Top Tech Trends from Sarah Houghton-Jan

I’m not able to be there at the session, but I’m sharing my top trends below. Please add your own thoughts in the comments section. Discussions often bring out the best in all of us!

  1. The Art of Web Presence Maintenance
  2. With libraries extending their web presences out beyond the borders of their own websites proper, the coordination and successful maintenance of these presences has become a skill in its own right. How to successfully leverage a Facebook page for your library? How to successfully use Wikipedia to promote your library’s services? On which sites should you be present? How to successfully use YouTube for library videocasts? The list goes on and on. The skills include the ability to creatively manage your different presences, updating them when appropriate, keeping information current, participating in new sites when warranted, and deleting outdated presences. More libraries are designating people other than their traditional website managers to manage these extended parts of their web presence. For many libraries it is a decentralized process, while for others it is all done by one person. Managing a library’s extended web presence truly has become an art, and an art that each library needs to (and seems to want to) learn about. I see the future bringing more and more libraries focusing on this aspect, and the real skills that these tasks require, such as customer service, web skills and knowledge, writing skills, etc.

  3. Plug-ins, Widgets, and Hacks, Oh My!
  4. Websites are no longer stand-alone entities. They are segmented bits of code, little pieces of functionality, all grouped together to make dynamic and interactive pages. The number of plug-ins, widgets, and hacks in the last year that can be used effectively on library websites has increased dramatically compared to previous years. This has a lot to do with services opening up their APIs, more people interested in creating technology that works for them when they can’t find an existing version. This opens up all sorts of possibilities for any library. Most of these services are free which has resulted in many, many libraries taking advantage of them. The number of libraries taking advantage of these will continue to grow, especially in times of difficult budgets when “free” is the only choice.

  5. My Kumpyootur Kan Has a Kloud
  6. Cloud computing has been discussed a lot in the information community in the last few years. Libraries have taken advantage of this already by using services such as Google Docs to offer services or enhance communication. When cloud computing becomes the norm (which I and others think it will in the next few years), this will be a boon for library users. Their services, files, software permissions, etc. will all be stored remotely by their service providers. They can use our computers, which will likely have to be less robust (less software installed, as an example), to access their super-awesome services and get their personalized profile right there in the library. But what about those users who don’t have services? What will the library provide as a standard, and how? Cloud computing will be an amazing development in information access, but it probably won’t end the complains in public libraries about wanting the library to purchase or provide access to obscure services/software. Sorry :/

  7. Online Training Has Its Debutante Ball
  8. To date, most libraries (and by libraries I mean library managers and supervisors) treat online learning like it isn’t valid. Not in your library? No? Think of this: does your manager allow/encourage staff to go to in-person classes held by the library staff, your parent organization, etc.? Does your manager equally, if at all, allow/encourage staff to view webcasts, review online tutorials, look at online training materials, etc.? Most libraries that I have visited (a mix of public and academic) have little time for staff to go to training, and little funding at that. However, they will happily pay for an in-person class that also involves an hour of travel time for the attendee, but not give the same person time to watch a webcast on the same topic from his/her desk. It’s almost as though there is an unwritten rule: “If you’re at your desk, it’s not real training.” While as a trainer I completely agree that some topics require in-person classes, most topics can be covered through online screencasts, webcasts, written tutorials, and the like. Fortunately, in the last year I have seen more libraries opening up to online training as a valid training delivery method. I believe that this also has to do with budget difficulties. Less money = a need for creative training approaches. Incidentally, this applies for your users too. Create a screencast of your email basics class and point users to that. With increased demand for classes on email, resume writing, finding a job, etc., it pays to offer an alternative to the waiting list for the in-person class.

  9. Less $ = Less eResources (a disturbing trend)
  10. I conducted an informal survey of libraries in my area to see if their eResource budgets were being cut because of the bad budget year (and the many to follow in all likelihood). It seems that eResources (databases and eBooks) budgets are being cut more than the traditional collection budgets are. This could be a San Francisco Bay Area anomaly, but I’m guessing not. And I’m wondering why it became OK to consider eResources less essential than physical ones. Times are tough – which is precisely why eResources make more sense. They have a higher return on investment, examining cost vs. use, (up to 5 times as much in my studies). They are accessible to anyone with a computer and internet connection, any time. And for the bulk of them, there is not a limit to the number of users who can access the information at any given time. Especially for periodicals, eResources make more sense than physical ones. And yet, this year, periodical budgets aren’t being cut but periodical database budgets are. This is disturbing to me as it shows an overall “second class” status for eResources, while in my opinion the return on investment for materials should be what counts most. I am distressed to think that now that we have finally climbed that mountain where most library staff accept the place of eResources in our libraries, we are sliding back and saying that they aren’t as important to us, or our users. And that’s why the trend is disturbing – did we ask the users? What do the users think about this? What would they prefer, if given all of the information?

