By: Donald T. Hawkins, Freelance Editor and Conference Blogger
Information Today’s 2021 Internet Librarian conference, was scheduled for October 26-28 in Monterey, CA, but because of COVID it became a totally virtual event. This was the 25th Internet Librarian conference, and its theme was “Call to Action: Innovation and Library Technology”. Over 400 people registered to attend. The conference was very well managed by the PheedLoop event management platform.
In his opening keynote presentation, “Robots vs. Humans: Who Will Win?”, Michael Peter Edson, a digital strategist and independent consultant began with the hypothesis that a new kind of change is transpiring today, and AI is a good way of discussing it. The future “book” is here, but it is not what we expected: everything about books has changed. We must look at “robots vs. humans” through the lens of:
- Scope: what we can choose to work on, which is difficult because humans are not good decision makers,
- Scale: how “big” or impactful that work can be, and
- Speed: how quickly we can move. We frequently make the mistake of comparing robots on their best day with ourselves on our worst day.
Change today is exponential and hard to understand; many people underestimate the power of such growth. Edson suggested that Max Tegmark’s book Life 3.0—Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence (Deckle Edge, 2017) is a good reference.
Suzanne Marsalisi, Marketing Manager, Communico (a software creator for public libraries) co-keynoted the conference with a discussion of digital disruption and how digital tools are changing the game for libraries. Because of the pandemic, five years of digital growth occurred in one year of our lives. For example, people who had never been into a library were downloading digital library apps. Programs became virtual and are now occurring in a hybrid format which will probably become permanent. Virtual meeting rooms have become available in libraries as well as other services such as career counseling. Libraries are upgrading and extending their Wi-Fi services to provide access to digital content. The major impacts of the pivot to digital are in the areas of content, services, connectivity, and access, which have resulted in increased engagement, broader reach, and building of relationships with the community. Needs include digital equality in access, and filling service gaps to underserved audiences.
Interfaces and Discovery
Andrew Nagy, Director, Software Innovation, EBSCO, presented an approach to user experiences using personas, which should be created using live interviews followed by live testing. It is important to think broadly and understand how our users work with available tools; for example, some users may need a visual interface, but others may have only a phone and need mobile apps. How are we accommodating diverse user populations? Accessibility is important for both users and librarians; it is important to constantly test assumptions during development.
Christina Beis, Associate Professor, University of Dayton Libraries, discussed improving user interfaces at academic libraries. User behavior can be studied by a top terms report, Google Analytics, ILL requests, and usability studies. There are many ways to improve the user experience, such as putting white space on web pages to improve readability and usability, custom widgets, and placards providing screenshots and links to web guides.
From Discovery to Learning
Nic Ashman from Chippewa Valley MI Technical College noted that discovery can be a learning environment where resources and technology come together. We do not know what students are experiencing when they approach a librarian. It is important to keep reinventing our training of users because finding the right content is a challenge. We have only a little time with students, so how do we interact with them? Even when subjects are not linked, we must get students to engage.
Joe Tragert, Principal Product Manager at EBSCO, said that sometimes a virtual reference interview is necessary to resolve ambiguities and help the user. “Did you mean” questions are useful because users generally understand them. Unfortunately, we lose many users after their initial query. Many students are under significant time pressures, so if they cannot get what they need immediately, they will not pursue their query. Digital literacy is becoming more important.
Virtual Programming in Libraries
Nick Tanzi, Assistant Director, South Huntington NY Public Library, discussed the future of libraries in a virtual programming world and the challenges that lie ahead. There is a future for virtual programming: it is convenient, we have demonstrated proof of concept, and we want to deliver the best possible product to reach new and underserved audiences responsively and cost effectively.
Print newsletters have changing lead times, but electronic delivery can be almost instantaneous, and it is easy to make rapid changes to them. Improving accessibility and effectively delivering content are very important in a virtual environment. The major social media platforms do not cooperate with one another, so we must integrate virtual programs more fully, for example, by having a “recording studio” in the library. Virtual programs are here to stay, so take advantage of their strengths.
