nasig part three

The Friday vision session was given by Marshall Keys. He spoke about the chaotic transitions brought on by technology. He said that the “future of libraries depends on their ability to meet the emerging needs of users” and that we need to first understand what those needs are. None of us know what tools we will be using in libraries in the future, but we should keep aware of trends and try to anticipate them.

Keys talked about the “blog mentality” of the younger generation of library users:

  • What I think is important
  • What I think is important to other people
  • Something is important because I think it is important (“Whatever” corrolary: If I don’t think it is important… whatever.)
  • Privacy is unimportant
  • Community is important

The last two aspects of the “blog mentality” are particularly relevant to library technology. Emerging users want community, personalization, and portable technology, and they are willing to have it all at the expense of a loss of privacy. For example, they want to know what their peers are interested in, and they can get that kind of information from places like Amazon, Netflix, and Friendster, but not from the library catalog.

Another point on technology that Keys made about our emerging users is that the phone is their primary information appliance, and as the sales of ringtones indicate, these users are willing to pay for the ability to customize their tools. One not-so-emerging proponent of a phone as a primary information appliance is the Shifted Librarian herself, Jenny Levine, and her treasured Treo. She and Marshall Keys would make for an interesting pair.

Side note: I am writing this in the SeaTac airport while waiting for my shuttle back to Ellensburg. At a nearby table is a ten year old girl and her little sister along with her father. Just now, he was having trouble with something on his cell phone, and she took it and showed him how to do what he wanted to do. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that someone so young would know more about how to use the phone than the person who owns it, but I am anyway.

The point that Keys was trying to make was that if emerging users consider their phones to be primary sources of information, then we need to be developing reference tools that acknowledge that reality. There are text message services that answer questions quickly for a nominal fee, and if our users are more inclined to pay for that service rather than come to us through traditional methods, then we need to consider ways to implement similar services. We also need to face the reality that a majority of library functions can be outsourced off-shore, including technical services and reference services. If we aren’t preparing for this eventuality, then it will be even more difficult once it happens.

Keys stated that, “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” If we aren’t prepared to provide accurate information quickly to our users in the formats they prefer, then we will become irrelevant.

nasig part two

Knowing that it was my only opportunity to do so, I slept in again on Thursday. At some time close to noon, Bonnie and I made our way down to Hell’s Kitchen for lunch. I had drank a bit too much the night before, so I didn’t have my normal appetite. However, the mahnomin porridge was excellent and just what I needed. They also made an Americano good enough to rival Starbucks. After brunch, we headed over to the conference hotel and picked up our registration packets. I had a few minutes to kill before it was time to meet for the NASIG skits rehearsal. (Yes, there was much teasing from my friends about me being a thespian.) This year was the 20th NASIG conference, so there was a bit more hoopla in the schedule of events, the skits being part of the anniversary part/dinner on Friday evening.

The opening session of the conference was much the same as previous ones with various members of the conference and program planning committees speaking about how great it was to be at NASIG again. The local historian and pictures segment was interesting if only for the flavor of the bias the historian had. He spent most of the time showing pictures of buildings in Minneapolis and Saint Paul that no longer existed along side of pictures of dismal office buildings and freeways that have replaced the old buildings. I understand his dismay over the period of time when old buildings were demolished and their history and unique architectural design unvalued, but really, we got the message and there was no need to continue to harp on it.

The Awards and Recognition Committee decided to create a new award to be given periodically to members who have significantly contributed to the organization. The first award winner is Tina Feick, who later showed her thespian skills in the NASIG skit about dorm life. Given the years she has been a part of the organization, the campus conference experience must have been quite familiar to her, and that came through in her performance on Friday evening.

nasig part one

Last year’s planes, trains, and automobiles route to the NASIG conference was a fun experience, but the schedule was such that I arrived right before the beginning and left immediately after the closing session. This meant that I missed the social networking aspect of the conference at the beginning and that I didn’t have time to do a bit of sight-seeing and decompress at the end. This year I decided to arrive a bit early and stay a bit longer, and I’m glad I did.

I landed in Minneapolis on Tuesday evening, and my college friends Becky & Michelle picked me up. We stayed up late catching up on the years gone by, and then I caught some sleep on their rather comfortable couch. The next morning, Michelle and I went out and found a few geocaches hidden in the neighborhood. One more notch on my GPSr for a new geocaching convert. We went to a Panera for lunch, and I was able to make use of the free Wi-Fi to log our finds.

