lennie McCall from WA received an OAM for service to the preservation and promotion of history through state and national organisations, and to librarianship.


Margaret Taylor from Tasmania who also received an OAM for service to the development of art libraries in Australia.

... and congratulations to Lionel. There can't be too many families where a brother and sister have each been awarded an OAM.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Twitter Wave and Twitter in the Classroom

The word of this week is shaping up to be Twitter. First there is a very interesting post on ReadWriteWeb titled Anatomy of a Blog Post Well Received, and then after a bit of scouting around I stumbled across Classroom Twitter.

Let's start with ReadWriteWeb. They state that "one month ago Monica Rankin posted a video to YouTube about how she uses Twitter in her classroom at the University of Texas... It's a very good video, so [ReadWriteWeb] wrote a blog post about it that saw an unusually high (12,000) views within 24 hours. [They] decided to pay very close attention to where those readers came from,... and some unexpected trends emerged from the data."

As you can see in the following graph, most of the views came from Twitter. So as ReadWriteWeb ask "Is Twitter becoming a meaningful source of traffic?" For the rest of the findings and comments go to "Anatomy of a Blog Post Well Received".

While the comments on how people are using finding and sharing information is indeed very interesting (especially for a librarian), Monica Rankin's video on using Twitter in the classroom at the University of Texas is also worth checking out.

It is interesting to hear that both the teacher and students see Twitter as a tool that helps democratise the classroom. As an aside, it will be interesting to see if Twitter takes off as a tool to help within distance education programmes.

There seems to be a common thread among the teachers using Twitter that they have been "trying to figure out just how we might use it" (it being Twitter), and people are as a result coming up with different approaches. For example, H Songhai (who's Wordle I am using) has a good post titled Classroom Twitter in which he says he uses Twitter to:

* Students use Twitter to mark themselves present
* Students and teacher use Twitter to send each other direct messages
* Students use twitter to list what they accomplished in class that day

But it is not all a bed of roses for Twitter. The Gartner Group has identified the beginnings of a possible Twitter Backlash which even includes spike in Google Trends for Twitter sucks. What will the future hold for Twitter?

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

How To Do Interesting Things With Twitter

In rummaging around Amit Agarwal's excellent blog called Digital Inspiration, I came across a great post from last year titled Twitter Guide: How To Do Interesting Things With Twitter. I first looked at Twitter just over 12 months ago but never got all that excited. You see I am having enough trouble getting the time to do all the things I need and want to do without taking out more time to post a micro blog on Twitter. However, I am coming across more and more ways that people are using Twitter as a business tool and this is interesting. For example, a number of big portals are using twitter to allow staff to post content on the fly in real time irrespective of time and place.

Twitter is also proving to be more and more popular at library / and learning IT conferences. I understand the recent EDUCAUSE Australasia Conference in Perth they were using Twitter back channels. Mind you IT conferences have been using Twitter back channels for some time, but in May ReadWriteWeb noted that ITV (the oldest commercial television network in the UK) announced that it will use Twitter as a backchannel for its coverage of the FA Cup final in 2009. For the full ReadWriteWeb Story go to Twitter and TV: The New Backchannel. So it is safe to say Twitter is getting bigger than Ben Hur even though it only employs 43 people, it is kind of at the cross roads, and is yet to monetize its obvious success.

Earlier in 2009 The Nielsen Company reported that:

"No longer just a platform for friends to stay connected in real time, [Twitter] has evolved into an important component of brand marketing. Unique visitors to Twitter increased 1,382 percent year-over-year, from 475,000 unique visitors in February 2008 to 7 million in February 2009, making it the fastest growing site in the Member Communities category for the month."

There is even a page on Wikipedia titled List of Twitter services and applications.

But the real reason for the massive increase in Twitter traffic in Australia is because it has been taken up with gusto by my sister-in-law Amanda (Just kidding Amanda). This blog post is dedicated to you and your enthusiasm in embracing social networking technology.

Web 3.0 in Plain English

Like a lot of people, I am getting my head around Web 3.0 (a.k.a The Semantic Web) and what this will mean for libraries, their patrons, their collections, and the delivery of information. There are a growing number of commentators out there talking about Web 3.0 but few are as clear and concise as Amit Agarwal. Amit, as it turns out, is one of India's top professional bloggers.

Amit provides a very clear table of ideas (see following) and ties it all together with some very good slide shows from a number of other authors. This blog post by Amit Agarwal is shaping up to being one of the best for 2009 so why miss it. Check out and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

So, for libraries who are starting to get their head around integrating Web 2.0 stuff like, patrons sharing tags and adding comments, or linking in with external social networking platforms; chop chop, there is no time to rest. The Semantic Web will be upon us before we know it (and as the semantic web has the potential to significantly improve the quality of searches through the linking and association of an object's or concept's attributes) this is something librarians really do need to understand.

Put another way, Web 3.0 has the potential to be one very big and mighty Schumpterian wave of creative destruction. So when the surfs up it is better to ride the wave than be crushed by it.

And thanks to Mike for inspiring this post.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Library on your iphone

Ok there have been no posts of late. No I am not dead, just very, very busy. One thing that has kept me occupied is reviewing abstracts for conferences. While some of them have been good (as in very good) I wish, I wish, I wish, someone in Australia was doing what Orange County Library in the USA is doing putting their library onto portable devices such as iphones. Someone (anyone) please tell me I have been asleep at the wheel while you have launched your own Australian Library iPhone app.

