Top Tech Trends: The Trends

Sunday, January 22, 8am-10am, Marriott Rivercenter, Conference Room 3/4
(This runs a bit long, so it’s been broken into two parts: the business meeting dealing with the TTT events and the Top Technology Trends discussion.)

With a little bit of time left after the business meeting, the discussion moved to the juicer topic: Top Technology Trends. Here’s a quick overview of what was discussed:

1. It’s nice to experiment with high tech, but low tech can be good, too. Simple answers are good. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. (Okay, that really came from the discussion of the event, but it played into some of the TTT discussion as well.)

2. Is the promise of FRBR going to flesh out? Are we going to start seeing it for our libraries soon? The discussion pointed out that FRBR assumes that records have been prepared for FRBR. OCLC does have an algorithm that approximates that for the database, but cataloging would still need to be done differently to take advantage of FRBR. The Trendsters discussed how librarians often make things complex that are simple. For example, we were using expensive chat software when all we needed was IM.

Andrew Pace said that one of his maxims is, “never change data to fix what’s a display problem.” He suggested using an algorithm to fix the display problem; there’s no need to change the data. Tom Wilson said that his proverb is, “sometimes you don’t have the time to wait until there’s consensus for how to do things and a product comes along.” One of the problems is that we always assume that the library community needs to invent items for the library community. But really, there are other industries that create some things that do what we’re looking for in the library catalog. If we look into these other options we can save limited resources. He used Endeca as an example of that. It’s not a library technology; it’s technology that is being used for library purposes.

3. How can we make it easier to get materials to users? People are looking for simplest way to do things, why should we fight that reality? The discussion around this topic centered on InterLibrary Loan. Why not shorten the trajectory? Maybe we could set up ILL for users straight from WorldCat. ILL costs are going up right now, some express concern that this step would make it more expensive. The group discussed the trend to buy less and borrow more, but some asked why not have ILL act more like circulation? Collection management from different libraries could work together to develop collections across campuses or systems to facilitate ILL and save costs of cataloging, shelf space, etc. However, it was also pointed out that some studies have compared costs of ILL to running down the street to buy extra copies of the latest best seller and found that ILL might not always save money. A few libraries have started a direct to buy program. If someone wants something on ILL, and it meets a certain number of criteria, they just buy the book and lend it out.

4. It’s not a trend so much, but there was a discussion of taking the user’s cost into consideration as well. The user pays in time. We force them to wait for ILL or to learn library lingo. How come we don’t just ask them what they need and when and we figure out how to get it to them in the most cost-effective way? The user shouldn’t need to know there’s an ILL department, just that they can get books. They shouldn’t need to know the vendor of a database; they should just be able to get useful articles. People start with Google and find things that are already paid for by their library. How can we fit into how people work? Another strand of this is that we won’t get everyone into the library for library instruction when their cultural context tells them to go online; we need to make finding information online easier.

5. Other ideas were mentioned in brief:

  • considering using web services for micropayments
  • building more services on top of the existing digital collections
  • xml web services
  • mentioned in both halves of the meeting: the trend of users in the participatory web and how blogs, chat, etc. are good for that

9 thoughts on “Top Tech Trends: The Trends”

  1. “It’s nice to experiment with high tech, but low tech can be good, too. Simple answers are good. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. (Okay, that really came from the discussion of the event, but it played into some of the TTT discussion as well.)”

    Er… I hope this doesn’t mean that anyone thinks broadcasting an IM chat room on a screen or posting comments to a blog is “high tech.” I have to say when I heard we were considering broadcasting the backchatter for Midwinter 2007, I had a twinge of “we’re not really waiting another year to do what our peers in similar but non-techy professions (such as traditional print journalists) have been doing for a while?” But I smoothed the folds of my handsome green dress I made from my mother’s curtains and bravely carried on. Tomorrow Is Another Day.

    I was pleased to see the comment about expensive VR software, even though some people I admire may hate me for that. It’s not just that VR software is expensive (and all too often clunky). It’s also highly proprietary. One of the lessons in my own organization is how RSS–a real people’s technology in some ways–blew the roof off our usage because people are finding us through popular feed search engines. It was so *simple* to add a feed, and it has changed us.

    As for micropayments and web services, oy, whatever works. It perturbs me that so few libraries in my neck of the woods offer online payments at all.

  2. Thanks for clearing those points up! I certainly didn’t mean to speak for everyone, in everyone’s voice. I just was trying to capture what I, as an outsider/newbie, percieved the main points of the conversations to be.