Top Technology Trends from Sarah Houghton-Jan, ALA 2008

I had a lovely time presenting virtually, despite the sound issues on all ends. It still was a rather successful demonstration of virtual participation, and I think that was wonderful. Big thanks to Maurice York for organizing this for myself and Karen.

I have 5 Trends I’d like to throw out there. I was able to cover three of them (#s 1-3) in the live presentation, but apparently the echo in the room made parts of what I said difficult to hear. So, here’s what I said verbatim, near as I can remember (plus the bonuses of #s 4 and 5). Let’s hit it.

#1: Bandwidth
Every library complains about bandwidth. Many people have faster access at home than at the library, which is a reversal of what we used to see when people came into the library to use our connections. The problem is multimedia, which is wonderful, but it is huge. And when you put 40 people downloading audio and video files, playing live online games with people in Singapore, and streaming radio stations , you get bandwidth clogged-up-ed-ness. And if you’re not set up so your staff network is separated from your public network (which you should be), your staff find that their work is slowed down to a snail’s pace too. There are a number of solutions out there like paying to up your subscription with your ISP to the next level or switching from copper to fiber. But this faces all organizations, not just libraries, so until a global solution is found, I think that we will see more of libraries’ IT budgets going to bandwidth every year…which means other projects may be put off.

#2: Sustainability
We talk a lot about the new and the beautiful. But answer me this: how many abandoned and dead library blogs are on the web? How many no-longer-updated library MySpace profiles are there? Few libraries thought about how much it would take to sustain these presences. Taking a holistic view of how much staff time it takes to maintain the library’s existing web presence, and allowing for additional time for new projects, is something that all libraries should begin. The smart ones do it now, but as our web presence grows and takes up more of our overall resources, we need to pay the same kind of attention to staffing it as we do for a physical library.

#3: Looking away from the bright shiny things and at ourselves instead
Tell me which of the following sounds familiar to you:

  • “We wanted to do it, but our administration didn’t see the value in the technology and didn’t want to devote staff time or funds to it.” -OR-
  • “We had to go through 6 committees and rewrite 4 library policies to get approval to start a blog, so it took a year to get it going.” -OR-
  • “Our web and IT staff have a project back-log of more than a year so any new ideas have to wait.”

Libraries, as organizations, are not nimble. We desperately need to look at how we make decision and how we encourage innovation in our libraries. Nearly all of the libraries I have visited or worked in do not encourage innovation.

In fact, innovation is discouraged through the structure and practices of our organizations. A huge barrier is the generations-old librarian “fear of failure” that is so great that no one is allowed to try anything unless is has been planned to death and has already been implemented in 80% or more of other libraries. Staff are also hesitant to innovate because of the multi-level bureaucracy that libraries seem to love. These bureaucracies are seemingly insurmountable to us regular ol’ staff because of three things:

  1. the natural frustration we all have with complex bureaucracies that make us want to cry
  2. the reality that “the little guy,” which many of our new librarian staff are, probably isn’t on the committee that makes the big decisions
  3. and third, people don’t have the extra time in their workdays for the hours required to organize a project to make its way through the bureaucracy. The staff are already over-burdened by their other duties and few people want to work an extra 5 hours every week just so they can be the ones trying new things in their workplaces.

We create walls between us and innovation and then put down on paper that we want to innovate, that we have a strategic plan to move us forward. “Huzzah!” we say to ourselves. And yet, our plan falls woefully short of what we really need to get us to where our customers expect us to be.

Here’s what I want to see for a library technology plan—
DOs: Go try new things. The more things the better. The more things that we hear about failing, the better, because that means you’re trying lots of new things. Pilot new things if possible. We’ll fund you when we can, but if we can’t please try getting sponsorships. And, finally, let us know how it goes.
DON’Ts: Don’t dislocate your shoulder playing wii bowling at a gaming night. Please.

