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.