Content Creation, Media Labs, and Hackerspaces

Skokie Public Library's Digital Media Lab

I’ve been thinking about content creation and libraries lately. Right now, we collect content – hence our shelves of stuff. Yes, we do many other things too. But if you look at our buildings, they have been, by and large, designed for collections of stuff – for collecting content.

Some libraries are changing that focus (or at least adding on to it) by enabling customers to create their own content in a variety of ways … and it’s pretty interesting stuff!

I’ll lump what I’m seeing into three loose categories:

  • Digital Media Labs
  • Hackerspaces
  • Coworking spaces

Digital Media Labs: These spaces have content creation tools that allow customers to create and share video, music, photography, and design projects. Customers have access to computers with editing software, cameras, camcorders, microphones, and musical keyboards.

The best examples I’ve seen of this so far are Skokie Public Library’s Digital Media Lab and Chicago Public Library’s YouMedia project. Skokie’s lab has a greenscreen wall for video projects; Youmedia includes a small recording studio space.

Hackerspaces: “A hackerspace … is a location where people with common interests, often in computers, technology, science, or digital or electronic art (but also in many other realms) can meet, socialise and/or collaborate … hackers can come together to share resources and knowledge to build and make things” (from Wikipedia).

Basically, hackerspaces tend to be public spaces with tools – 3D printers, drill presses, etc. And people make stuff there. Who’s doing this? Well, Allen County Public Library and Fayetteville Free Library are, for starters.

Coworking Spaces: Coworking is a pretty simple concept. Independent workers, freelancers, small business owners, etc. gather in a shared space to share ideas, team up on projects, and get some work done in a more social setting. It’s an alternative to meeting at home or a local coffee shop.

Libraries have unofficially done this for years (how many of you have heard of a patron who runs his/her business from the library? I’ll bet some of you have). But some libraries are going a step or two further by embedding librarians in these spaces, or even offering coworking spaces as part of their services. Meg Knodl, a librarian at Hennepin County Library, is doing this – here’s an article on what Meg is doing. Helsinki City Library has created some coworking spaces – read more about it here.

For more info, check out these articles:

Question – is your library doing something like this? If so, let me know in the comments!

Photo by Skokie Public Library

Internet Librarian 2011, Day 2: Keynote by Lee Rainie

Libraries and Learning Communities – Lee Rainie

three revolutions Pew has noticed

1. Broadband – 78% of adults use internet, 62% have broadband at home

  • Blog as a category is being obliterated. Most people don’t know they’re reading a blog – ie., a blog on a news site – people think they’re reading the news.
  • 13% of users are on twitter. But – those people are highly influential

2. Mobile phones – 84% (I think) of adults use mobile phones

  • There are actually more phones than people in the US.
  • 59% of adults connect to the internet through mobile. phones, laptops, tablets.
  • 35% of adults are smart phone owners.
  • laptops are more prevalent than desktops
  • 12% of adults have ebook readers
  • 9% have tablets
  • Still an elite audience
  • Hypercoordination – we don’t plan specific meet ups – we keep it vague, then use our new tools to figure out the meet up on the go.

3. social networking

  • half of all adults in this country, 73% of teens – use social networking sites
  • people ever age 65 – fast growing group. They’re online, friending their children, expecting photos yesterday…

important in 3 ways

1. sentries of information. people log on to their social networks first thing in the morning, rather than read the news.

2. evaluators of information – when people find confusing info, they turn to their social networks first. I’ve certainly seen and done that. asking if it’s true, and how much weight should I give it

– librarians – think about being nodes in people’s networks… dang. we need to be there!

3. serve as audiences – we are all performers. we are showing off for our audiences in a way.

Final thoughts about the futre:

1. What’s the future of knowledge

  • learning is now a process
  • old way – learning was objective and fixed, meant to be found
  • subjective and provisional now – sense of flow, a process, you learn together, change together. a need for vigilance to watch and stay with how knowledge is evolving
  • learners now create knowledge. if you are participating in the learning experience, and creating things, you learn more.
  • knowledge is organized ecologically – disciplines are mixing
  • we learn best actively doing and managing our own learning. We have to be active agents in the learning process.
  • our intelligence is now based on our learning communities, rather than on our individual abilities
  • you are as smart as your network – as long as you are willing to ask them.

