In 2014 a Pew Research canvassing called “the Future of the Internet” asked 1,606 experts to answer the following question: “As billions of devices, artifacts, and accessories are networked, will the Internet of Things have widespread and beneficial effects on the everyday lives of the public by 2025?”
83% of the respondents answered “yes” (Anderson & Rainie, 2014).
Even in 2020, many might say we’re already there. Smart phones, smart TVs, smart watches, and virtual assistants like Google Home and Amazon Echo are widely available on the market. It seems we aren’t too far removed from the hyperconnected, tech-saturated worlds once predicted in science fiction — in many cases, we’ve surpassed those predictions.
Last Sunday’s season premiere of Westworld included a forecast of what the next stages of the Internet of Things (IoT) might look like. CNET gave an interesting breakdown of the different IoT tech used in the show.
The Internet of Things is clearly where the world is heading — in fact, it’s the direction the world has already headed. The question of libraries adopting more advanced iterations of IoT technologies is not a matter of if, but when. It would benefit libraries to begin considering the implications of offering this tech to the public prior to its widespread adoption. Another IoT theme identified by the Pew Research canvassing revealed that most experts were concerned about data privacy:
“The realities of this data-drenched world raise substantial concerns about privacy and people’s abilities to control their own lives. If everyday activities are monitored and people are generating informational outputs, the level of profiling and targeting will grow and amplify social, economic, and political struggles” (Anderson & Rainie, 2014).
The IFLA Trends report also highlights data privacy concerns as an area libraries need to be mindful of:
“The number of networked sensors embedded in devices, appliances and infrastructure nears 50 billion by the year 2020. This “Internet of Things” leads to a further explosion in recorded data with major implications for future public services and data-driven policy-making, as well as new challenges for individual privacy.”(IFLA, 2016).
“What responsibilities do libraries have to protect their users’ data? If libraries are mere conduits for access, with content creators and distributors able to exploit the personal data of library users, have libraries become part of the new information mining business model?” (IFLA, 2016).
As we move forward with exploring the IoT in library spaces, I think it’s essential to keep in mind how Confidentiality/Privacy are inbuilt in our professional core values.
The time to explore these issues is now. I agree with Daniel Obodovski, author of The Silent Intelligence, that libraries have a role to play in “being advocates for transparency when it come to data collection and privacy” (OCLC, 2015). We can also learn valuable lessons from the data privacy and transparency failings of social media giants like Facebook.
The Internet of Things provide so many wonderful possibilities for libraries, but it’s essential that we hold true to our core values as we explore these new territories.
Michael Stephens, in The Heart of Librarianship, recommends the use of participatory spaces for library services — it is in these spaces where learning and growth can occur for our library users. Stephens says that “technology doesn’t solve our problems, but it can be a conduit to [make] change and [promote] progress” (Stephens, 2016, p. 81). I couldn’t agree more.
Augmented reality (AR) has been on the forefront of major trends emerging from the technology sector. Technological innovation and rapid advancements in hardware and software capabilities have led to astronomical progress in terms of what AR can achieve. The popularity of Pokemon Go and FaceApp indicate the growing ubiquity of AR apps in the lives of smartphone users. Libraries have numerous opportunities to adopt this emerging technology into their programs and services to make change and promote progress for both users and staff.
A Pew Research Center study from 2019 indicates that 81% of Americans own a smartphone. A further demographic breakdown shows that 96% of 18-29 year olds own smartphones, as well as 92% of age 30-29, 79% of age 50-64, and 53% of age 65+ (“Mobile Fact Sheet,” 2019). Two of the tenets of the hyperlinked library is that “the most powerful information services to date are probably found in the palm of everyone’s hand” and that “the path forward will always be an evolutionary one” (Stephens, 2016, p. 2). The use of AR apps in the library capitalizes on growing trend of smartphone ownership, but also situates the library as an early adopter of an emerging technology which is projected to have evolutionary growth in the coming years. In regards to the future of AR, author Nicholas Carr says: “the virtual world will have blended with the physical world; to speak of them as separate spheres will seem anachronistic.” Clay Shirky, author of “Here Comes Everybody,” also projects that the “fusion of data and physical space will succeed” (“Scenario 5,” 2008).
Goals/Objectives for Technology/Service:
Currently, there are numerous possibilities for the adoption of AR services and programming within libraries; staff can benefit from using AR for inventory management and creating library tours, while library patrons can use AR for library navigation, educational experiences, creative participation, and exposure to emerging tech. The adoption of all these AR service would be difficult and costly to implement simultaneously, so I’d like to begin by focusing on one service which can introduce our user and staff to the use of AR in the library space. My longterm goal is that the successful implementation of this initial AR service will lead our library to consider further AR initiatives.