But back to Orange County, the Library's regular web site is at, while their mobile platform web site is at This library has not only done a great job putting their services onto a portable device, they have also posted onto YouTube a really, really good little video promoting and explaining the service. See following for details.

You can also click here for update blog posts on the Orange County Public Libraries iPhone app, and then of course there is Gerry McKiernan's very good blog on all things mobile in libraries at

Thanks also to Amanda for inspiring me to write this post.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Joker Slumdog Milks Oscar While Vicky Cristina Reads and Walle Makes His Departures

Well it HAS been a fun day. It’s always fun to watch the Oscars, especially if you are lucky enough to sit with one of the voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Not that they can tell you who they voted for, that's a big no no. But wining an Oscar does change a person's life, if for no other reason than the fact the trophy is actually quite heavy. Who needs weights when you have an Oscar? (Trust me I have lifted one) God only knows how Philippe Petit balanced his Oscar on his forehead. I suspect this will become an Oscar legend.

If the blogs are anything to go by, it looks like most people: loved Hugh Jackman, especially his opening number, were very pleased Heath Ledger won the posthumous Oscar, and agreed the Slumdog kids were very cute. There was a BBC interview with these young kids over the weekend, and surprisingly they are still living in a slum in Mumbai! Though apparently they are now going to move into bigger homes.

Yet for me, the stand out in many ways was Jerry Lewis winning the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his fund raising on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. In the USA, the annual Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon has raised more than USD $2 billion since 1966! Now that is no mean feat.

Friday, 20 February 2009


It is interesting to see how sectors outside of libraries approach the capture and sharing of online content within the Social Web / Web 2.0 environment. This is especially true when it is a home grown initiative. I was therefore very interested to see that those clever guys at are at it again, though this time they are doing it with documentaries via a project called Docummunity.

"Docummunity encourages members to upload short video clips, photographs or original music based on a specific theme for use in a long form documentary. By contributing to the community, members will be afforded access to all the other uploaded media in order to make their own version of the film."

Last year on the best attended VALA general meetings was the presentation by Simon Goodrich (who is the President of the Victorian Chapter of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association) and his business partner Andrew Apostola. Simon and Andrew explained how they are successfully using social media strategies to build online communities around online film content. They were also doing some interesting work with portable devices (i.e. blackberries and iPhones).

Libraries have been using social media to foster online communities for many years. For example, the State Library of Victoria's mc2: My Connected Community or their Inside a Dog book portal for teenagers. However, as libraries focus more and more on using multi-media online content we should be keeping an eye on what the film industry is doing with social media. And remember there is a growing evidence that Gen X and Co. are starting to use youTube over Google as a search engine. Are we seeing an emerging visual rather than text focused generation when it comes to information seeking. As libraries how are we going to respond to this? For background see:

  • Ping - At First, Funny Videos. Now, a Reference Tool., 18 January 2009. "YouTube is rapidly morphing into a popular search engine and a new entry point into the Web".

  • Is YouTube the Next Google? ReadWriteWeb, 18 November 2008 "In the first half of the 20th century, people grew up reading books and newspapers. Then there was a generation that grew up on movies and television. The last shift was to the Internet. And now web video is creating yet another generation."

Docummunity should also be supported because it is about sharing content and the democratisation of film content, as distinct from locking content away behind large multinational corporate barriers so it is difficult or expensive to reuse.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Government funding to support the creation of games and interactive content.

In these dire economic times it was interesting to hear this morning that the Australian Government through Enterprise Connect is providing $17 million Australian dollars over 4 years to fund a Creative Industries Innovation Centre. This centre will be based at the University of Technology, Sydney, and will support "small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in the creative industries sector improve their productivity and competitiveness by providing professional business advisory and development services. The Centre also builds collaboration between researchers and businesses, and assists creative businesses to access the latest technologies and market specific information."

This is of interest to libraries because the CIIC will assist Australian creative industries in the areas of publishing, writing, games, and interactive content. For Australian libraries more LOCAL interactive content can only be a good thing, right!

Gaming and interactive content is becoming more and more important in LibraryLand no matter where you are. For example, the American Library Association (ALA) has launched a number of initiatives around gamming and interactive content. For details, check out their News about Games and Gaming blog.

Look at the following image from the Australian ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation (CCI) and see where libraries can fit in. I like the way CCI has mapped out the creative industry landscape, and from this diagram it is easy to see that libraries can fit into this space; either as part of the content industry sector, or the cultural industries sector.

The ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation or CCI is lcated at the Queensland University of Technology. Partner Universities include Swinburne, University of Wollongong, and Edith Cowan University. There is a growing amount of information and presentations available on the CCI Wiki so it is definitely worth checking out. The CCI does work in a whole lot of areas that are of interest to libraries including: broadband policy, creative commons, creative workforce 2.0, digital futures and digital liberties, they even do work on standards and metadata.

So why all this fuss about interactive media and the creative industries. Well, it is very simple - its worth BIG bucks. Though be aware of 2007 research from the London Business School that identifies the problems that many sectors of the creative industries have in communicating value and therefore securing funding.

If you are interested, there is a free OECD publication from 2000 titled "The Creative Society of the 21st Century" [PDF File] while the more recent 2009 OECD publication "OECD Information Technology Outlook 2008" costs USD$ 149.00.