Emerging Technology Planning: Library App

Plan

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

  • Engage users who may not have a PC or laptop at home but own a mobile device or tablet.
  • Increase checkout of e-books and e-audiobooks
  • Provide users with a social-media style commenting/ranking system for titles, increase communication via catalog platform

Description of Community you wish to engage:

Patrons who may not have access to a PC or laptop at home but would connect with the library’s website and catalog with their smartphone or tablet. Patrons who enjoy social media and reviewing or ranking books/titles. Patrons who get annoyed trying to access their account and borrowing information on the regular website with a smartphone or tablet.

Action Brief Statement:

Convince library administrators that by adopting the app platform for the library catalog and services they will engage more users which will increase library usage because of the trend away from PC/laptop use and towards mobile device use.

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service:

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service:

  • The library already uses Bibliocommons for its online and in-branch catalog software. Bibliocommons offers app design and support as an add-on to the services that we are already using.
  • San Francisco Public Library, Austin Public Library, Boston Public Library, and many more large library systems have already begun using the Bibliocommons app services.
  • Planning for technology is an important part of implementation and an important part of considering adding a new technology to the library.
  • Guidelines and policy for app use would be the same as those for the use of the Bibliocommons platforms on desktops and laptops. Because the software allows for socially generated reviews of content, it is important that the same process of review is in place for mobile users.
  • Finally, our library and app users have the ultimate say on whether or not they want an app.

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

  • Staff time will be minimal (trainings are required to help patrons utilize the platform)
  • Funding will be required either from the general fund that the library uses, or a request to the Board of Supervisors may be necessary is more funding is needed for the project.
  • It is also possible that funding can be released from other funding areas that are no longer being fully utilized.

Action Steps & Timeline: 

  1. Study of need – this library had a mobile app that was discontinued after the switch to the Bibliocommons platform. What was the utilization of the old app? If it was low, can we expect more people to use the Bibliocommons app? Is it possible to do a survey, or discuss directly with librarians using this app whether they have found the level of usage warrants the extra cost? (3 months)
  2. Library administrator approves or rejects project idea. (3 weeks)
  3. Securing funding – if a Board of Supervisors request is required, this may take 3-6 weeks depending on the meeting schedule. (3-6 weeks)
  4. Signing a new contract with Bibliocommons. (2 weeks)
  5. Prepare for launch- meetings with IT professionals, staff training. (2 months)
  6. Launch with rollout advertising at branches (1 month)

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: 

  • Staff time required will be minimal beyond the initial training period; the app is set up to mirror the Bibliocommons platform and automatically promote new library materials that are added.

Training for this Technology or Service:

  • Bibliocommons will provide multiple training appointments for staff at the pre-launch phase.

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service:

  • Many patrons already use mobile apps through the library like Zinio for magazines and Overdrive for e-books and e-audiobooks. The library’s catalog app can be advertised as just one more app to complete your entertainment and learning app collection.
  • The library’s app is a great way to check on your account and rate books on a mobile phone or tablet. It saves time and is easier to navigate than the full website on a small screen.
  • Bibliocommons offers some great ways to advertise their app.
  • Create demand: offer novel groupings of books through the app that aren’t available on the full website.

Evaluation: 

  • Take an evidence based approach to evaluate the app
  • Track usage statistics through the Bibliocommons platform and unpack/discuss trends
  • Check on who is using the social media portion of the app, and why
  • Have front line library staff ask patrons if they have heard of the app; have meetings to discuss things that they have heard about it
  • Have staff use the app instead of the regular library website.

Course material referenced for this assignment is hyperlinked.

Can’t a librarian have a bit of privacy? Online privacy in the hyperlinked library

I’d like to start with the sentiment that I usually don’t care for pieces that start with a definition, especially when the definition becomes fundamental to the argument the author is trying to make. However, the definition of privacy provides key insight into how it is understood individually and under the law:

Definition of private:

1 a :intended for or restricted to the use of a particular person, group, or class a private park

2 a (1) :not holding public office or employment a private citizen (2) :not related to one’s official position :personal private correspondence

3 a :withdrawn from company or observation a private retreat

4 :not having shares that can be freely traded on the open market a private company.

There are a few different ways that private is used linguistically, but they all imply one thing: ownership. Even the use of “private” meaning not being under observation connotes the understanding that a person has sole ownership of the things that are occurring in a private situation. The right to privacy overlaps with the ownership of other things, like property. For example, I can claim the right to privacy in my own home, but when I walk into a business or someone else’s property I do so knowing that I may be under observation or being recorded.

Technology and the right to privacy is not a new issue. Some states have “two-party consent” laws, making it illegal to record a telephone conversation unless both parties are aware and agree to be recorded. The advent of the internet has blurred the lines of privacy law even further. The Pew research recommended to our class shows that Americans by and large feel they have a right to privacy and what they do on the internet should not be made available to businesses. The problem is a misunderstanding of what they internet is and how it works.

