Some Trends from the LiB

I will not be at the ALA conference and as such won’t be able to participate live with the rest of the Top Technology Trends panel. But, that’s never stopped me before, so here are my predictions!

The concept of the Commons evolves and integrates
We’ve all heard about the Information Commons, the Web Commons, even the Global Knowledge Commons. The idea of a shared information space is new to a lot of people in the general public, even those who are otherwise computer literate. Most don’t understand the concept of a knowledge exchange in an informal format (read: not a journal, book, or other publication). Conversely, most of them probably have already experienced such a thing, but don’t think of it in that way. Library Thing, Storycode, Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Yahoo! Groups, Lifehacker, on and on and on. Many people post to Yahoo and Google groups, dribbling in their knowledge along with the rest of the masses. And it’s wonderful, even if some of the dribble is utter junk. While I don’t think the average Joe or Jane will be calling it “the commons” (in a snooty voice the way Eddie Izzard says “the city” when referring to San Francisco), I do think they will be aware that such a thing exists: a common pool of knowledge, distributed in location, but accessible by anyone anywhere. More and more people will contribute to this pool with a greater awareness and information access for all as the ultimate goal. So, how do libraries fit into this? Do you really need to ask? Libraries have the ultimate goal of creating a greater awareness and information access for all as well. The question is: how do libraries access and advertise the information commons to their constituents? Library staff need to be able and ready to tap information commons for reference questions and educate their customers about tapping these resources effectively and intelligently. It’s like information instruction phase II.

Turning online stalking of our users into online “pushing”
Well, we are. Really. We’re already stalking people. We find out what websites and social tools they use in a number of ways: perhaps through surveys, off-the-cuff conversations, through RSS ego-feeds for the library’s name, etc. And we learn what sites they visit, which ones they like and don’t like, and we plant ourselves there like Custer at his last stand. “We’re here, we’re the library, get used to it!” We’ve inserted ourselves into MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, IM, Second Life, Ning, you name it. We find user comments on their own blogs, on sites like Yelp. And then we lurk. We linger. And we jump up behind our users saying “boo!” when we think they need us, or even when we just see that they make a mistake. In all seriousness though, and other TTT people have mentioned this as well, we stalked ‘em and now we have to figure out what to do now that we found them. And we need to do something. We need to push out new alerts and information within each application. We need to link calendars, images, videos, podcasts—all to each of these presences. It’s not really enough just to have a presence, you need to exploit it.

Libraries accept third party applications
We have a bevy of free third-party applications that are accessing and repackaging our library account data. The services I’m talking about are Library ELF, the LibX Firefox Extension & Toolbar, Steal This Library, Library LookUp, and of course LibraryThing. So far, libraries have been all in a tizzy about this and haven’t researched the services or considered the effect they’re having by not only not linking to the service but by not providing an equivalent themselves. I think that libraries will wake up and start linking to and advertising these independent services that enhance our library users’ experiences.

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