CIL in DC: Day One

By Tom Peters | Tom is attending his first Computers in Libraries Conference this week.Wednesday—The first day of the Computers in Libraries Conference in Washington, DC. It's the 21st annual, but my first. I was up at 3:00 a.m. to catch my six-a.m.-red-eye flight from Kansas City. After I stumbled out of bed and dressed, I called Max to go for a walk, and he indeed got up off the sofa, but he had a quizzical look on his face as we headed out into the frosty night.

After the walk, off to the airport.

By the way, why do I always get singled out for the selective intensive security screening at airports? Is it really a "random selection," as they as call it, for wanding and a pat-down? Is it because I'm a male? Or is it the fact I'm self-employed? Or do they somehow know I'm a librarian, or a blogger (an unsavory lot, I suppose, when you consider the raw averages)?

I missed the opening keynote address by Chris Sherman, the associate editor of SearchEngineWatch, but I arrived in time—gotta love DC's Metro subway system—to hear the remaining opening-day sessions.

The entire conference is divided into four tracks, so, unless one has mastered the art of quadlocation, it's difficult to take in the entire conference.

David King from the Kansas City (Missouri) Public Library gave an interesting talk about using “experience planning” techniques and ideas from the “experience economy” movement to rethink and redesign library Web sites. The experience economy is based on the premise that what companies are selling—in addition to goods and services—are experiences. Library Web site creators and maintainers should focus on how users experience the Web site. One goal is to make each user feel like he or she can participate in the experience of using the library's digital resources and services and feel a modicum of control.

King listed six ways library Web site designers can integrate experience planning into their processes:
  1. Ask: What types of experiences do users of a library portal really want to have?
  2. Save users the extra steps: This is a new variation on Ranganathan's admonition to save the time of the reader. King noted that for most users saving time is the big drawing point.
  3. Pay attention to the trigger points: What is really important to users of a library site?
  4. Improve the dinosaurs: Improve an old experience that has not been improved for some time.
  5. Map a journey: Understand the user's state of mind.
  6. Merit badging: People are starting to collect experiences, not things. Create the library's Web site so that users can earn badges, points, small prizes, or extra credit by finding certain things or completing certain tasks.
Greg Schwartz's talk about searching for podcasts was both encouraging and discouraging. Greg agrees that the podcast searchiosphere still leaves quite a bit to be desired. Most of the podcast discovery tools are searching only a very limited amount of metadata, not the full text. One bright spot is Loomia, a socially progressive podcast search engine. It includes a recommendation feature, and it allows listeners of a podcast to add searchable metadata tags to that podcast. Schwartz noted that this week several podcast search engines, such as Podzinger and Podscope, announced the addition of video-search capabilities.

The wrap-up session for the first day of the conference—the “dead and emerging technologies” panel discussion during the evening—was lots of fun. Hilarious comparisons and contrasts between Library 1.0 and Library 2.0 abounded. This session was not all cakes and ale, however. Darlene Fichter noted that Library 2.0 is books ‘n' stuff, plus people, plus radical trust, plus participation.

Marshall Breeding is the Director for Innovative Technologies and Research for the Jean and Alexander Heard Library, Vanderbilt Univ. Marshall Breeding provided an interesting thumbnail analysis of the current and future viability of libraries. He argued that now that digital-information technologies have passed the tipping point, the fundamental mission of libraries is at stake. He urged librarians to focus on strategic technologies that will create sustainable health for the mission of libraries. He also worries that librarians' fascination with cool tools like wikis, podcasts, and blogs is diverting our attention from the strategic technologies that will chart a new course for libraries. Marshall urged us to mind the main chance.

The best fun of the evening was unscripted. For all the talk about social interaction, an outburst of an old-fashioned family tie drove the point home. When Bill Spence started talking about cool bands to keep an eye—um, ear—on, such as The Hush Sound and Fall Out Boy, one of the conference attendees stood up and shouted, “That's my son!”

Evidently, unbeknownst to Bill and everyone else in the room, her son is a band member of Fall Out Boy. She used her cell phone to take a digital photo of Bill's presentation slide to show her son, and the crowd, as they say, went wild.
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