Until we break down the walls that stand between libraries and innovation, all this talk of shiny new things doesn’t mean a thing. The libraries that have broken down those walls, or at least found secret passageways through them here and there, are the ones who we see innovating, the ones we see featured in Library Journal or Computers in Libraries. It ain’t the ones with a committee structure that looks more complicated than my family tree. The advent of the rush of new technologies in libraries is almost forcing the issue, making us reconsider how we make decisions and manage projects. I think this is a wonderful thing, and am watching what libraries do as they move through this change.

#4: Catalogs
I want to build on something that Eric Lease Morgan wrote in his Trends on the LITA Blog. He was writing about the next-gen library catalog and emphasized the importance of helping customers to use the content they find in the catalog by tagging, reviewing, sharing, syndicating, etc. I wish to second that sentiment with one addition. These activities need to be global. They should not be limited to the content created by your library’s users or users of other library catalogs from the same vendor, as is the case with some of today’s products. In other words, tags and reviews should be shared across libraries, platforms, and across all boundaries. Syndication and sharing should work with common and popular existing websites and services like Yelp, Facebook, and Amazon. We are no longer individual community libraries folks…at least not online. We’re all one, and acting like it will help us stay relevant in our users’ online experiences.

#5: Open Access Content
Libraries are going to soon start getting off of our pricey pedestals and only featuring digital content that we pay for. Yes, we all pay thousands of dollars for some excellent downloadable audio books, encyclopedias, journals, and a lot more. But all of that lovely open access (read: free) digital content that exists out there through sites like the Directory of Open Access Journals, Project Gutenberg, and more are credible and respected, and we owe it to our users to let them know about this content.

Questions from the Audience
InfoCommons – what’s the right set-up, hardware, software?
In addition, there was a question from someone in the audience, directed to me, about what software and hardware would make a good InfoCommons. I’m still confused about why that was addressed to me, but that’s OK. I will admit that this is not an area of expertise for me. My library is currently in the very early stages of beginning planning for an InfoCommons in our main location and perhaps at a few key branches. My best recommendation would be to ask the users. See what they tell you they want. So, instead of answers, I’ll leave you with questions. Do they need video editing software? Furniture that can move? Laptops they can check out instead of standing desktop computers? Do they want audio mixing software? Which types of device ports? Do they want specific animation software? Do they need to be able to download stuff (if your library currently doesn’t allow that)? Do they want special printers? Talk about that. See what they tell you. Research what other libraries have done, and use that as a possible starting point. Much has been written on the subject by people a lot more involved in this area than I am. Trust them, not me 😉

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.

Sarah Houghton-Jan’s Top Technology Trends

I won’t be able to join you all for the Top Technology Trends panel, but someone more worthy than I can read this in a good strong feminine voice, and hopefully he or she will be wearing black, so as to most accurately reproduce the experience of actually seeing me speak.

My predictions are few this year. The only constant is change (but that’s not new, is it?).

RSS goes mainstream
With all the subtle introductions of RSS into internet users lives (My Yahoo!, Firefox & now IE RSS-friendly features, etc.), more and more people are being introduced to the wonders of RSS. Despite my unheard plea with the world to stop calling it RSS and call it textcasting instead, RSS is still RSS. But even with its name working against it, more library users, family, and friends seem to be asking about RSS and then using it happily once they discover it. I also predict that more and more libraries will use RSS to display current information on their websites, from new books in the collection to new headlines from the teen blog.

I predicted this last June as well, and I believe it now more strongly than ever. I believe that OCLC is angling to produce a fully-functional ILS. OCLC is a membership organization of libraries, and what are all libraries having problems with more than anything else right now (not including funding)? That’s right–a stinky-poo ILS (yes, whoever is reading this out loud has to say stinky-poo — hee hee, I made you say it twice!). OCLC’s progress toward an ILS may be full of baby steps–a web interface here, an integrated ILL system there, ending with the full-fledged patron database, cataloging, acquisitions, plus infinity monster program that is the ILS. Let’s see what they can do and cross our fingers that the result is cheap, easily installed, and intuitive for patrons and staff alike.

Reaching out online
We have our own little fiefdoms online, our own library websites that branch out into subscription databases, reference and tutor chat services, and other paid content. What we still need to do is reach out online to where our users are, which sure as heck isn’t our library websites. Libraries are starting to do this piecemeal—listing podcasts in iTunes, posting video content to YouTube, posting on local blogs and forums, listing ourselves in free wi-fi directories, and so on. I predict a mass awakening in the library world, though, to the need for online outreach. This is important because just as we do physical outreach in our communities, we need to match those efforts virtually. Our communities spend a lot of time online—we just need to figure out where, and meet them there.