Afterwards, Michelle introduced me to one of her hobbies — Half Price Books. I found a nifty Wonder Woman doll and colorful book on the history of Wonder Woman, as well as several sci-fi novels that I have had on my wish list. I would have shopped for more, but I couldn’t remember the titles and authors of everything I’m looking for. It’s probably good that I didn’t, since my suitcase was busting at the seams by the time I left Minneapolis.

Later in the evening, we met up with other college friends now living in Minneapolis at Psycho Suzie’s Motor Lounge for a dinner filled with good food (beer battered cheese curds

trekkie

I’ve been coming to terms with my inner Trekkie lately. It all started when I began reading Wil Wheaton’s blog on a regular basis. He writes more about his family and poker obsession than about Trek, but it began reminding me of my absolute fanaticism as a teenager. I picked up a couple of lots of old paperbacks (TOS and TNG) on eBay last fall, and as my reading log shows, I’ve been steadily making my way through them. It’s been fun to re-connect with the characters, and to appreciate the abilities of some fine science fiction writers. I spent most of the past two years on cozy murder mysteries, and it was refreshing to have something different for a change.

I also bought and read Wheaton’s book, Just a Geek. In the book, Wheaton writes about his struggle with coming to terms with Trek and what it means for his life and career. In reading his acceptance of Star Trek in his life, it helped me embrace my own geeky love for the television show. It’s okay to be a Trek fan.

A few weeks ago, I decided to give Netflix a whirl. I loaded up my queue with the entire seventh season of TNG and began making up for lost time. I missed most of that season while I was in college, and I haven’t had television consistently enough since then to catch the re-runs. It’s been like reuniting with old friends, and even more so since the seventh season episodes seem to focus more on individual character development in a bittersweet-this-is-the-last-season kind of way.

There’s a documentary of Star Trek fans called Trekkies, and it’s hosted by Denise Crosby, who played Tasha Yar on TNG. Tasha was my first serious TV character crush, even to the point of creating a little shrine to her on my dresser in the height of my fanaticism. So, not only is it a documentary about people like me, but the actress playing my favorite character is the host. Of course, I had to watch it, and into the Netflix queue it went.

The DVD arrived today, and I watched it this evening. It was the reality check I needed. I expected that the documentary would focus on the more extreme fans, and it did, with some coverage of the average types. After watching it, I realized that even though I may have been obsessed with Star Trek fifteen years ago, I’m not quite so much anymore. I’m a fan, sure, but not a fanatic. It’s one part of my own geekiness, but I’ll never live and breathe it like I once did.

star trek is dead

Orson Scott Card writes, “So they’ve gone and killed “Star Trek.” And it’s about time.” As long as it’s the twisted wreck of Star Trek that Rick Berman is creating, I agree whole-heartedly with him. However, I am still mourning the end of Star Trek: the Next Generation — the only Gene Roddenberry version that was allowed to grow and develop over time.

As Card points out in his commentary, TOS was hampered by television convention of its time, and the characters were never able to truly develop in the show, although I would argue that the published book series provided ample opportunity for that to happen. I will also concede that TOS was not necessarily good science fiction, particularly compared to what was being written at the time. However, Roddenberry never intended to be a science fiction writer. His experience was with the Western genre. As it has been quoted many times, Star Trek was meant to be a “Wagon Train to the stars.”

Twenty-odd years later, Star Trek fans were given a new generation of characters and plot lines. I grew up watching re-runs of TOS, but I wasn’t a fan until I saw TNG. Back in 1988, I was a geeky junior high kid with few friends and too much time for watching TV, but I found solace in this vision of the future presented to me by Roddenberry and the script writers for TNG. It was my interest in this television show that introduced me to the science fiction genre. I would not have read any of Clark’s books had I not first come to love Picard, Data, Yar, and all of the rest of the ST:TNG characters.

So I say to you, Mr. Clark, do not look down your nose and scoff at the demise of the Star Trek universe. Be grateful to it for making science fiction accessible to the general public, and for paving the path to those series that you deem to be good science fiction.

Thanks to Bookslut for the heads-up.

reading all day long

Steven pointed to a meme that is floating around where bloggers post their responses to “If I could be a <insert profession here> I would….” I’ve read a few of the librarian ones, and I’m finding it hard to resist responding to those who think that all we do is sit and read books. Sure, some of us have the luxury of doing this, but as we all know, there is so much more to the profession than just reading <insert media form here>. I have come to the realization that I will not be able to “read and read and read all day” until I retire. Until I am a former librarian, I won’t be able to do what the general public thinks I do. I am torn between depression and irony at this thought.

Updated so that the stuff between < and > shows up. D’oh.