Search: Past, Present, and Future
Greg Notess, Professor Emeritus of Librarianship, Montana State University and well-known expert on search engines, reviewed searching from 1997 to 2020, covering 22 years in 20 minutes—a remarkable history:
He then went on to describe some recent developments:
- Google began rewriting titles in search results in August 2021.
- Here is a link to a discussion of Google’s proximity operators, * or AROUND(X)
- Bing has introduced Make Every Feature Binary (MEB) which maps single facts to features and helps drive traffic to brands, businesses, and publishers.
- Google has expanded its display of results to include more options in the panel on the right and lists content such as videos in the search results without the user needing to explicitly search for them. Related searches also appear automatically in results.
Future trends include:
- No third-party cookies in Google Chrome by 2022.
- Alternate browsers and search engines to eliminate privacy concerns.
- Bing in collaboration with Yandex (a reference search engine) has developed Index Now to push websites to its database instead of finding them by crawling the web, which informs search engines of websites’ changes immediately instead of waiting for a crawler to visit them.
- An option to pay for searching may be returning which would allow searchers to avoid ads and tracking. Brave Search and neeva are considering this. It remains to be seen whether payments by searchers will provide enough revenue instead of advertising.
- Rumors persist that Apple is developing its own search engine. For years, Google has paid Apple to ensure that it will be the default search engine on Apple’s products, and those payments are significant—$10 billion in 2020, possibly increasing to $15 billion in 2021. If those payments stop because Google is no longer Apple’s search engine, it will experience a significant income decrease because loss of revenue from Apple’s customers.
Sue Considine, independent consultant, Ph.D. candidate, and former Executive Director of the Fayetteville (NY) Free Library (FFL) defined Imposter Syndrome (IS): “anxiety or self-doubt that results from persistently undervaluing one’s competence and active role in achieving success, while falsely attributing one’s accomplishments to luck or other external forces.” To understand IS, we need to create cultures of inclusion where IS cannot thrive and people can take risks and learn from failures. In her book, Secret Thoughts of Successful Women (Crown Publishing, 2011), Dr. Valerie Young suggested 5 competency types of IS: perfectionists, superwomen/men, soloists, natural geniuses, and experts. Many famous people have experienced IS. Business implications of IS include reduced productivity and problem solving, loss of talented employees, costly mistakes, conflict, low morale, and reduced wellness. It is estimated that 70% of people will experience IS during their career, so leaders must recognize and combat it. Change is a common trigger of IS. Actions for positive change include working through challenges collaboratively, setting realistic expectations, furthering psychological safety at work, self-care, mentoring, and trust.
The second day keynoter, Alexandra Deschmps-Sonsino, a consultant and author of Creating a Culture of Innovation (Apress, 2020) and Smarter Homes: How Technology Will Change Your Home Life (Apress, 2018), focused on innovative physical spaces where people come for knowledge, community activities, conversation, etc.
Creating productive encounters has been used as a reason to get people back in offices after the pandemic. What kind of space creates encounters and what encounters are productive? There are many distractions in office spaces, and we tend to think of such spaces as austere or mechanical places where repetitive work is done. Technology was developed and used in offices, but they were not arranged to take advantage of new tools. Today, we have more open plan spaces which tend to be chaotic and loud because conversations are everywhere. One innovation that has been implemented is to make staircases wide so that people can stop and have a conversation without disturbing the flow of traffic on the stairway. Google has made major investments in the interiors of its buildings.
How much distraction is too much? The RAND Corporation created this “waffle building” where people could share work with colleagues in the open spaces, but they also had their own offices for mini-meetings.
Serendipity has become an attractive concept in office landscaping. Quickborner, a company in Germany, consults on office design and treats offices like landscapes having units of workplaces grouped together with people who communicate frequently. Visual barriers created with plants or panels ensure that people working together will never be able to see a passageway, entrance, etc. from their workspace. Good work involves not running around after people.
