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.

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.