Yesterday I was fortunate enough to attend part of the ABC+D Reference and Information Services Group (RISG) meeting at the State Library of NSW. I was only able to attend the first half of the day, to see the presentations by David Lee King from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and Sean O’Brien from ABC Open.
Having followed David Lee King’s blog for some time, and having not been able to see him at NLS5 in Perth, it was great to hear him speak in person. David’s presentation was titled “Freak Out, Geek Out, or Seek Out: Trends, Transformations, & Change in Libraries.”
David and the audience looked at some of the changes that have occurred both in and out of libraries… the demise of card catalogues, introduction of self-check scanners, the way we access information (e.g. checking email on a smart phone), less landline phones, relying on mobile phones for the time over wristwatches, etc. But another big change is competition.
Libraries now have competition from:
- Book stores. In the US, the huge Barnes & Noble stores have books that are easy to browse, in sections that are easy to understand, with cafes, comfy chairs, and even group study and story time!
- Amazon. Cheap and the website is easy to use.
- Online newspapers. Will this be the end of newspaper-reading areas in libraries?
- DVD rental boxes/online rentals. Over a library, these provide new release titles, without a reserve queue, and with DVDs that aren’t scratched or damaged.
We are now using the web in new ways. The emerging web is real time, decentralized, mobile, multimedia, social, and public. This makes libraries global and easy to access, and provides new opportunities for libraries to engage with their clients. However it also requires library staff to learn and adapt, and libraries to change or die.
On the Topeka Library website the staff create original content across 15-20 blogs, and clients can subscribe via email or RSS. Comments sections allow clients and library staff to have conversations, where even negative feedback can provide opportunities to engage. There are multiple ways to access the catalogue, via different “front doors” – physical, Google, Facebook, YouTube, and other search engines. Using your library should be as easy as switching on a light – the client shouldn’t need to think. Topeka is looking at what clients are doing (David even checks this out over their shoulders), and going to where they are.
David suggests that it is imperative for administrators and leaders to model the way forward. If administrators are expecting to use new systems and tools, they should first learn how and show their staff how to use them. Administrators should also use opportunities to bring in new staff to hire the right staff. Roles and personalities are changing, and hiring staff is a chance to appoint people with skills for necessary changes.
There needs to be a change of focus in libraries, and this should be built into strategic plans. People need to make time to learn and implement new things. If there is time for libraries to participate in the ALAAnnual Book Cart Drill Team World Championships then there is time to make changes in your library.
Sean O’Brien’s presentation followed nicely from David’s. Sean not only detailed the ABC Open initiative, but also started conversations with librarians about the possibilities of how ABC Open might work with libraries.
ABC Open operates in regional areas of Australia, working on projects with groups (such as historical societies) to build a picture of regional life. Two of their projects are ‘Now and Then’ and ‘The Moment Behind the Photo.’ Producers run workshops with regional participants to educate them in how to work with their materials such as photographs, adding new stories to their collections. Once people have learned these new skills they can continue with their own projects, and share their knowledge with other members in the community.
The project uses Vimeo and Flickr, with tags that then feed through to the ABC website. ‘Now and Then’ and ‘The Moment Behind the Photo’ combine photographs, film, and audio to provide snapshots of regional Australia. The created material is owned by the participants, and then licensed by the ABC. Part of the reason Vimeo and Flickr were chosen is the possibility to use different sharing permissions under Creative Commons license.
How could ABC Open work with libraries? For a start they need spaces to work. Being in regional areas they are often without the necessary internet capabilities to upload the material on the spot, so this is something libraries could provide. However there need to be discussions between ABC Open and libraries, to ensure they are working for the same outcomes.
Given that I’ve been trawling through an organisation’s archives for uni, I was excited by the possibilities of what could be done to bring this material to life.
Ellen Forsyth created a storify feed for the day here and I also suggest that once the podcast goes up on the NLS5 website you have a listen to David Lee King's presentation there.
Katrina is a member of the ALIA Sydney Committee and a librarian at the State Library of NSW.