In Managing the Flow of Technology (MIT Press, 1984), Thomas Allen describes a non-territorial experiment in offices in which people did not have a dedicated desk and secretaries were outside work areas. The sounds of phones and conversations were therefore managed, and quiet areas were available when needed.
We must not hide innovation but put it on display. Libraries have been thinking about this as they build creative spaces such as makerspaces.
Publishing Models: Paywalls vs. Public Access
This double-length session featured 3 speakers addressing a variety of subjects. Michelle Manafy, Editorial Director, Digital Content Next said that today’s news ecosystem is incredibly complex. It has moved beyond the local newspaper and nightly news delivered on TV. People want to get quality news and understand it. About half of Americans get their news from social media rather than newspapers. We do not get news comprehensively that would allow us to digest it, and we often do not know its source because it comes from social channels.
Our trust in the news has declined because of misinformation (unintentional mistakes), malinformation (publication with an intent to harm), and disinformation (deliberately manipulated content to create conspiracy theories or rumors). For example, Facebook changed its algorithm to supposedly make it a safer place, but instead it rewards outrage. Popularity boosts low quality content; only two platforms account for 79% of all digital advertising revenue and 87% of the content. Revenue has shifted to coming directly from consumers (“subscriptions”) and is governed by paywalls that control how many articles users can read before being asked to pay for more.
We need good news. As local journalism declines, government officials conduct themselves with less integrity and efficiency. Citizens are therefore less politically informed, and less likely to vote or run for office. We must support the creation and dissemination of high quality news and information, foster information literacy, and hold sources accountable for their content.
Michael Blackwell, Director, St. Mary’s County (MD) Library, began with the challenges of digital content from a public library perspective and noted that the pandemic is still a background to everything. Many long standing problems remain for public, academic, and school libraries in getting digital content.
- Availability of content: Some major publishers do not allow libraries to get their content. Thankfully, their number is decreasing. Some publishers “window” their content, only allowing 1 copy of it to be acquired for the first couple of months after it is issued which sometimes happens at the provider level. Some publishers, particularly the smaller ones, have offered very good terms to public libraries. There is a substantial market failure for older content because it has never been digitized. If users only use one platform, content that is siloed on another platform, might not be accessed.
- Terms of content: Licensing dominates digital content which is different from print. To access digital material, libraries must agree to the terms of the license which can create problems for them. Cost is significant; e-books from major publishers are more expensive than print. A print book can circulate many times and costs pennies per use. Typically, an e-book can cost $60 for a 2 year license term which tends to steer libraries toward best sellers and away from new authors. Another problem for licensing is that one size does not fit all. It does not provide for any preservation. No publisher offers a perpetual license for books.
Controlled Digital Lending (CDL) lets libraries circulate digital versions of content like print: one user at a time. Digital copies are good for ILL because of the risks of sending physical copies through the mail. CDL has been challenged by publishers, and the Internet Archive has been sued and has dropped its circulation of e-books. Library Futures advocates for public libraries to circulate digital content. The states are concerned for their library readers. Maryland has passed an e-book law; New York has passed legislation, and legislation in Rhode Island for library users to have access under “reasonable” terms (which are not defined) is pending. SimplyE allows libraries to federate content from several providers which can result in a 40% increase in usage. With these efforts and legislation passing, we hope that publishers will discuss options with libraries because libraries now have more options for licenses.
The Internet Archive is working on providing ownership of content instead of licensing it, and in Germany a pending law will mandate that if a publisher makes content available to the public, they must make it available to libraries also. Libraries help create sales for publishers. They want to keep content safe and are not sources of pirating. Many people prefer print over digital because when they buy something, they own it. Libraries must therefore think about long-term preservation.
Richard Huffine, Chief, Library and Public Information Center, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) returned to the subject of news, a special type of information that we all consume. Public libraries collect and retain local news. We need to understand how we integrate news into our education, evaluate it, and learn where to go to get more. Government workers consume news voraciously from a wide variety of institutions. We need to understand what we can do with OA news and validate information behind a paywall. News needs to have a model that works and distribute information out to their communities to people who need it. Information must freely flow throughout our society, but we have a major flaw in the difference between ownership and licensing.
