Justin James submitted a post about possible preferred skills software developers will need in the next few years. It isn’t a far leap to realize that many of these skills will be necessary for librarians dealing with web and application design.
It was reported recently that many major newspapers have seen a marked decrease in their print circulation numbers. This isn’t a truly obscure thought, as we realize that online news has become the standard for a new generation of info-hounds. This political election should help to illustrate this fact as the immediacy of information no longer allows the print industry to remain current. Sure we see the print versions with similar content, but the prevailing winds of change will most definitely begin to blow toward the bits and bytes contrary to the analog.
From the moment the news is released it can now be rehashed, shared, commented upon, cited, and seen within nanoseconds. As much fun as cutting newspapers up and using them in scrapbooks, media has certainly found more social interaction with their online variations than their traditional formats.
Though this isn’t a new concept, or a terribly insightful video, I was inspired to re-examine just what books meant to me. In the video, the presenter seemed to equate books with extremely cumbersome, dust-gathering, out-dated tomes. The truth is that analog books have an aesthetic all their own.
As I ride to work, it may be easier to pull out an Ereader or Kindle and browse through hundreds of selections, but I feel I might miss the sensation of just turning a page. The way that the type situates itself on the page can be an interesting exploration. Nevermind the wonderful sound of a well worn hardcover closing.
This is not to say that I am not intrigued by digital readers, I am; in fact I would love to be a guinea pig for any company looking to get feedback from a librarian. (Shameless plugging for goods there.) I am curious as to how my reading habits would change from traditional books to the change in container a digital reader would provide. I am equally curious as to how library users in an academic setting feel about electronic books. I hope to get some answers in a future study, but for now will feel content with the dusty 5 million volumes that I walk through everyday.
From a wonderful post on Flexknowlogy, I was introduced to the term in education technology of “creepy tree house.” From their article the definition is:
- n. A place, physical or virtual (e.g. online), built by adults with the intention of luring in kids.
- n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards.
(see article for remaining uses)
The main concept is a sound argument and one with which libraries struggle to find a safe distance from which to communicate with their main audience, the students. It may be difficult to let go of the notion that we need to be at arm’s reach for the students at every point along their day. Blackboard, as mentioned in the article, is a prime example of this notion.
I remember first using it as a student and laughing at the collaborative features. After using them for about 10 minutes, I asked the rest of my group whether they wanted to use Google Docs and Skype, as they were much more efficient and less buggy. I applaud Blackboard for trying to bridge the digital gap between students and faculty, but the amount of time spent using “BB only” applications will most certainly cause some students to grow weary of the labor.
Library systems are slowly entering into this realm as well, especially if we start to look at where the next-gen catalogs are going. Catalogs are now featuring clustered search results, personal item lists, and user submitted comments. Library web sites are consistently offering Instant Messaging and, to a smaller extent, text messaging reference services. These types of service methods move closer to the concept of “creepy tree house” as they mimic communication methods not normally associated with research or academic endeavors. There is also a slowly growing number of library promotional videos that pop up on YouTube, trying to ride the viral marketing wave.
I am not saying that these things are a bad move by any means, but it is important to be aware of what these movements might mean in the eyes of the new students. Will they accept librarians in their social spaces or will our presence be seen as a nuisance? I hope that students will catch on but not tune out.
In a sense the “creepy treehouse” metaphor could also be applied to the generational divide that exists when librarians or educators attempt to adopt cultural cues taken from their younger audience. Be wary of using such references if they may have a very short shelf-life, or small target audience. Once used you may not be able to regain that “respectable” status of intellectual librarian. But then again, what’s the fun in being serious all the time…