The move to web-based everything
No, you only thought the whole world was web-based. Now you’ll really see it happen. With services like offering a virtual web-based operating system with applications and storage space online, and Google moving slowly like the beast toward Bethlehem toward a complete web-based OS with its school of web-based office applications (calendar, word processing, spreadsheets), long-held predictions of people like Steve Wozniak seem to be coming true—everything n our computing worlds will be web-based. Say goodbye to the individual PC with software loaded onto it and files stored in its inner depths. Say hello a sci-fi world where everyone’s end-user devices are basically dumb terminals that are used to access your web-stored information—files, software licenses, everything—from anywhere, anytime. No more being tied to one computer to access “your” stuff. You will simply have web-based profiles with the web mega-giant of your choice, probably one for work and one for school. Along with this, say hello to a desperate race to develop adequate file security for this environment that will satisfy the gadflies among us.

Sarah Houghton’s Top Technology Trends

I won’t be at ALA, but I’ll note three trends I see in full force:

Returning Power Over Content to Those with the Knowledge
Eric Lease Morgan touched on this in his second trend about blogs and wiki websites becoming the norm rather than the exception. My twist is this: people who have the knowledge will once again be in control of the content. Until recently, most websites (library and otherwise) have fallen victim to the camel through the eye of a needle problem: only the webmasters can post the content, and sometimes such insufficient and incoherent content is given to them, that they end up creating much of the content themselves. Library staff, largely librarians, are responsible for the collections, programming, and services in our libraries–the content. The same should be true with websites. With WYSIWYG interfaces with blogs and wikis, those knowledgeable people can once again be in control of the information their users see. Webmasters can re-focus on how they see and find it, instead of the content itself.

I’m not sure if this is a trend, but it’s a prediction–and one worth watching. With their recent (and not without controversy or concern) merger with RLG, OCLC is positioning itself to tap some of the excellent resources RLG offers, including RedLightGreen–one of the ILS interfaces people point to again and again as an example of “what could be” in a greener more beautiful library world. Fully FRBR-ized and simply-keyword-search-oriented, an OCLC-ized RedLightGreen could potentially solve the wealth of ILS-dissatisfaction we all seem to be feeling right now.

Online Outreach
This will be the subject of a presentation I give at a conference later this year, but let’s touch on it now. Libraries have long been bad at publicizing ourselves, but I’ve seen us slowly getting better at it in recent years–in the physical world, that is. We still stink at outreach and PR in the virtual world. A few libraries are doing it well, and I think more will begin to as they start to think of their web presence as a true branch. Let’s rent some adspace on community websites, put ourselves in Wikipedia, make our libraries findable on the Web in places our users already are, put stuff on Craigslist, etc.

Sarah Houghton’s Top Technology Trends

I am unable to attend ALA Midwinter again this year, but here are my top technology trends. Someone can read them in a big booming voice so it will sound impressive 😉

IM reference goes mainstream
After reading the existing studies showing that co-browsing is of limited value in many chat reference situations and thinking about how much money they’re spending on their web-based chat products, libraries will begin to re-think how they offer live online reference to their users. More and more libraries (as has been the trend for the last year) will adopt instant messaging for online reference, either in addition to or as a replacement for their existing expensive and bloated web-based chat products. A year ago I and a few others were called shortsighted and sometimes even “stupid” for pointing out the negatives of web-based chat. We were also called “extremist” and “too youth-oriented” for promoting instant messaging. Today, over a hundred libraries offer reference services via instant messaging, and I know of at least a dozen libraries who have dropped their web-based chat systems for IM. IM is going to continue to get bigger. It’s not going away.

Increasing technology staff
Libraries need to invest money in technology staff. New positions need to be created to keep up with the ever-growing demands on our technology staff: electronic resources managers, virtual reference coordinators, technology support, webmasters, systems analysts, etc. What may have been one full time position’s worth of work five years ago has now ballooned into two or three positions’ worth of work. Staffing will change to accommodate this…slowly, but it will change. I don’t think that positions will be moved around to accommodate this need for new staff—I think whole new positions will be created.