Authors in academia are being urged to produce content so that readers do not have to go through a paywall to get it. They should not be required to give a publisher an exclusive right to publish their work. Being unable to own digital content limits the library’s capability to provide access. They have a mission that goes beyond access to preservation. Publishers should have a working model for academic libraries.
Data-Driven Decisions: Citing Datasets & Transformation Toolkit
Why should we cite datasets? Sara Bond, Information Science Specialist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said that data creators should list recommended citations for their datasets so that readers can add them to their articles which will enable discovery and reuse. For example, NASA has created a repository of its earth oceanography data which needed to be searched in full text. Each dataset was given a DOI, and articles in the database were retrieved using Google Scholar. Many datasets could not be identified because of lack of information about them. The more that datasets are cited properly, the easier it is for others to find and share them.
Amy Stubbing, Academic Engagement Lead, University of Westminster, UK and author of Data Driven Decisions: A Toolkit for Information Professionals (Facet Publishing, 2022) listed reasons for creating a data-driven service which include efficiency, effectiveness, understanding, innovation, and value.
To create a data-driven service we should put data at the center of all aspects of it. The toolkit makes data available for anyone and can be used to make decisions or developing a whole service by using these steps:
- Identify: Use a data query to determine the data needed.
- Collect: Figure out where you will get the data and how you will input it.
- Map: Translate, overlay, and visualize the different sources of data. Normalization and sorting of the data is one of the most important steps.
- Analyze: Draw conclusions without any presumptions about the data.
- Action: Identify and carry out your actions , which is the most important step. (If you are not going to anything with the data, you are wasting your time.)
- Review: See how effective your process has been. You may need to start the whole processes again.
Here are some top tips for your data journey:
Makerspaces; Building, Evolving, and Community Impact
Sarah Nagle, Creation and Innovation Services Librarian, Miami University of Ohio began by describing the makerspace in the library of the university. Makerspaces are not just spaces; they are people connectors, community gathering spots, and transdisciplinary incubators. Innovation moves quickly in academia and libraries. To ensure that makerspaces are a lasting part of library services, they must be more than just the technology and tools they contain. Events in the makerspace can leverage building the community by providing an environment where students can get together and have fun. Events should provide low-barrier activities that are not so challenging as to be intimidating, but be open ended to allow for maximum creativity, and be marketed heavily to reach as many people in the community as possible.
Another way of promoting the makerspace is to collaborate with faculty members and urge them to incorporate the makerspace into their courses. It is important to reach a wide range of courses, and help students connect the makerspace to their studies. Students were encouraged to use the technology instead of reading about it. The community was reached by building relationships throughout the university, thus increasing usage of the makerspace.
Julie Erickson, Learning Specialist, Technology Innovation in Education (TIE), described pop-up makerspaces and how to bring them into libraries. They can look like anything and are flexible. They tend to be mobile, and can be brought into a school library or out into the community without needing a dedicated space. For example, one library created “Take and Make” kits for students to take home, make the objects, and send them back to the school. Virtual story times and virtual science lessons were also developed.
Tim Miller: Digital Media & Learning Librarian, Humboldt State University (CA) presented an approach to the choices we make in software and hardware adoption of technologies for makerspaces. Miller advocates a holistic selection process that uses an equity lens and considers teaching and learning goals. This approach should work well as we emerge from the pandemic into hybrid learning. The best option is not always the market share leader, industry standard, or what the library already has. Goals of the students, accessibility, access, and costs must be considered. Does the tool under consideration meet these goals? If the best option takes more time than it is worth, is it still the best? Ease of use versus the features is a tradeoff. What resources and support are available? Broadband access and devices are different across races and education levels; for example, students are more likely to do a project that requires only a phone. Control is also important: what can be downloaded, migrated, or archived, and what file formats are available? Accessibility involves using the platform, creating the content, and alternative formats. People should be taught how to create accessible content. Not all content can be made accessible, so it should be provided in alternate formats.
