NFAIS 2009: The Impact of Global Digital Natives

This morning’s panel was The Impact of Global Digital Natives: New Business Practices and Policies.

Joe Lucia from Villanova started off the morning with his talk entitled No Secret Code: Open Source, Innovation, and Academic Libraries in the Digital Environment.

Joe started by pointing us to the OCLC studies on user perceptions – particularly for his environment, the report on College Students’ Perceptions of Libraries and Information Services.

Some of the findings:

  • 89% start research with search engines
  • 87% have visited an academic library, for a variety of reasons
  • 57% report using online library site as a step in research process
  • 79% describe libraries as “accurate” & “credible”
  • 50% report using library catalog frequently

Some unsurprising conclusions:

  • Current undergraduates evidence greater familiarity with search engines than with online library resources
  • Current undergraduates have a broad awareness of an respect for the value & accuracy of library resources
  • We need to make the library search experience as familiar & as engaging as searching the open Web.

What is the “New Openness” in Library Technology?

Web native technologies for the rapid development and deployment of simple applications. This means we need a critical mass of robust well-developed open source components and standardized data frameworks and interfaces that can be used to build sophisticated discovery & presentation layers. He mentioned Lucene and SOLR because they are being used in open source products as well as in proprietary products – except that with the later, they’re selling them to us and the former is a free way to benefit from their power.

Obviously I’m with Joe when he says that we should be demanding APIs and data portability so that we can take the data we’re creating and remix it to our heart’s content.

Another aspect of this “new openness” is that the original skepticism of open source is fading, not only in our world, but in the enterprise and business worlds as well. Open source is becoming extremely viable and Joe thinks that in a decade it will be the predominant way that we access technology.

He then went on to talk about the VUFind project which I have written about extensively here and on other sites on the web – so I’m not going to repeat myself except to say that it’s changing and growing – it’s awesome and it’s open source – what more do you need??

Then, my favorite part – the case for open source in libraries!! Do I really need to tell you all about this again?

Here are Joe’s points:

  • Libraries are situated within the domain of the commons
  • They provide their communities with open access to intellectual and cultural resources
  • No single individual controls or uses up the resources in the library

So – the cultural assumptions and social practices embedded within open source software are congruent and co-extensive with the values and missions of libraries as we understand them. In short “Embracing open source software = deepening and enhancing our culture mission and social function”

Dave Guttman from Gale/Cengage was up next with his talk Impact of Global Digital Natives: New Business Practices and Policies.

He starts by reminding us that while more people visit libraries than Starbucks everyday, more searches are done on Google than at our libraries. There is tons of deep, rich content out there, it’s just a matter of making it findable.

He talked about some of the different business models you can use when selling content:

  • Transactional – when content is high value, hard or impossible to find for free
    • Downside: hard to find repeat customers with this model)
    • Benefit: allows you to capture a customer who otherwise wouldn’t buy a subscription – looking for just one thing
  • Subscription – where the sum is greater than the parts
    • Downside: need to bring more people in the door and continue to improve the product to justify pricing
    • Benefits: extrememly predicable revenue and cash flow
  • Enterprise – de-commoditization of the content
    • Downside: has lower sales cycles and significant overhead
  • Advertising – when there are lot s of viable substitutes, many are free or cheap
  • Hybrid – often advertising is seen as content when done right
  • Library Advocacy – use of Internet front doors can expand awareness, reach and use of content
    • Downside: perceived conflict of interest from web-based activities to those occurring in the library
    • Benefits: huge opportunities on both sides if done properly. libraries want usage and exposure of the content they spend significant funds on and Gale has the ability to drive enormous amounts of targeted traffic to those libraries.

He added a few words about search engine optimization – in short it’s like black magic! You’re never done and if you ask 10 experts the same question you’ll get 20 different answers.

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