2. what’s the future of reference expertise

  • embedded librarian model. librarians embed themselves in the community, rather than making community come find them.
  • we are on call for just in time information.
  • we can “bond” with the community. we can be nodes in people’s networks
  • we help people know about the broader picture.
  • We are often he first in our communities to learn social media … so we are the teachers of this to the community.
  • aggregator and curators of information.

3. what’s the future of public technology

  • hard to say – most of us would not have seen the iPhone right before it came out, for example. What we do know is that this technology will be changing rapidly and we really don’t know what’s around the corner.
  • The era of big data – sensors, cars, tweets, etc – making lots of data. How do we make sense of this “big data?” Librarians will possibly be asked to help figure this out. Mastering big data and analytics is important.
  • Different types of screens, post-pc world, more broadband, etc. No one int he expert world really knows either.

4. what’s the future of learning spaces

  • attuned to new kinds of learners
  • patrons are more likely to be self starters. They know where to go first – checking with their social networks, don’t need formal learning structures
  • collaborations are important.
  • value of amateur experts is rising.
  • amateur/expert scientists – Smithsonian has embraced the amateur community.
  • peer to peer health communities too – we are going beyond our doctors to our networks.

5. what’s the future of library as community anchor institution

  • ALA put out a guidebook on these issues – check it out (will be mentioned in Lee’s slides, but his slide deck froze up)
  • how much of your work is aimed at helping individuals vs helping communities
  • are libraries places for individual study or group based study
  • collection library or creation library?
  • portal or archive?

Pew will be doing a 3-year study on libraries and communities. This will be HUGE.

Be a Forward-Moving Thinker

Our deputy director asked for input from staff on being a 21st-century librarian – what skill sets are needed for the librarian of today/tomorrow/next year.

I had some thoughts, and I also poked around on some articles and posts discussing the topic. A lot of them mention “the ability to embrace change” as an important skill set.

I don’t think “embracing change” is necessarily the end result we’re looking for. Here’s why. It’s quite possible to do nothing until you are told to change, and then to embrace that change. One of those “ok, the boss says I have to blog now. I can do that.”

You could be patting yourself on the back for your mad “embracing change” skills, but are missing the point entirely. I think there are some librarians in our profession that go about change in this passive way – and to be fair, many of them are well-meaning. They’re just doing their jobs. The job changed, so they accept – even embrace – those changes as they occur.

Let me ask: Managers – is that what you meant by “embracing change?” I’m guessing the answer is “no, not quite.” It’s part-way there, but not all the way.

Here’s what I’d like to switch the “embracing change” idea to: “Being a Forward-Moving Thinker.”

To me, being a “forward-moving thinker” means that the librarian is actively pursuing and making and suggesting changes – to the boss, to the team, to the library – rather than passively waiting for those changes to happen. To me anyway, this hits on that active approach I’m thinking about. It’s a librarian DOING SOMETHING to make his or her job better, to adapt to new technology as needed (maybe even a little before it’s needed). It’s a librarian thinking strategically about their job.

See the difference? Thoughts?

Photo by Eric Magnuson

Your Boss is … you.

Just saw this Seth Godin post (via Stephen Abram – thanks!) – The world’s worst boss. The whole post is worth a read – here’s the part that really struck me:

If you had a manager that talked to you the way you talked to you, you’d quit. If you had a boss that wasted as much as your time as you do, they’d fire her. If an organization developed its employees as poorly as you are developing yourself, it would soon go under.

Can you relate to that? Better yet – what are you going to do about that for 2011? Here’s some assumptions I’ll make about YOU:

  • Those ideas you have? Probably good ones. Certainly worth trying anyway.
  • Those improvements you want to make? Personally or in your job? Why haven’t you started yet?
  • Those hesitations you’re having about taking a first step? Get over it already and take that first step. You won’t know if you’re going the wrong way until you actually start moving.

Me? Gee whiz – I’m writing this for myself :-) So get moving, start acting, and see where you end up going in 2011. Should be a fun journey, to say the least.

pic by asma