All software and hardware has a cost: price, terms of service, required hardware and software. We should we use “free” software because it allows people without monetary resources to participate in a project. It is important to understand the non-monetary costs: the software may be device-dependent, there may be privacy concerns, or require looking at ads. (Paid services have the same issues.)
Jim Peterson, IT Manager, Goodnight Memorial Library, Franklin, KY said that they have a makerspace and are the smallest library in Kentucky to have one. The makerspace was created during a major renovation of the library and the pandemic. A wide range of equipment was purchased, and the makerspace was called “Some Assembly Required”. When people could get back into the library the renovated building opened and training to teach people how to use the equipment began.
Students made buttons with pictures of teachers on them, which generated interest and resulted in good visibility for the library. A camera on the 3D printer allowed it to be watched on an internet livestream.
The makerspace was advertised on Twitter, in the local newspaper, and on the local radio station, but the responses were slow. The biggest reaction from the public was “I can’t believe resources of this quality are in the library”. When someone asks why the library has these facilities, the answer is that the mission of the library is to level the playing field for all people.
Edward Hamelin, Branch Manager, Carmel Valley Library (a branch of the Monterey County Libraries network) said that the response to the pandemic is to get users back to normal as much as possible. “Maker Monday” videos were posted on YouTube; then the Makerspace Corner of the library reopened, and finally the Makerspace Fair returned.
The first STEM event, originally meant to be the conclusion of a summer reading program, was a huge success, which was a happy accident. The best advertising was by word of mouth. The public liked the freedom to explore hands-on science and wanted the event to continue. Challenges were lack of permanent space designing appropriate activities, and more community involvement. Some maker activities were placed on carts that could be moved to an outdoor patio, which solved the space problem. Many items were received from local service groups.
The makerspace fair is the most popular event at the library. Art stations were requested, so STEM activities became STEAM. Special activities designed at times of holidays were very well received. One side effect of the fair was to increase circulation of science-related books in the library.
When COVID came, the lines of communication were kept open to inform everyone about library services. A curbside service was launched, and STEM activity bags were offered to the public because no programming was permitted inside the branch. They continue to be popular and will likely continue after restrictions are completely lifted. Lunch at the Library began as services began to return, and it has continued for 14 months. The Makerspace Corner will return with a single station. The Makerspace Fair 2.0 will return with several new activities such as woodworking and arts and crafts stations. The community has been very supportive of these changes.
Amanda Sweet, Technology Innovation Librarian, Nebraska Library Commission, discussed designing makerspaces with purpose. She has visited makerspaces across the state, and the most frequently asked design questions are:
- How can makerspaces make life better?
- Which problems matter enough to be solved?
- Which tools will help me get a better job?
- Which tools will help me create new jobs?
- How can I make the community better?
It is important to focus on one question—the right problem. Do not start with technology; start with people. Here are the steps to take in designing a makerspace:
- Map problems, people, and organizations,
- Expand your technology toolbox,
- Match technology with people and problems, and
- Cultivate partnerships and customize services.
Consider your daily life to identify problems; for example aging parents, stories, mental health, housing, and end of life planning. Narrow down problems by using user experiences. Talk to local entrepreneurs to find out their problems. What technology can we use for future solutions? Can we build a 3D version of events? Explore AI devices. Design the maker experience around what people need most. Partner with people who care and innovate the solutions of tomorrow.
In the discussion period, several other suggestions emerged:
- Casual feedback from students is useful.
- Talk to students while they are in the makerspace.
- Put out a whiteboard where people can write their ideas and use a box if they do not want them publicly visible. The maker movement is going in the direction of including more people.
- Emphasize that no experience is necessary.
- Have staff that represents the diversity of your community.
- Some makerspaces cater to adults as well as students.
Two keynote addresses concluded the second day of Internet Librarian Connect 2021.