I would like to propose the adoption of a participatory service for our patrons utilizing the WallaMe app—an AR Idea Library. This concept drew inspiration from the Oak Park Public Library’s Idea Box, but reframes it with a tech-oriented spin by using the WallaMe app to hide virtual messages throughout the library. Each month will have a different theme, ranging anywhere from creative free play to community suggestions for the library. The goal is to increase community engagement/participation, bring in tech-curious library users, and introduce the use of an emerging tech to both staff and users — the last point is especially important, since one of the longterm goals of this project is to get staff/users acquainted with AR tech in the library. I believe further more advanced AR initiatives could be very beneficial to both patrons and staff, and it is therefore important to expose them to this technology through a fun, low-pressure service that engages their participation and allows them to leave their mark on the library. The short-term and long-term goals of this service align with SFPL’s mission to provide “free and equal access to information, knowledge and independent learning.” The goals of this service also align with SFPL’s core values to “support and build our communities through the creation of innovative services” and “promote an inclusive environment that reflect the people of San Francisco” (“SFPL Five Year Strategic Plan,” 2017).
Description of Community to engage:
I hope to engage SFPL library users of all ages and demographics, as well as tech-curious community member who will be drawn to the library to participate in the service. Initial engagement may focus on younger demographics (30 and under), but with the longterm intention to engage all library users.
Action Brief Statement:
Convince SFPL users that by using the AR Idea Library they will be exposed to an emerging technology which will enable them to learn, express their creativity, and voice their opinions, because SFPL cares about providing their users innovative services, opportunities for learning, and community participation.
Convince SFPL staff that by utilizing the AR Idea Library they will engage with an emerging technology which will introduce them to the use of AR in the library, because future AR initiatives can increase opportunities for unique educational experiences, library tours, inventory management, and participatory services for patrons.
Evidence and Resources to support Technology/Service:
Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology/Service:
The policies of the AR Idea Library will need to be created in a collaborative process with the library administration and the SFPL staff who will be involved with monitoring the service. I recommend an open participatory dialogue with staff for the determination of both the policies and guidelines. The resulting policies and guidelines must align with the preexisting policies established by SFPL.
Funding Considerations for this Technology/Service:
The WallaMe app is available for free download by IOS and Android users so costs should remain relatively low. 81% of Americans currently own smartphones (“Mobile Fact Sheet,” 2019) so most library users will use their own devices. Library users without their own devices will be able to rent tablets in order to participate in the service. Additionally, the library can hold fundraisers or request donations in order to acquire additional devices for use. The initial adoption of AR services in the library should focus on utilizing the many free apps available to users.
Future AR library services may require greater funding if they utilize specialized AR apps developed solely for SFPL’s use. Many of the costs can be potentially reduced through collaboration with local start-ups willing to volunteer their time and expertise.
Action Steps & Timeline:
Initial prototyping of the AR Idea Library can be accomplished with a task force of staff volunteers (2-3 people). This group can provide feedback in order to fine-tune the final plan. Library administration will have to approve the plan before the launching of the service. If the plan is not accepted by administration, then a re-evaluation process will take place to address any criticisms or concerns. Once the revised plan is approved by administration, then the launch of service can take place.
Project pitch to administration: 1 day
Administration review and approval: 2-3 weeks
Device set-up: 1-2 days
Website updates (instructional page with links, videos, general information): 4-6 weeks
Creation of staff instruction manual: 1 week
Staff training: 2 weeks
Total time until launch: 2-3 months
Staffing Considerations for this Technology/Service:
Staff members will be expected to answer general questions about the service, but will not be required to re-direct significant hours from their usual duties. A two-week training session will take place to introduce staff to the use of the app and the proposed service model. Staff will be encouraged to participate in the service by leaving their own hidden messages throughout the library. It might be beneficial to create a small task force of staff volunteers (3-4 people) who will act as the resident experts for any difficult questions. Additionally, the library website will provide a how-to guide with instructions for set-up and demo videos. Library users will need little oversight since they will be engaging with the AR app through their personal devices as they explore the library. That being said, staff should be prepared to answer general questions if they arise.
Training for this Technology/Service:
All staff members will be trained in the use of WallaMe. They will be encouraged to download the app in order to participate in the service, but this will not be a requirement. The training will largely be done online over a two week period. Staff will utilize slow hours to read instructional guides, watch how-to videos, and gain a general understanding of how the apps function. The instructional guide will be developed by the service plan initiator and a small task force. The library can also recruit a graduate student intern for implementation of the project.
