Monday, October 01, 2007

Trends mentioned at talks at Pratt Institute, Sept. 29

Last Thursday, I guest lectured at two introduction to library science classes at the Pratt Institute campus in Manhattan. Both classes have Susan DiMattia as their instructor, who is a past president of the Special Libraries Association and a friend.

Susan said that many of the things I'm involved with would be of interest, so the agenda I set for my one hour lecture was:
  • Career
  • Focus
  • Trends
I started with a quick outline of my career -- from my start working in a library in fifth grade to starting my own business. Then I talked about the focus of my business and how that focus has changed since 1998, when Hurst Associates was founded. I talked about what competitive intelligence is (which was the original focus of my business). I talked -- of course -- about digitization and the work I did in my corporate life with setting up "scanning" facilities and what I do know. But we all got sidetracked when I spoke about social networking tools, especially Second Life. Libraries and real librarians in a three-dimensional virtual world?! It took many of the students by surprise! I showed both classes the video about the Ohio University campus in Second Life and that helped them understand it a bit more.

I had thought we'd spend a lot of time talking about trends, but I think actually we did spend a lot of time talking about trends -- the trend of librarians reaching out, using new tools, and finding ways of expanding their services. Under the "trends" section of my lecture, I was able to list eight trends for each class, which we were not able to discuss in-depth because we out of time. These were trends that came to me quickly as I wrote my outline:
  • Library Trends:
    • Library users are pulling information towards them through RSS, search engines and other means. They do not need to ask librarians to help them find information.
    • However, library users need librarians to help them find the best sources and to teach them how to understand the information that they are receiving. For example, is the source reputable? Was the information gathered in a way that makes the information accurate? (Mediation and information literacy)
  • Digitization Trends:
    • Mass digitization is what is capturing our attention (e.g., Google, Microsoft, OCA). There are many mass digitization programs around the world and there will be more of them. The number of resources they can call upon will help to ensure their success. The good news, BTW, is that these programs have made many more people aware of what digitization is and how it can benefit all of us.
    • As we create all of these digital surrogates, we need to be aware of digital preservation. Thankfully there are groups that are learning about digital preservation, and who are creating and implementing standards/guidelines for the rest of us.
    • Institutions are looking beyond their libraries and creating systems that house digitized materials, published/unpublished materials by their employees (e.g., professors), presentations, office documents and more. The number of institutional repositories continues to grow as institutions see them as a way of managing their knowledge.
  • Social Networking Trends:
    • We are becoming hyper-linked as we connect to colleagues through a wide variety of social networking tools. Being linked like this helps us stay "in the know", share information, and find partners/collaborations/opportunities.
    • We can use these tools to collaborate across time and space. Who we can work with (and how effective that working relationship can be) has dramatically increased with these tools. We also know that collaborative efforts can be more successful.
    • Our users will help us create information (crowdsourcing). Many projects (e.g., PictureAustralia) have found ways to successful use information from users/volunteers to bolster their work. Blogs, wikis and other tools are examples of crowdsourcing.
Are these "the top" trends? Maybe not, but they are what came to mind as a prepared and I'm sure they got the students thinking. It is likely that if I did the same lecture this week that I would select a different set of trends to discuss.

There were many good questions and lots of notes were taken. The graduate students seemed to appreciated the time I spent with them, and I definitely enjoyed giving them a peek into my world. [Susan, thanks for the opportunity!]

Addendum (9:45 a.m.): I should mention that I pointed the students to this article that I wrote for Information Outlook on Second Life. If they didn't copy down the URL correctly, this post will point them to the article. (Hurst-Wahl, Jill. "Librarians and Second Life." Information Outlook, June 2007, v. 11, n. 6, pp. 44 - 53. Used with permission from SLA.)

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