Even though the internet comes to you through your phone, tablet, PC, or laptop in your private spaces like your living room (or, heh, bathroom) the websites you are meandering through are someone else’s property. Whenever you log on to Facebook, Amazon.com, or your WordPress blog you are using someone else’s proprietary software and web platform. You wouldn’t go to Walmart and expect not to be filmed by security cameras, so why would you expect that sort of privacy on Walmart.com?

Social media sites, google, and much of the internet is free to use as long as you have a connection, but the cost has always been putting up with advertisements and your information being used as a product to sell to third parties for use.  The important point from Pew that librarians should know is that people who are using the internet largely misunderstand how their information is being used and for what purposes. The issue of government and private business intrusion into net user privacy is an important concern, but there is a multipronged approach that librarians can take to address privacy for their users.

Librarians must understand that privacy begins with the user. Offering classes on online privacy, net etiquette, and other basic internet programming can be a helpful way to teach computer users how to browse the web safely and securely. The issue of teens and social media use can also be addressed through programming whether online at the library’s website or inside the branch. The next layer to address is the security of library patron’s information within the library. Libraries hold on to patron information, and should take all steps necessary to ensure that this information is secure. Privacy has been an important issue since the internet begin, but it will continue to be an issue of concern for many people as technology continues to evolve.

Transparency and Government: thoughts on earning public trust

I work as an administrative assistant in local government and in my capacity, do not have much contact with members of the public. Sometimes I do have to walk out into our lobby and pull files and I can feel the angry glares from people waiting to see an official, or I receive the occasional phone call from someone “just trying to get a live person” on the line. I therefore have put some thought into customer service, trust building, and transparency in the public sector. Contrary to popular belief, government agencies do invest in and care about customer service, and particularly in transparency in response to public demand within the last decade or so. This connects to our class and our readings in a few ways. First, when people think of “libraries” as a concept, they are most likely to think about public libraries, which are run by local government. Because of this, public libraries are subject to the same criticisms and demands from the public as other government agencies. Libraries must justify their spending, must respond to demands for transparency, and must prove their value to the public that they serve. I find this same mission reflected by my agency, by my department, and in my own work.

Our readings on transparency show that on-demand information for the public is optimal, if not an outright necessity in today’s market.  Chris Anderson discusses the idea of “radical transparency” in his blog post discussing how corporations have changed their public face from tightly controlled PR initiatives to open blogging about corporate day-to-day from staff. Aaron Schmidt shows that transparency builds trust and long-lasting relationships with customers. Brian Kenney’s article shows how the Seattle Public Library went too far in its efforts to rebrand itself by investing in a meaningless makeover that didn’t improve the quality of service to the public. I understand from our readings on transparency that in taking the risk of allowing more information out to the public, companies, libraries, and public institutions are rewarded by fostering trust. There is an implicit connection between sharing information and honesty, and the result of honest (or at least perceived honest) communication is trust between the customer and the company or agency.

The office I work for is investing in being as transparent as possible. We recently launched a web-based version of our records database so that anyone with access to the internet can review records from the mid-twentieth century to the present. From my understanding, a large issue in the public sector is that people instinctively don’t trust government enterprises. Libraries get a bit of a pass on this since they are understood to be more benevolent than say, the IRS or DMV but their funding and value can certainly be contentious at times. An important factor that didn’t come up as much as I thought necessary in the readings was that libraries (and other public-sector agencies) must not only be transparent, but must be open about their transparency! So much of what government agencies do to serve the public flies under the radar because they don’t have a PR and advertising budget on par with the private sector. Not only do we need to be transparent about our practices and processes but the public needs to know.

Context Book Review: The Information Diet by Clay A. Johnson

pusheen.tumblr.com

The Information Diet, by Clay A. Johnson (O’Reilly Media, 2012) argues that the modern world is suffering from a case of “information obesity,” in which each of us consumes large amounts of unwholesome information created by online content farms, corporate media, and deceptive political sources. Like being medically overweight, the remedy is to consciously consume better information, from parsed sources, and to spend less time watching or reading sources that exist only to affirm our own pre-established beliefs. Johnson really enjoys playing out the metaphor of information obesity throughout the book, to the point where I feel like I’ve learned just as much about going on a proper food diet as I have learned about media consumption and information overload. He even recommends the concept of “infoveganism,” or otherwise consuming information lower on the so-called “trophic pyramid,” such as raw data, rather than analysis from an expert.

Even if the metaphor is a bit stale by the end of this short book, I like the idea of people consuming too much poor information and its effect on our lives. Johnson borrows some from Carr’s “The Shallows” (which I read for my last context book review), which makes the case that the hyperlinked web is changing the structure of our brains in novel and maybe not-so-great ways. The trustworthiness of information sources, the mass media, and “fake news” have gotten a lot of publicity since the last national election cycle in the United States, and this book provides concrete steps to improve one’s information sources and be a more discriminating consumer of media. A recommendation that Johnson makes that is especially relevant for our class and the idea of participatory service is his recommendation that we each become content creators rather than passive consumers of media. He recommends writing blogs, creating videos, and connecting with others who are doing the same on a local level to create information communities. He pitches great ideas for connecting with others to create a sustainable local network of food for thought.

