Technology in Libraries
I read Marshall Breeding’s May 2017 “Library Systems Report 2017” way back when it was published in American Libraries magazine – but something struck me this morning while reading a completely unrelated article on politics/culture in the US…
(accessed from American Libraries magazine, 27 July 2017)
That if, as Breeding states, in the internet age, libraries are moving toward increasingly centralized, for-profit “solutions” for their tools and services – from technical services, authority syncing, reference chat tools and vendors for research materials of all formats (and I think he is correct), then libraries are moving away from their democratic ideals towards arrangements with a more fascist bent.
This trend in libraries of course simply reflects the state of culture at large that works by default with the internet.
But the end result, as I see it, is at least twofold:
- That the number of librarians and interested connected professionals are able to engage less and less in the design and implementation of those technologies across almost every front- This not only affects those people’s ability to engage in deep-dive lifelong learning, but it also means that “design local” as a guiding metaphor is being thrown out the window. Even as libraries’ staff talk about how much they like to serve their patrons/community/users (whatever each library wants to call its local constituents, it is actually less able over time to to design solutions built specifically for those very people.
- That one major result of the above trend as partially commented upon in bullet # 1 is a significant decline in diversity – this even as diversity & inclusion committees and working groups are being formed across libraryland in the United States. We talk about diversity and intellectual freedom in libraries. But we define those ideas in increasingly narrow terms if we do not take into consideration the elaborate tools that might be built if local libraries maintained their own servers, ILSs, and well defined privacy policies that could be much better managed if local libraries (of all types) maintained a higher level of control over their own systems.
The result of this trend migrates thinking & tinkering away from local decision making, policies, technological innovation towards a totalitarian model wherein diversity is discouraged and intellectual freedom is hindered across several important fronts – especially meaningful fronts in the information age.
A few thoughts…
Thank you for reading.
My collection development article, Careful, You’re Being Watched: Surveillance & Privacy, has just been published at Library Journal.
The print edition is out in August and will feature more information and resources.
Please click on over to read this version and subscribe to Library Journal or head on over to your local library to peruse the print.
Thank you for reading.
I went to Philadelphia in the snow and the cold to meet and learn at American Library Association’s Mid-Winter Conference.
(Image courtesy of http://alamw14.ala.org/ <accessed 27 January 2014>)
The conference was held in the Philadelphia Convention Center right downtown on Market St and 11th St. I met many great librarians and library advocates from all over the United States. Besides searching for academic library jobs, I also got to talk about my own start-up, Metamedia Management, LLC and our work as 21st Century Librarians in document management and technology solutions to that end.
Besides meeting all my library colleagues and learning about applications being put into action in libraries and archives all over, I also took in an important discussion on the social construction and intersectionality of gender, inclusion, race, ablism, hiring practices and technology in libraries. I heard from people such as Coral Sheldon-Hess, Eric Phetteplace, Cecily Walker , Chris Bourg and Myrna Morales from Community Change, Inc. I live-tweeted from @meta21st (our company Twitter acct) and @jlibraryist (mine) as the discussion went back and forth between live-in-the-room to Twitter. I was happy and impressed to see librarians and library advocates bring together such important notions. Don’t hesitate to get involved in the ongoing chat on Twitter with the hashtag #libtechgender.
I learned about so many important technology and standards in use, but I want to draw attention to two intriguing online educational companies: First, JoVE, Journal of Visualized Experiments, a video collection of science experiments meant to bring lab results and processes into the open in order to encourage continually tackling those processes to double-check, rethink and verify results.
The second company I got to hear about was EducationonDemand, a K-12 subscription service meant to deliver time-saving video education collections to teachers. They can be likened to a mix between PBS Learning Media and Khan Academy.
Take a look at either of these sites and see if they will work for you. It is good to see so many people adopting so many approaches and platforms toward connecting library work and education. These notions go together.
It was a good conference.
Thank you for reading.