Take what we can from 2.0 and run
Library 2.0, Web 2.0, Librarian 2.0…what does it all mean? I agree with Thomas that over the next year we’ll be sorting through what these terms actually mean for our libraries, and picking and choosing from the concepts and ideas to implement the best of the best in our libraries. There are many concepts included in Library 2.0 (interactivity of information, taking the resources and services to the user—not the other way around, collaboration between the public and the library) that can be interpreted in many ways. It’s not just about technology. It’s about making ourselves relevant and desirable to a public who all too often don’t know the services they’re paying for and therefore don’t vote for our bond acts. We’ll come up with a short list of actions (I predict that that list will appear on Michael Stephens’s blog, Tame the Web—the guy’s known for his useful top ten lists).

Automated tagging
Tagging is useful. Its usefulness has been proven on sites like Flickr and Technorati. But tagging manually is a pain in the rear. Somewhere some great big awesome code monkey (probably someone with library or at least metadata training somewhere in his or her background) is going to figure out how to automatically tag things. Lots of things: blocks of text, links, *gasp* maybe even bibliographic records. The tagging won’t be perfect, but will it be good enough to serve our users’ needs? Then what? What happens to cataloging? Do we MARC and tag? I say yes. MARC, expensive and decrepit dinosaur that it is, isn’t going away. We still need controlled vocabulary…at least for a little while longer.

Opening up Library Computers
Okay. This is an exact duplicate from last year. But I don’t care. It’s important, and it’s happening (very) slowly. But it’s picking up speed. Most public and school libraries have the public use computers locked down for security reasons. This could mean having certain drives locked, disabling downloading and installations, having very limited software, disabling ports, and having few if any peripherals (scanners, speakers). While we claim that our public use computers help to bridge the digital divide (which they do by providing internet access & perhaps word processing), we need to do more. I predict that change in this area will pick up speed in the next year as libraries hear more complaints from users, talk to their schools about what tools students need, and do some serious self-analysis about how we’re absolutely not bridging that digital divide we’re pretending we’ve bridged. It’s more like we’ve thrown one solitary rope across a ravine and are asking folks to traverse hand-over-hand to the other side until they’re blistered and sore. Let’s build a real bridge—preferably of stone or metal construction, eh?

Information and the Quality of Life: Environmentalism for the Information Age (take 1)

David M. Levy (University of Washington) gave this closing keynote session for the conference. Levy began his talk by noting that many of us feel that life is out of balance somehow and that technology seems to have something to do with it. As we speed forward do we lose sight of the bigger picture?

Levy asks us: how can we recognize and establish balance? We have an abundance of information sources, devices and technologies. When does this abundance lead to overload? We have an abundance of attentional choices. When does this lead to fragmentation? We lead full lives with full schedules. When does this become “busyness”? We largely subscribe to rapid action and response. When is this speed counterproductive?

Some of the negative consequences of this speed up and overload: physical and mental health, productivity, effectiveness and quality of work, job satisfaction, decision-making, social cohesion and capital, democratic governance, and ethics. Some people can thrive on a 24/7 informational diet, but many cannot.

Levy quoted the well-known Vannevar Bush article in Atlantic Monthly in 1945, “As We May Think,” in which Bush conceptually proposes the basic tenets of hypertext and digital computing as a solution to the problem of information overload (he called his proposed device a “memex”). Levy notes that we have done all that Bush proposed and more, but this has not solved the information overload, but arguably worsened it.

Levy’s basic idea is that we spend a lot of time using technology to find, gather, and consume information, but we have lost sight of the need to slow down and process the information—a time to contemplate the world (the Greek ratio vs. intellectus). This was a nice way to end the conference—a helpful reminder to take a breath, slow down, and be calm.

Currency, Convenience and Access: RSS Technology Applied to Subscription Database Content

John Law (ProQuest Information & Learning) and Karen Schneider (LII) spoke about the wonderful world of RSS to a full room on the last day of the conference. Karen Schneider did a fabulous job of filling in for Jenny Levine, the original second speaker.

Karen Schneider
Really Simple Syndication lets you create content in one place (text. audio, video) but display it in many places: RSS aggregators, websites (intranets, public websites). RSS puts you out there to the public—it puts you into search engines (Google, Technorati).