Promotion & Marketing for this Technology/Service:
Promotion and marketing of this service will be done primarily online. The SFPL website and social media media pages will promote the service on a regular basis. Youtube videos can be created which show staff members and library users revealing their hidden messages throughout the library. This could generate a great amount of intrigue by people who see these videos online (they might ask themselves, “what kind of hidden messages can I find if I take a visit to the library?” Signs will also be necessary to advertise the AR service within the library — these message are invisible without the app, so if library users don’t know about the service, they won’t know they are there. A spot should be designated within the library to advertise each month’s theme/question. Staff will also be encouraged to tell library users about the existence of the service to generate interest.
The evaluation of service will be measured by community feedback and usage statistics. Community feedback can be monitored through the library website, Facebook, and other social media. A feedback box can be placed near the designated site for the AR Idea Library display. Staff should also take note of comments by library users about the service. Staff feedback about the success or failure of the service should also be taken into consideration. Usage statistics can be tracked on the library website by looking at analytics of the WallaMe instructional page. Special attention should be paid to the number of users who access the download link from the SFPL website. Another way to track usage statistics would be to see the number of message that tag SFPL as their location. The overall number of WallaMe messages hidden at the library indicate whether the service is being utilized as intended.
This week I’ve been thinking a lot about how the technology sector is impacting the hyperlinked library, specifically in regards to the creation of new library services and policies. While looking over several studies from Pew Research Center, I started to notice several distinct trends emerging.
-The number of U.S. adults who own smartphones has risen from 35% in 2011 to 68% in 2015.
-The number of U.S. adults who own a computer has stayed relatively stable with 71% in 2004 compared to 73% in 2015 (Anderson, 2015).
Implications for libraries:
A vast majority of U.S. adults have smartphones and computers which enable them to access the internet. It’s fortunate that we are in a digital age where it has never been easier to communicate with the community members who never step foot in a library. Libraries are no longer bound by their physical brick-and-mortar spaces. These digital devices provide an opportunity to virtually bring the library into peoples’ homes. This overabundance of connectivity highlights a tenet of the hyperlinked library — the library is everywhere. Retail giants have long acknowledged the power of e-commerce for reaching out to customers in their homes. For instance, 78% of internet users agree that online shopping is convenient and 68% agree that it saves them time (Horrigan, 2008). If we can extrapolate from these consumer findings to the experience of library users, we can assume that people value two things: convenience and their time. While libraries will always have an important function as community spaces, I think it is equally important to acknowledge the amazing potential to reach users through the digital devices in their homes. The ubiquity of digital devices enables libraries to connect directly to users who may not come into the library because of busy schedules, physical disabilities, or other factors limiting mobility. Libraries can increases services which provide e-book access to library materials and streaming services. Furthermore, this can be a great way to engage in long tail marketing strategy since digital repositories aren’t confined by the physical limitations of shelf space, and therefore can offer a greater variety of niche content which attracts new users.
-Facebook is the most popular social media site for adult internet users. 72% of adult internet users have a Facebook, compared to 31% who use Pinterest, 28% who use Instagram, 25% who use LinkedIn, and 23% who use Twitter
-70% of Facebook users log on daily and 43% log on several times a day (Duggan, 2015)
-92% of teens go online daily and 24% go on “almost constantly”
-Facebook is the most popular social media site among teens; 71% of teens use the site. 52% of teens use instagram, 41% use Snapchat, 33% use Twitter, and 14% use Tumblr (Lenhart, 2015).
Implications for libraries
Social media use is on the rise and Facebook is leading the way as the primary site people use to connect. What does this mean for libraries? While reading over these reports I recalled a post from Tame the Web, “Embracing Service to Teens.” In this post, Michael Casey and Michael Stephens discuss how a library in Mishawaka, IN, banned Facebook because of “fights, lewd language and cars being blocked in the parking lot by teenagers.” Presumably, banning Facebook would discourage the teens from coming to the library and causing a “disturbance.” This decision highlights what libraries shouldn’t do. This library made an accurate observation — teens seem to come to the library to use Facebook. Instead of embracing Facebook’s popularity as a way to bring in or maintain teen library users, they banned it and eliminated a valuable resource that teens were coming into the library to use. Furthermore, since Facebook is the most popular social media among all age demographics, they may have discouraged a visit from older library users. Bringing people into the library, no matter what their reason, is an altogether good thing. A library user, whether they are old or young, might pay a visit to the library to check their Facebook messages, but then also decide to check out what new graphic novels came in, or run into a friend who recommends them a good book or DVD to check out. Bringing people into libraries should be our aim, not eliminating the access to services which might encourage them to visit in the first place.