Voice of the Future: Engaging and Marketing
Emily Binder, Founder and CEO, WealthVoice LLC, a podcasting and marketing app for financial professionals, presented a highly informative overview of the voice applications in our industry. She noted that voice is the most profound change in technology since the computer age began. It is also the most important consideration for information scientists and business professionals. Although it presents many opportunities to make a brand heard, it means operating differently than previously. In innovation, the most dangerous words are “we have always done it that way”. Some of the most advanced things we have done are dependent on old technology. Voice technologies are growing exponentially across all consumer devices. We must consider what customers need and want and meet them there.
More than half of the population has adopted voice technology. We must get their attention through voice. People are increasingly finding information by voice rather than typing. The next challenge is to add value in a voice experience, which should be as simple as listening to a podcast.
Voice is increasingly playing a role in search. Last year 30% of searches were done using voice; this year it is up to about 50%, and 58% of consumers use voice searching to find a local business online. By next year, there will be 8 billion devices available to voice applications, which is unprecedented growth; some people have multiple devices.
The main players in voice have made significant investments; for example, Amazon has hired 10,000 people to work on Alexa. Over 13% of people have smart speakers (like Alexa). This chart shows how people are responding to voice assistants.
More than 34% of the population is responding to voice marketing on any device. Binder predicts that within 2 years, a company will be considered behind if it is not using voice technology. Music, news, weather and asking questions are the top uses of voice. Half of US adults have used voice in the car, and 2/3 of them have become daily users. There is even an Alexa device for use in cars. Hands-free information is made accessible and safer using voice. There is a big voice education curve; some libraries have installed Alexa speakers.
36% of people are asking questions daily. The killer app of voice is probably getting questions answered. Alexa’s flash briefing—short 1-3 minute snippets of news—has become a major app. It is less intimidating than listing to a full podcast. Over 12,000 flash briefings are available.
Beyond smart speakers, touch-free technology is the biggest convenience we have ever had. Air pods are a bigger seller than smartphones. Ear buds have become a status symbol because they are a luxury Apple product and are what people want. All devices using typing have one thing in common—computerese using a keyboard. The first successful typewriter was invented in 1878, and that same interface was common for over 140 years—through the 1980s! You can type 40 words per minute but you can speak about 150 and understand speech at 400.
Marketing is a battle for attention and consideration. Voice will become a natural evolution and a key channel to obtain goods, services, and information. Streaming audio is on the rise. The average time listening is about 16 hours a day. Social media on audio is highly addictive, and its listening audiences are very diverse.
Commerce is also occurring by voice. People are shopping with it: money transfer will be an $80 billion market by 2023. Today, 20% of mobile searches are by voice. How will we see ads in a voice market? These considerations impact voice, audio content, and user expectations. With familiarity comes use, so we should make sure to voice enable our text.
Voice works so well because we are hardwired for sound, which is a vehicle for behavior and perception. We hear our mother’s voice before we are born.. Sound travels in the brain faster than sight and triggers emotions, gets more attention quickly, and enhances recall. To get people to trust you, have your voice available to them. With the right voice we can get attention, influence people, and help them find what they are seeking.
Libraries Leading the New Normal and Beyond
R. David Lankes, Professor of Librarianship, University of Texas at Austin, and author, The Atlas of New Librarianship (MIT Press, 2011) said that libraries of all types are functioning in a time unlike any in history. The dawn of the internet was in about 1996 when it was just beginning to have an impact on society, and people were envisioning the idea of a utopia. But in today’s internet, the fear of enforcement has dissolved; borders do not exist, the internet is free; the utopia is being regulated; the Child Internet Protection Act (SIPA) seems to protect young minds; governments such as China have the ability to censor words across the internet; and free speech is becoming entangled in commerce and social media sites. We have begun talking about racism, white supremacy, and can only teach “acceptable” history. We see ideas such as vaccinations being questioned. Do we have freedom to do as we wish, or the freedom to keep others healthy and safe?