    I am excited about the backchannel option. I hope to see it soon!

  3. A colleague of mine commented that discussion with student workers in our library indicated that ILL service for books takes too long for them. Some of the students ended up ordered the needed book from Amazon. Most of the time, it’s the shipping arrangement between the two libraries that probably need to be revisited. It’s getting worse if the book in need was checked out and needed to be recalled first.

  4. My assessment of pool collection services in upstate NY, when I was working in PLS up there, was that it cost far more to house, catalog, and shlep books from library to library than it would have to simply buy new books for the libraries in need, precataloged etc., and tell them to weed when done. This wasn’t popular, since it involved eliminating positions, but I still think I’m right. The same is often true with ILL, no? In California, Link Plus is very fast, and rivals buying online, but if a book isn’t in Link Plus, I might as well buy it as try any other ILL venue.

    You have to ask whether you can ever charge enough to recover ILL services. For $8–a local ILL flat fee–you could buy the book, send it to the user, and (with cooperation from sellers, which I bet is possible) include a self-addressed media mailer. Even if half the books weren’t returned, you’d be ahead.

  5. Ditto on the VR Software, Karen. I think paying for VR software is one of the most ridiculous things libraries do when it is something we can get for free (and in a format that our users are familiar with). And we should not apologize for thinking this is so.

  6. I like Karen’s analysis of the buy vs ILL with a fee. Thanks for the common sense.

    I just visited my mother in Hampshire, UK. They charge 50p (was 85p!) (c96cents was c$1.50) per ILL. The library is very small and is in a local shopping center in an area that has exploded in population. That means that it is very convenient, but residents are automatically at a disadvantage in terms of collection size. For those on small pensions, whose least expensive recreation and most available social experience may be the library, the fee, explained as a way of funding the van, seems silly. To have been reduced by about 40%, the fee must have already generated either strong adverse impact on usage, or strong adverse reaction.

    Assuming the fee will continue, I asked if they had considered gift certificates, so relatives could do the equivalent of providing a phone card for their elders.

    They were very polite, took my suggestions and reported that they had fed them on up the system. Don’t hold your breath that anything will change before my next visits in March and May. My mother is 86, but I am not going down that potential breath-holding time frame. Interestingly, in a country where you have to pay the government for a television license, those over 85 are no longer required to pay for their TV license.

    So, two issues: social and practical. Perhaps even a third, public health, in helping to ward off dementia in the elderly through elimination of demented decisions.

  7. I sympathise with Anne and her experience in Hampshire. I have blogged before on some of the absurdities of the ILL service. (http://blogs.talis.com/panlibus/archives/2005/09/i_can_discover.html ). -Panlibus blog 27 September 2005

    I see that the US shares with the UK some of the same issues around cost etc. I agree with Karen that the costs to the library of ILL often exceed the cost to buy–and here we should also remember that much material can be provided very cheaply secondhand.

    At Talis we recently did an analysis of UK ILL traffic derived from our national “UnityWeb” ILL service and discovered that around 70% of transactions represented books that were available on Amazon and, perhaps more interestingly, something like 10% were available (secondhand) for just 0.01p! (plus postage and packing of course). For that the book can be delivered to the customer’s door and they can have it on “permanent loan” :). In my blog I comment that after a frustrating experience of ILL I turned to getting the book secondhand via Amazon….

    “The point here is that I *found* the book on Amazon but I did not get the book *from* Amazon. I got it from a second hand bookshop. Amazon is a *platform* that provides services such as a search interface, “enrichments” (reviews and book jacket images) and, most importantly of all a simple fulfilment and payment mechanism. For the second hand bookshop all that complexity is taken away. It makes it cheaper to sell second hand books and I benefit from a process that I can do at home in a few minutes and I get the book delivered to my door in three days.”

    Now suppose that service had been “branded” by the library. I had found the book on a *library* website and the library provided the *platform* for fulfilment. I would have thought what a wonderful service the library provides. There’s this new service where you can get books on permanent loan delivered right to you door!

    And maybe the library could offer to have the book back when the customer has finished with it and then recover some costs but putting it back onto the Amazon trading system. We’ve already done some work with our library customers to enable withdrawn stock to be traded on Amazon.

    Technology is changing the game here!

  8. I see many mentions of books via ILL but what about photocopies of periodical articles? This is an invaluable service since many full text issues of countless magazine titles aren’t included in subscription databases.

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