LII’s success with RSS

  • LII’s e-mail newsletter has 15,000 subscribers and takes quite a bit of maintenance (the list, spam filters, etc.)
  • RSS feed has 8,400 subscribers (minimal set-up and maintenance, no spam, no list management, users find it on the web, opportunities for new formats like audio)
  • Access to the site has doubled in the last year, which Karen theorizes has a lot to do with the visibility RSS provides

Other cool things you can do with RSS: UPS & Fed Ex package tracking, weather reports, ego feeds (seeing what others are saying about you), new book lists, updates on circulation status of items, video blogging, podcasting, feeds from subscription databases.

How do you know how many people are subscribing to your RSS feed? There’s no one way. You can look in Bloglines to get an idea of how many people subscribe to your feed and that should give you a general idea.

Cool things that libraries are doing with RSS feeds:

  • Events at the library
  • Newly acquired/ordered items (can also see as a webpage)
  • Newly arrived items (can also see as a webpage)
  • Displaying local news headlines on the library’s website
  • Some library users are using RSS to displaying the books they have checked out from the library
  • The University of Manitoba Health Science Libraries has a page with recommended RSS feeds from their library and from other sources that they believe would be helpful to their users.
  • David Walker has created RSS Creator to create RSS feeds for subscription databases and e-journals that aren’t providing feeds on their own.

RSS4Lib is a blog that discusses innovative ways libraries are using RSS feeds (and of course they have a feed)!

How to display Feeds on your sit e: Rely on someone else for the javascript code (Feed2JS, Feedroll, RSS Digest) or Roll Your Own

Helping Your Patrons’ Information Literacy with RSS

  • Create a public aggregator of feeds for a specific audience
  • Academic libraries could aggregate news for specific departments
  • Public libraries could aggregate community news
  • School libraries could aggregate news for class projects

John Law
ProQuest is offering RSS feeds for its subscription databases. Law stressed that access to content (which is critical to realizing its value). Users expect content in context.

ProQuest has a link on their homepage to their RSS feeds. Very specific subject areas have RSS feeds with the new articles in that area.

Libraries can display the newest article headlines (with links into the database) for targeted subject areas on their webpages (e.g. marketing and communications, advertising, etc.).

ProQuest is also planning on offering roll-your-own feeds, allowing users to create customized feeds. The user runs a search, then clicks on a “Create RSS Feed” link. The resulting feed will contain any new articles meeting the criteria of that search.

During the Q&A period, John Law also discussed authentication issues. The pre-defined feeds are delivered to anyone and require no authentication. Because the feeds contain the citations only (with a link into the database), they’re only authenticated at the point of linking into the database. The customized feeds are only creatable once you’re inside the database and already authenticated.

Office for Information Technology Policy Update

Rick Weingarten and Carrie Lowe from the ALA Washington Office for Information Technology Policy presented on library and IT issues in the current political climate.


  • Library participation continues to slide. Over 30% are eligible, but only 7% participate in E-Rate (I think I got the #s right). The application process is seen as too complicated and the discount is too low to off-set the workload involved.
  • We’re facing threats to E-Rate money.
  • ALA is lobbying to simplify the program, change the way poverty is measured, and try to get E-Rate back to doing what it was intended to do.

CALEA (Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act)

  • The law states that carriers must re-engineer systems to assist law enforcement with wiretapping. The law had exceptions. It did not apply to “information services” or “equipment, facilities, or services that support that transport or switching of communications for private networks.” (e.g. the Internet and private networks).
  • Now lawmakers are attempting to amend the law to extend this to apply to broadband information services.
  • ALA has been meeting with the FCC and lawmakers to try to get libraries exempted from this law.
  • On September 23rd, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rule Making laying out who would be covered by the CALEA extension. It will have a serious impact on libraries in terms of cost and staff burden (the amended law requires a 24/7/365 contact at the library to respond to wiretap requests). There are serious privacy and security concerns with this proposal, and libraries and ALA will be fighting it heavily.

ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and Internet “Governance”

  • ALA has been quite silent about ICANN, and the speakers emphasized that this is something that will need to change.
  • There is a big US vs. international issue here. Since the US dominated the scene for a long time, there’s a sense of ownership and control that can’t be sustained in an international environment.
  • The World Summit on the Information Society concluded that greater international involvement is necessary and proposed four scenarios for governance structures.
  • ICANN just voted to approve the .xxx domain, which is the first content-defined domain (for sexually explicit material).
  • The US Government is largely rejecting all international findings and opinions, and continuing to attempt to act independently to control things.