Self Driving Cars

Google's Self Driving Car

While this has nothing to do with library science, it is an interesting development in technology and I’d love to hear what everyone else is thinking about it.

I read about self driving cars a while ago and was torn between thinking “Oh Cool!” and “Fat Chance!” The fact is that self driving cars are becoming much closer to a reality and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I think that if everyone in the country was in a self driving car I’d be okay with it – but having computer controlled cars alongside human controlled just offers way too many possibilities for the computer to fail in predicting stupid human behavior.

It sounds like the plan is to ease us in to these self driving cars by starting incrementally.

Experts like [Lawrence] Burns say we won’t suddenly jump to a fully autonomous car. Instead, we will start to see systems that can take over in certain specialized situations, like traffic jams. For example, if you get caught on a Los Angeles freeway at rush hour, with miles to go and bumper-to-bumper traffic, just press a button and let the car do the mindless task of moving ahead a few inches at a time. If the car needs help, it will let you know.

Already we have cars that can tell us when drift out of our lane or are about to back in to a wall, so it will be more little things like this until before we know it (10 years is the prediction) our cars will be driving us not the other way around.

Learn more in this article on Yale Environment 360.

Capturing, Sharing and Acting on Ideas

Adam Shambaugh and Jill Luedke from Temple University gave the next talk I attended. They talked to us about the Capture and Idea project at Temple.

Adam introduced us to the term “Fuzzy Front End of Innovation” which means ideas in their infancy. This is the window of time before an idea becomes reality. Some of obstacles during this phase of innovation include:

  • Limited ‘buy in’
  • Ideas of ill-defined
  • Decisions are made on an adhoc basis

The Fuzzy Front End has three stages:

  1. Idea Generation
    Ideas can come from hunches, observations or even accidents. The importance here is to capture the ideas as they come about.
  2. Idea Screening
    This is when ideas of articulated to others in a public forum to allow others to evaluate the ideas
  3. Concept Development
    This is when ideas move from the abstract into reality. The idea ceases to be so fuzzy at this point.

Some tips for managing this stage of idea generation

  • Consider many possibilities for fuzzy ideas.
    Any idea a this this stage has the potential to be successful or unsuccessful. Don’t discount ideas at this stage.
  • Build an information system
    Establish a means of communication so that people can share their ideas with each other. This is a way to reduce resistance to change/innovation.
  • Attain internal cooperation and support
    This gives you a broader perspective on what innovation looks like and it reduces conflict. It leads to innovation that is smoother and less time consuming.

Up next was Jill to give us the practical way they’re using this in their library.

At Temple they were trying to improve the user experience at the library. They decided to star the ‘Capture an Idea Project’ as a way to gather ideas. They handed out an idea book to everyone where they could jot down their ideas for improving the library spaces.

One other way to gather and share ideas was the TU Experience Blog. They also had annual public services retreats where the staff could gather and capture and share and act on the ideas that were being shared.

One thing they learned was that even though the tech services people don’t sit out front in the library they had ideas to share so while they were invited to the first event, they were invited to the second. During the retreat they all put ideas up on boards and at the end of the day each person had 7 stars and they put their stars on the ideas they liked the most so that they could find the top 3 ideas and create an action plan to make those things happen.

One of these top ideas was to create a task force to “fix what’s broken”. This team was named the “Fix it team” and many of the staff actually volunteered to be on this task force. They were then able to create a mailing list for sharing things with the Fix It Team.

So .. why capture ideas?

#1 reason – so you don’t forget it! Mental notes don’t work, you need to capture the ideas and share them with others.

You also want to do this so that you can generate more ideas and allow them to percolate. You don’t have to know what to do with the idea, how to fix the problem, but by capturing it you can then come up with solutions.

What kind of things should we capture?

  • Problems you encounter
  • Behaviors you observe – especially those that are unexpected
  • Questions you have been asked repeatedly
  • Complaints you receive (there is a problem already in this case)
  • Cool stuff – this can be anything like if you see a cool display while out shopping

How to capture ideas?

  • Write it
  • Type it
  • Text it
  • Tweet it
  • Record it
  • Photograph it

Some tools to use to capture your ideas:

Keep your ideas separate from your to do list!

What did they learn at Temple?

  • Suggest various platforms for capturing ideas – not everyone likes using technology for this
  • Make capturing accessible – papers pinned up around the work area
  • Make sharing accessible – they have a blog, but not everyone knows how to use it
  • Give suggestions on what to capture – help to get people thinking about ideas
  • Give incentives – everyone has ideas, give them something for coming up with and sharing ideas
  • Be inclusive – make sure everyone is involved in capturing ideas! Don’t limit who can come in with ideas

The talk ended with the speakers asking us to answer a question about how we’re gathering idaes in our libraries using Poll Everywhere a tool I had never heard of before!