One of the concepts Johnson discusses that wasn’t as strong as the others was his term “info-veganism,” where he recommends that a large part of the information we consume should come from raw data sources. For example, instead of reading a newspaper article on a new bill in congress, it’s best to read the actual language of the bill. This is one of the weaker points he makes, because it’s unrealistic to expect people who are otherwise busy with their lives to take the time to consider raw sources of data, legal documents consisting of hundreds of pages, and so on. One of the reasons we don’t have direct democracy is that it’s not possible for every voter to read every bill and to vote on it, just as it’s not possible to look into the “hard facts” for everything you’d like to know about. That’s why we have politicians, and why we have journalists, experts, and others whose job it is to crunch through the rough information and make some sense of it. Vegans eat lower on the trophic pyramid because they eat plant based foods, but the info-vegan equivalent would be expecting vegans to go out and photosynthesize the nutrients they need instead of eating veggie burgers.

The takeaway for librarians is that given the overload of information from dubious sources available through television, journalism, and the internet it’s important for people to have the tools necessary to digest (see what I did there?) information in a way that helps them sort out good from bad sources and to be good critical thinkers. This could mean offering classes on making sense of online sources of healthcare information, or providing copies of documents from local governments that impact citizens. It also means carrying on with participatory service, especially for hyperlocal information like promoting blogs that talk about local politics, farmer’s market based cooking, and other community events. Now I’m off to the gym as all of this discussion of junk food has got me itching to burn some calories!

Ends and Means: Thoughts on Redesigning Library Services a Manifesto

Immanuel Kant, “borrowed” from Goodreads.com

I received my B.A. in philosophy at California State University Fresno in 2011. Like my family members warned me, I have found little direct use for much of my degree in “real life”, other than approaching thinking and writing critically and analytically, and having a real nose for when someone is speaking out of their you-know-what. So when I was reading Buckland’s Redesigning Library Services: A Manifesto (Text Copyright 1997 Michael K. Buckland)  I was surprised by the inclusion of references to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, an 18th to early 19th century German philosopher whose work is foundational to modern philosophy.

Buckland writes that in terms of the development of library services, we ought to “distinguish means and ends. The purposes of and justification for, library service should not be confused with the techniques and technologies adopted as means for providing service…” I understood this to mean that the types of services libraries provide shouldn’t be confused with the ultimate goal of the library, which Buckland explains is to “support the mission of the institution or the interests of the population served.”

This clarification is helpful when people (well meaning, but wrong) say things like Google or Starbucks will replace public libraries. The unstated assumption there is that today’s libraries are just publicly funded internet cafes, and that Google and Starbucks pretty much have the market on those things cornered. Therefore, they conclude that libraries are on the way out. Buckland explains that libraries are there to serve a community’s (or college’s, or business’s, etc.) needs, not to simply provide x services. So, as community needs evolve, so must (and will!) libraries.

In Kantian terms, one might say that what is “good” (because Kant was writing moral philosophy when he made this distinction) in a library isn’t the types of services and technologies that the library provides, but in the mission of the library to do right by the population it serves. The result is therefore distinct from the actions that we take to get there, just like the I-5 is distinct from both Los Angeles and San Francisco. This distinction gives the mission and service of libraries a more timeless quality that is less vulnerability to predation by hot trends and businesses.

In conclusion, even if many people use the library as a glorified internet cafe (which by the way, if you don’t want to pay $5 for a calorie-laden coffee milkshake to use the Wi-Fi is pretty awesome in itself), that’s okay, because ultimately the library isn’t out there to be the best internet cafe, or the best Google, or even the best place to read books for free. It’s there to serve the community, without asking you to buy a muffin or selling your personal data to advertisers- and will remain relevant if it can evolve with its population.

 

Introduction

Hello!

My name is Sarah Crawford and I am beginning my third semester of SJSU’s Library Science MA program. I live in Vallejo and work in Marin. I am an administrative assistant working in records management for Marin County Government. I love living and working in the bay area!

I’m more interested in the information science half of my degree. While I may very well work in a library after graduating, I am more attracted to managing information and records than I am to the customer service oriented nature of working in a library. I chose to take this class because I want to learn about the latest technology in the library/info science world and how it can be utilized to improve user experiences for the general public seeking information (at the library and at my own government office).

I live with my fiance in a house on a hill overlooking the San Pablo Bay and Carquinez strait. We live with two dogs, two cats, and eight chickens. I’m currently learning to ride a motorcycle in the hopes that I can make commuting easier. I’m also getting married this October. Last spring I had the privilege of visiting Rome and seeing all of the amazing monuments (and eating the delicious Roman cuisine). I am looking forward to getting to know everyone in class and learning together this semester.

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