Leo Klein’s Top Technology Trends

Just so you don’t think my life revolves completely around pizza, ribs and polish sausage, I thought I’d mention a few things that have caught my eye and where I think we’re headed:

CMS for the Rest of Us

OpenSourceCMS Home PageSure CMS has been touted before but it always came with fine print that read, “some assembly required”. Zope was a poster boy for this. Not only was “assembly required” but you had to learn python to do it. Beyond that, no problem.

No problem? My idea of no problem is where you install the thing, set a few preferences and fire it up. Yes, I know I exaggerate but this very blog — the LitaBlog — is a testament to how far CMS has evolved.

And WordPress (what they used here) is only one choice among many. Have a look at OpenSource CMS to get an idea of the range of products on offer. It’s amazing. It’s getting to the point where all but the smallest websites will incorporate one of these products as a routine part of its development.

Websites Like You Would Expect

Home Page of NYPLLibraries are pretty big institutions — at least some of them. I was always struck by the disparity between the size of the institution — its impact and role in the community — and the level of accomplishment (or lack thereof) of their online presence.

This wasn’t a question of resources (don’t make me laugh) but rather a question of vision and expectation.

The good news is that some of them are getting it!

Look at NYPL or the Phoenix Public Library. Or on the academic side, look at Notre Dame, Princeton, Indiana at Bloomington or BYU. Finally we’re getting sites worthy of the institutions they represent!

It’s OK to IM

iChat Interface with Buddy ListThe first time I saw a demonstration of Chat Reference software, my eyes glazed over. There were a hundred different ways of shooting out web pages to a poor unsuspecting remote user. There were a hundred different ways of controlling that user’s environment — if only he had sense enough to come to our special eReference page and subject himself to the treatment.

This wasn’t going to work, I thought to myself. I had other things on my plate at the time so I left it at that.

I think we’re gradually realizing as a profession that this original approach was a bit heavy-handed. Far better — and statistics have borne this out — to use the tools of communication that our users are using. That means AIM and Yahoo (among others). Our IM handles ought to be on our home pages — along with our email and physical addresses. That way, they’re more likely to end up on the Buddy List of our users. Many libraries are doing this — many librarians are doing this — and that’s a great thing!

Web Standards & Dynamic Web Content

Yahoo Maps Showing McCormick Place in Chicago A lot of people have focused on Google Print and eScholar — and rightly so. But what really caught my eye was Google Maps. How’s that’s for a dynamic interface! Finally, I can use the dragging skills I picked up in 1984 with the Classic Mac on a web application.

Little by little, we’re viewing modifications to our web page that don’t require an entire screen-rewrite. This is a good thing. It’s more responsive to user actions. It doesn’t involve the complete disappearance of the interface and its gradual re-write every time we make a change. Ya-hoo, I say!

Part of this is being made possible by browsers adhering more closely to web-standards. It was great news to hear that the next iteration of IE will have improved CSS support. Slowly we’re approaching the web developer’s dream of building to the standard and not to the browser. This opens up a world of new more dynamic possibilities.

8 thoughts on “Leo Klein’s Top Technology Trends”

  1. I’ll politely disagree that the examples of Academic Libraries you listed above are all great examples….of them, only Notre Dame allowed me to search their catalog without extra clicks. Two of them required 2 extra clicks to get to an area where I can find a book in their library….the sites are pretty, and really well designed. But they force me to go 2 clicks farther than i should to _find a book_.

    Sorry…just a pet peeve of mine with library websites.

  2. It’s a valid peeve. To a certain extent, the Academic Sites are a document engine for online material — students not wanting to come into the facility and all.

    That’s said, it’s sure as hell, convenient! I think the way the search box was implemented at Notre Dame is pretty neat.

    The sites all have their strengths — looking pretty being an important one. Other strenghts include the way that Princeton uses top navigation, how you navigate subjects at BYU, the clean lines and layout of Indiana. I like them all.

  3. Nice list of trends.

    I am proud to say my library, Morrisville College Library (http://library.morrisville.edu), has been doing chat reference with AIM for many years. We are also using a blog combined with RSS feeds to add dynamic content to our webpages. The content is not very dynamic this time of year with just summer classes but it is during the normal college fall and spring semesters. I am using an open source blog (Blosxom) with an open source OS (Ubuntu Linix) on an open source web server (Apache) using RSStoHTML script. It allruns on an old IBM desktop,

  4. Although commercial IM is great – since patrons are already using it – legally this is very problematic, to say the least. AIM and Yahoo’s policies do not correspond to library policies or some state library confidentiality laws. E.g. we can share with any of your information with any of our partners.

  5. Mary Minow Says: …

    Well, I’d think that the first “library policy” would be to communicate to your users using their prefered means of communication. We do it all the time — and run all the same “risks” — when communicating to people whose email addresses end in ‘yahoo.com’ or ‘gmail.com’.

    In other words, I don’t see this as a major hurdle.

  6. State laws protect library records. They vary as to which libraries are covered, which records etc. You’d need more than communication to people … in some cases you may need written user consent when sharing their personally identifiable information (PII).

    Library ethics require true choice and consent … that is, the same service should be available to those who do not agree to share PII.

  7. Mary Minow Says:
    Library ethics require true choice and consent … that is, the same service should be available to those who do not agree to share PII.

    Well, I’m not quite sure why IM poses a more significant threat to privacy than any of the alternative means of communication. Those for whom this is a concern would probably best be served through email or telephone reference. Meanwhile, the vast majority of our users who actually prefer AIM or Yahoo, and who use them all the time, have every right to expect that libraries offer services on their terms.

    Surely, “library ethics” implies serving the public — in the most effective way the public deems fit. More and more, we have libraries that are realizing this and that’s a very good thing.

  8. If libraries use commercial IM services, they should get written consent from user that their PII may be shared, and should offer alternative methods for those who do not wish to share their PII. Finally, they should run this by counsel to see if this satisfies state and local laws governing PII. If all of this is satisfied, then they can go ahead and offer the service.

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