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Foolishly Optimistic

Sometimes when I talk to others I feel a bit foolish for being so optimistic – the thing is that I believe in libraries and librarians and always think that that others feel the same way I do. In the latest Library 2.0 Gang podcast, I deemed 2009 as the year of open. I honestly believed that we were finally on the right track in the library world. I had spoken to hundreds of librarians this year about open source and open data and always got positive responses. I have read online about all of the great open endeavors libraries were participating in. But today I feel less optimistic – like maybe I have been viewing these great steps with blinders on. This from Ed Summers on

On December 18th I was asked to shut off by the Library of Congress. As an LC employee I really did not have much choice other than to comply.

Back in May I added this resource to my bookmarks and thought it was a pretty neat tool. Now, it’s gone and I’m not the only one who finds this a bit disturbing. Tim Spalding (who has been speaking out for the freedom of information in libraries for ages now) says:

The time has come to get serious. The library world is headed in the wrong direction. It’s wrong for patrons—and taxpayers. And it’s wrong for libraries.

And Richard Wallis states:

LOC should have listened to Ed in the first place and taken the high ground in leading the work in to creating a semantic web of data with their valuable publicly available data. At the end of his post Ed hints that LC is still considering running a service like at, but it’s not there yet. Why-o-why did they not learn from his work and ride the wave of introducing their own service based on his great initiative. Instead they present to the world a short-termist not-invented-here attitude, that reminds me of other well established leviathans of the world of library metadata.

Today I feel like I did a few years back – negative and downtrodden – like no matter how hard I try or believe, libraries just aren’t going to change … the simple idea of sharing is just too hard to grasp. Maybe I’m being over-dramatic … but it’s these kinds of things that find a way to push all of the great strides we’ve made this year (Howard County going open source, SOPAC2, etc) out of my head and makes me depressed.

This reminds me of a spat my sister and I had ages ago. When my sister was younger we had very different tastes in music. I was listening to Indigo Girls in the car one day and my sister, hearing “The hardest to learn was the least complicated” said to me – “That makes no sense!” And I said, “It makes total sense.” Today, we see that the library world is having an awfully hard time learning something very very simple.

Reality 2.0: Transforming Ourselves & Our Association

Last night I got to hear Stephen Abram talk about the future of SLA & librarianship. First (and most important) I have uploaded my pictures to Flickr.

Stephen started with a mini rant (a good rant) about the fact that there is no proof that the book is at risk. Reading stats are going up and book sales are going up. That said, do we hear that librarians are at risk? Ever hear this one, “Everything’s on the Internet.” The fact is that librarians are at risk even if books aren’t. In short, there are some serious issues we have to get stronger about talking about.

Stephen mentioned that we’re about to experience some huge changes. If you think about it, we haven’t had any major changes in a long while. Our grandparents had a bunch of huge changes all hit them at once (phones, tv, 2 world wars, etc) and it’s time for that to happen again. North America is way behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology. In Europe, people are using their phones for everything. They have free TV delivered through their phone and text messages for everything. I’m not a fan of this movement – maybe it’s just because of the costs associated with it here – but – I just want a phone – I don’t need it to double as a TV.

When it comes to digitization, China is only 5 years from digitizing everything written in Chinese. It’s not going to be long before everything is available in digital format. We’re going to need the tools to take advantage of this content.

So, what does this have to do with SLA? Everything! The world is changing and librarians have to change with it and SLA wants to help librarians make that change as smooth as possible. One interesting point that Stephen brought up was the fact that when someone leaves an organization one of the first things they do is clear off their computer – bookmarks and all. This means that all the great resources that long time librarians have collected are lost. We have to start storing our data in collaborative spaces so that we can all benefit from each other’s knowledge. I love this! And this is why I took so much pride in working on improving the Jenkins Law Library research links (a project) – I wanted to make sure we were sharing our resources with any one who might need them.

Stephen asks that instead of sharing the myth amongst ourselves that we’re collaborative, why not be collaborative? I love this! The fact is that the nature of associations is changing – something I wrote about in library school. The main selling point for associations used to be networking – but now with tools like Ning, Facebook and LinkedIn – why do I need an association to find fellow peers? With these tools threatening library associations as we know them, what can SLA do to continue to be important for librarians? The answer is learning and innovation.

One way that SLA is setting itself apart (in my opinion) is their Click-U. Educational events for SLA members. What I didn’t know is that they have a regular presentation by Gary Price where he shares the newest tools he’s found for researching and they have a monthly free course available. Being a recently graduated student, I’m a bit too poor to pay for too many classes – so I love to find things for cheap or free!

SLA also offers members access to over 1000 e-books on leadership and management topics (apparently we were told about this – but I missed it somehow – after writing this I’m heading to the SLA site to check out my member profile). They also offer what they call ExecuBooks Summaries – they are 4 page summaries of new releases.

The thing I’m most excited about hasn’t been released yet, but I’m keeping my eyes open for it, the Innovation Labs. This area of the SLA site will be a testing bed for members to try out all kinds of free and proprietary software without having to install it or pay for it. Some of the big names will include Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Blogger, Survey Monkey and Confluence. It’s basically a place for everyone to play!! This area of the site will also have over 25000 software training videos from atomic learning. How great is that???

While this isn’t everything that Stephen talked about, these were the bits that I was able to write down as he sped through his awesome talk. He certainly made me pay even more attention to what the association is doing for us – I hope he did the same for some of the rest of you.