Although these are unprecedented times, we have gone through something similar before. On August 5, 1914 Great Britain entered into the “war to end all wars”. Telecommunication cables were the internet of the day and allowed us to connect one continent to another. Major users were government and the military, and the British understood that cutting the undersea cables was going to be the first information war. The mission was carried out by a cable ship built in 1890 to lay undersea cables for telecommunication. The cables were equivalent to the internet today, and messages could be transmitted in minutes. The major users of the technology were governments, the military, and commerce, which led to the formation of news wire services. The British understood that World War I was an information war which was unprecedented at that time. So the Germans had to resort to transmitting encrypted information through other channels. Using information technology turned into a propaganda war. The British censored telegraph messages (the “internet” of the day) and planted misinformation about German “atrocities” and began to control the narrative of the war in the U.S. Let us not think that censorship and the control of information are recent issues; in 1917 and 1918, the U.S. government passed the Espionage and Sedition Acts which made certain types of speech a criminal act and resulted in the prosecution of over 2,000 Americans.
The U.S. government suppressed news and information on the 1918 flu pandemic because the war effort took precedence. The flu is described in The Great Influenza (Penguin Books, 2004 and one of Lankes’ favorite books) and which fanned the flames of hate. The flu was called “Spanish Flu” because Spain was declared a neutral country and did not censor its news and information. The consequences of this action were substantial: the demonization of propaganda, increased isolationism, the Holocaust, punishment of Germany, and anti-Semitism. We learned that we can be slow to accept things, but the use of misinformation has long lasting effects which we have seen before and which are horrible.
Fortunately, society has recovered, but not on its own. Today’s times call for libraries to step up and control the rise of misinformation and atrocities. If we do nothing, it will not simply work out on its own. We must say that we will not accept this and call out misinformation, racism, violence, and the misuse of our information systems. We need a new narrative to build a knowledgeable people with a passionate drive for inclusion. We cannot pretend we are neutral; we need to save our communities, accept diversity, and build trust. It will take scholars, politicians, protestors, and students working one person at a time. We can no longer say that we will document our world and hope that the document will be read. We need to save our communities by building on connections and relationships, not transactions.
How many people have we helped? We are not neutral, but as a dedicated cadre of professions focused on knowledge and learning, we believe in science, conversation, knowledge, engagement, helping people, and better communities. We must see what we have in common. It is all politics, which is the distribution of power in this country. We are in the power business and empower people through reading and learning. All of us are powerful people; we need to ensure the future by connecting the past to the present through our collections and archives. There is no division between cyberspace and the street. Our children’s’ future depends on our not letting this go; our neighbors and communities, are too important to give up. We can tear down systemic racism, but we must first acknowledge that it exists. For a discussion of libraries in World War II, see Lankes’s new book, Forged in War (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021).
Accessing Knowledge: Internet Librarians’ Call to Action
Jean-Claude Monney, Chief Product Officer and Board Member, Keeeb, Inc., launched the third and final day of Internet Librarian Connect 2021 with an address about knowledge management (KM). He began with a view of his KM journey, in which he created knowledge sharing initiatives such as a digital workplace for 7,000 people. Then he became Chief Knowledge Officer at Microsoft’s Consulting Division. For many companies, knowledge is their business and what they sell. Vision is important; the ultimate KM vision includes Instant, Relevant Knowledge in Context (IRKIC). Monney always wanted to know how things work, which contributed to his KM journey and included the microprocessor revolution. His first encounter with KM was in 1999 when he created a knowledge sharing initiative.
Here are KM fundamentals for creating a new system on the cloud:
- Discovery approaches: decision requires knowledge relevancy and trust. On average, people put only 1.8 words in a search box. When they do not give enough information to the search system, they will not get the desired information. Search is still the biggest problem we need to solve today.
- Bring knowledge to people: Find out which technology to use. If information is not available in-house, go outside. Most companies are using communities of practice. There is an extraordinary amount of knowledge outside of companies.
- Personal network: Build it and keep it alive over the years. Does the provider of knowledge have the pedigree to give you the knowledge? Documents also have pedigrees: who is the author and who published it? Trust goes with relevance.
Knowledge is contextual. Operational knowledge is collecting known answers to questions. Strategic knowledge is where the knowledge is the start and is used to create answers to new and novel questions.
