Thursday, July 26, 2012

After the Rain

Not to focus too much on the weather, but it has been on all our minds this summer.  We finally got some rain -- maybe too much of a good thing.  I don't think it will help the corn much.  My lawn looks a little more alive -- what I can see of it under the fallen sticks and tree limbs.  No major damage,  but there are some big broken branches still in one tree, and I can't quite figure out where they came from, since they don't match the tree they're in. . . I need to look at it from another angle.

Finding the perspective to understand anything -- past, present, or future, is always the challenge.  A friend of mine and I have been talking about the future of libraries, especially the public library.  She has a good vision of what might be created, but it is hard to get that perspective on the future.  She sent me this interesting link to another blog The Ubiquitous Librarian

How could I not like an academic librarian talking about data and decision making and referencing The Very Hungry Caterpillar?   In addition to having excellent reading taste, he asks how we can plan for a future that is unclear using data from the past?  It's a fair question. 

In the course of my work as an online reference librarian, I look at a lot of library policies and a lot of library web pages.  Libraries are working hard to keep up with change, as they have all of my working life.  Libraries have always embraced new technology, and, often, made it their own.  We also have a long and important history of resource sharing. 

I've seen a lot of libraries looking at new models, not just providing databases, e-books, and other downloadable media, but reinventing their public spaces as well.   Almost all of them are using social media, and many allow interaction with the catalog -- tagging or rating books.   Urban UK libraries seem to have more newly imagined spaces, including cafes and child care, but a lot of libraries are working on the issue of relevance to the community in a lot of different ways.  If you have not looked at your own library's web site (or Facebook page or Twitter feed) check it out.

One of the issues is that, to date, our society's adoption of new information technology has been cumulative.  Movies did not replace stage plays, television did not replace movies, mobile video has not replaced television -- and the same is true in print media, and though newspapers have folded, many are still in print and viable.

I am sitting in the neighborhood coffee shop -- I have my computer, smart phone and a print book with me;  the daily print newspaper is on the counter for people to share, along with a rack of print magazines.  The library  across the street has almost the same profile, adding the thousands of books (and the need to bring your own coffee, which is allowed). 

Because people expect both cutting edge technology and traditional services, and because everything costs money, the cumulative effect is part of the questioning process.  We can't assume anything will go away, even if economics dictate cutbacks. The obligation of libraries to serve everyone in the community is also a factor -- it's where people go when they can't afford their own technology.  Public libraries have been the providers of public computers since the early 1990s, and now they are lending e-book readers and iPADs, and providing wireless Internet access to clients and visitors alike.  They also provide a lot of free education on the uses of technology -- both technical and content based. 

What's your perspective?

All of today's photos were taken at the Woodland Dunes Nature Preserve, Two Rivers, WI

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Fortune Cookie

Information is not knowledge.
Knowledge is not wisdom.
Wisdom is not truth.
Truth is not beauty.
Beauty is not love.
Love is not music.
Music is the best.
Frank Zappa