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Just Ask – So Simple!

Thanks to Judith for pointing out Kathy’s editorial from the most recent issue of CIL.

“In the library world, many processes are still done the way they were years ago. The old adage ‘because we’ve always done it that way’ still holds sway, and entangled layers of bureaucracy can make real change incredibly slow, if no impossible. But as I preach in keynotes and workshops while I’m wearing my other hat, as editor of the Marketing Library Services newsletter, what you’ve ‘always done’ doesn’t cut it anymore. You’ve all heard that sermon before, but hearing it doesn’t really help. What you need is a place to start. How should you change? What should you change? What do people want you to do differently?

“That’s why I chose the theme Finding Out What People Want From Library Technology for this issue. It’s perfect for January; the month of changing and renewing and starting fresh. And I have the only logical answer about where to start the process. Start with your patrons. Your collections and services are all for them, so update them to match patron wants and needs.

“But what do these users want and need? Even more important, what do nonusers want and need that you’re not offering? You could read other people’s research, you could make assumptions, or you could guess. Or you could do the only sensible thing—just ask them!

(emphasis added by me).

I’m shocked by how few of us actually ask our patrons/web visitors what they want. I’ve also seen that when one method of asking doesn’t work (survey, poll, etc) others are just thrown to the wayside – just because your patrons don’t answer your survey doesn’t mean they don’t have an opinion – it means they don’t have the time to fill out your survey – so come up with another way to gather information about their needs/wants.

Rabbit-Ear Users Don’t Know The End (of Analog TV) Is Near

This from a post on the NY Times Bits blog:

In less than 14 months, any traditional television set still connected to its antenna will receive nothing but static, as the broadcasting industry cuts over completely to its new digital frequencies.

A recent poll by the marketing arm of the cable industry shows that most people still have no clue this is going to happen.

In a telephone survey in November of 1,017 people, only 48 percent said they had heard about the switch to digital television. And only 17 percent correctly identified 2009 as the year that analog television will be cut off. (The survey had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.)

Did you know this? I didn’t! Not that it really bothers me – I’m all digital at home (DVR included) – but this may be a shock to people like Dan and others I know who don’t have digital cable.

Anger Drives Innovation

I’m catching up on my podcasts (mostly because I had to take the train into the city today) and I got to listen to a great IT Conversation with Jeff Bonforte from Yahoo!.

Jeff starts out by telling us that anger is the most untapped emotion in start ups and innovation – and that’s unfortunate because he feels that it’s the most important emotion. How does this apply to libraries? Well I think that in our case the anger is coming from inside – librarians are becoming angry (look at the ILS market) and are trying to push innovation internally.

Jeff thinks that rather than think about the application or features or cool technology aspects – we should be thinking about emotion. He goes on to list 4 types of people:

  1. The Lovers – these are the dorks, nerds and geeks – the technology lovers who see something new and say “ooo cool!” – a reaction that Jeff thinks is the wrong one to base a new innovation on
  2. The Irrational – these are the angry, the insecure, the people who are looking for another alternative no matter what the cost. The example of this is Skype. Skype came along when everyone was out there screaming that they were pissed at their phone companies – so instead of yelling at the support people we’re yelling at our computer screens so people on the other end can hear us.
  3. The Efficient – these are the money crunchers, the people who think rationally in terms of money and time.
  4. The Comfortable – these are the people who will use the old way because it’s the way they know. Jeff gave a great example of an aunt of his who is paying $800 for her trip through a travel agent even though it costs $173 online because it’s the way she’s most comfortable with. These are the people who won’t change until we remove the old way.

I’m not sure where I fall in this spectrum – I’m sure we all have a bit of the comfortable in us – there are some things that we just love to do the way we do them. I’m certainly among the angry (as I’ve made clear here many of times) but I’m also among the lovers. I guess that this is a good thing for me because I can see things from different angles – or maybe I have blinders on when it comes to the things that make me comfortable – or angry.

Another great bit I picked up from Jeff’s talk is how to sell your innovation. Don’t go out and say it’s a “peer to peer blah blah blah”. Sell it the way you want your customers to tell their friends about it. And educate your consumer through experience with the product. I think we see a lot of this with 2.0 tools. The companies are clear on what they’re offering and they give you a way to demo the product.

This was a great (and short) podcast that was fun to listen to – so if you have 20 minutes, I recommend giving it a listen.

The Fear is Worse than the Reality

Richard Wallis has a post at Panlibus about an article found via the BBC regarding the Open Library project.

My favorite quote:

As with the rest of society, the fear of something nasty happening can be far more corrosive that the possibility of it happening.

Maybe I should give you a little bit of background. This was in response to comments by Stephen Bury, head of European and American Collections at the British Library, who voiced a concern of people changing things maliciously.

The fact of the matter is that people expect a bit of freedom. There is always going to be the idiot who thinks it’s funny to use profanity to describe a book, but for the most part the people who choose to participate in adding content are the people who have a respect and love for books and libraries. LibraryThing is the perfect example of this.