E-readers have become standard objects used by patrons of libraries – academic and public alike. There are a slew of devices with which one can read and listen to their electronic audio and text-based books. Interfaces vary, variations in digitizing touch-to-action exist and screens are different. Some, such as the Nook by Barnes and Noble Booksellers and the Kindle by Amazon, are marketed specifically as internet friendly readers. Then there is the mini-Ipad, the Kobo reader and different builds of hardware on the Android platform such as the Nexus. The Nook even has ‘apps’ designed to work on its platform – a hybrid of Android and proprietary software. Each of these readers and/or features is not unimportant. I could even bring up differences in tablet readers and e-ink devices. I won’t. I want to talk about differences in implementation of reader software. I want to look specifically at real differences in e-publication formats, how they change what reading is as an activity on an electronic device and how formats are tied to reader software. No, I’m not here to break down code or look at processing algorithms. Fascinating stuff of course. But that analysis goes elsewhere.
There are many formats in which to read publications electronically. There is HTML, EPUB, Kindle and PDF (and a few others for readers popular around the globe). PDF works with lots of reader software, though not all. Kindle, of course, works only within the Kindle device or reader app because it’s a proprietary code. EPUB is not. It will work with readers as far afield as the NOOK, any Android Device and readers such as Kobo or the one sold by Sony. There are lots of publishers who, in an effort to expand the range of creativity in reader choices, publish only in EPUB. It’s generally considered an “open-source” coding for text. There are differences, however, in implementation of use of EPUB or PDF – wherein we note the crux of this piece of writing.
EPUB is designed to work with many readers. But the way it works with different readers changes depending on the vender of the electronic item. For example, two popular reader software applications that are compatible with EPUB and PDF and have been used by public libraries in my area: the first is the most popular eBook vender, Overdrive (which is a vender and a reader application); the second is Bluefire (which is a reader only with built in links to online spots to buy books or to download public domain titles).
I currently read on a Google Nexus 7, touchscreen obviously (though I use my stylus to turn “pages” a lot) and I use both the OverDrive and BlueFire applications for EPUB and PDF texts. OverDrive is not as convenient a reader to use as Bluefire because it is tied to its connection firstly as a reader of books borrowed from the library. The application itself has a GET BOOKS tab through which books can be searched in libraries’ eBook collections. OverDrive works as a portal to the library’s catalog of eBooks. BlueFire is not as tethered. It operates as a third party option available to the reader to choose which reader to use if the option is allowed by the objects being considered or publisher controls etc. OverDrive does not list the actual format of the books in its library while Bluefire does – to the right of the title OverDrive just says eBook while Bluefire lists EPUB or PDF. The difference is no inherently wrong. Bluefire simply has slightly fuller metadata while OverDrive probably sees itself (just a guess here) as a reader use by the populace who (they think) don’t care about “technical” aspects of the text in front of their eyes.
The issue of metadata certainly marks a difference between these two readers. But it does not mark the most important distinction in my fBook (f for figurative 😉 ). The most important implementation variant between these two readers is the difference between content/quantity representation models in use – specifically the way in which each reader represents pagination in eBooks. OverDrive DOES NOT use page numbers – a fact which I believe to be problematic for reasons of making reference to books read, annotations made for future reference and ability to cite. In fact, this is an even more problematic feature of OverDrive because as more and more texts are being consumed in eFormat, if one’s ability to cite books for reference and scholarly purposes (professional or amateur researchers) is restricted, the reference to other books and facts built for new writing will be challenging. Bluefire does not have this issue. It lists the eBook as containing pages 1-whatever). OverDrive chooses instead to subdivide every section of the eBook into page sections that are counted as percentages.
For instance, instead of showing the first page of Chapter 3 of a book I am reading on Physics starting on page 40 as it does in the paper text, it represents this “page” as “Page 1 of 19” with Chapter Progress of 5.3% and whole book progress as 13%. The page number itself really means nothing in relation to the whole eBook and percentages have nothing to do with reading page-to-page. The lack of ability to cite this text – again, a feature tied to its use by the populace who OverDrive believes does not care to do reference work – is a major problem. But it’s also a contradictory stance because I bet the same popular reader is just as happy to be able to know what “page” they’re reading. I can’t imagine anyone really cares about what percentage of each chapter is finished within the overall book except as an arbitrary number to call out. These percentages smack of computer modeling and lack the granularity of real page counts. Bluefire does not have this problem. It has some of the same ability to jump from section to section by using a dropdown contents tab. But it makes reference to pagination within the overall structure of the content being read. This feature increases the granularity of the reading experience and makes citation possible with the use of as few marks as possible in the citation.
Thank you for your time. Take a look at different eReaders and don’t hesitate to reply here or at Twitter. I am always open for discussion and learning.