Call to action: Leverage the two IRKIC fundamentals in your projects. How do we use KM in the digital workplace? Transformational technologies for accessing knowledge are the art of the possible now. How can we make it easy for people to discover and find what they are looking for? Technology has changed the way we build taxonomies. Mixed reality is a big revolution that includes virtual reality.
Keeeb is a community of 600 knowledge practitioners worldwide where the user navigates to knowledge. One of his first projects was to conduct a retrospective study of the time lost in companies to searching, which amounts to 19% and is still a big problem, although some improvement has occurred recently. Another project was to determine the current state of IRKIC. In personal environments, the signal is very rich, but it is poor in professional environments. We need to fix the search problem and use all sources, then leverage conversational flow for strategic knowledge as well as AI and machine learning to automate the pushing relevant states in the flow of work.
Call to action: Plan your organization’s journey from pull to push. The first things to do are to fix the search problem and make sure that the knowledge is relevant and then make it easy to search in all the sources. Next, leverage a conversational flow for strategic knowledge and finally automate the pushing of information to provide relevant information in the context of the workflow. This process will enrich the signal in professional environments. Stay curious and visionary on your journey.
Jane Dysart observed that libraries try to build conversations within the community. Jean-Claude said that is a natural way to engage with people. People usually know what they are looking for, so you can build a conversation around that. You can use a bot to leverage automatic translation which is now a reality.
Signals are emerging now in the consumer world. We have silos of applications, knowledge, and people who are not connected to each other which is a problem. The system knows the information and can find which signal and context to use. We will soon see tools for the corporate librarian that will make it easier for them to do their job, and then we hope they will become available to everyone. Learning is not an option; we need room to grow. We must learn how to deal with complexity. Librarians have a role to play in the transformation of society.
Technology is growing and constantly improving. There is clearly an appetite for being connected. The dream is that libraries become the place where people are exchanging ideas again. There are many treasures in videos; many of them are made but not used because people do not have the time to watch them.
Libraries are very high in trust, but we do not always take advantage of that. Our work depends on trust in the knowledge created by others. The industry has tried many things put more emphasis on trust. We must find better ways. If you create a graph of your knowledge base, you will find lots of relevant information. Google does that. Libraries’ domains are finite and can apply those techniques. If you have a safe environment, people can flourish. Embracing diversity will make us better.
Open Access for Everyone
Carolyn Morris, Director, Content Solutions, SirsiDynix, noted that the OA landscape is massive and unwieldy. A Library Journal survey in November 2020 had these responses
54% of articles published in 2020 were OA. The business model for publishing will shift almost completely to OA by 2040. Drivers of OA include funder mandates to publish research OA, mandates by higher education institutions that faculty publish with an OA license, and transformative deals where a consortium negotiates with a publisher to get an OA license for their content. The biggest OA publishers are PLOS, Wiley, Sage, Elsevier, and Springer, which have high standards and have not lowered them to accommodate OA publishing. They are publishing some articles OA, which is how hybrid journals exist. Every journal is accepting some OA papers, and they are popular according to Altmetrics. Many of the top results from search engines are OA articles. SirsiDynix offers a free collection analysis service to identify which of a library’s existing e-journal subscriptions are OA.
OA provides opportunities for libraries: more equity in access, more global collections, a focus on curation vs. acquisition, a better user experience because OA content doesn’t need to be protected against piracy, and minimizing dead ends in searches. Challenges include content scattered across many sites, limited metadata, and content requiring vetting to ensure that it is of high quality (i.e. unreviewed preprints or predatory journals).
SirsiDynix has developed a CloudSource pilot service to give libraries tools they need to access OA content. It features an aggregated comprehensive index, enhanced metadata, a search API, collection management tools, OA collection analytics, and usage statistics. It covers over 30 million OA items and requires no authentication barriers. Libraries can create profiles for curating content, select and deselect sources, and create rules around the license. 36 library consortia containing 400 libraries are using the system.
Linda Barr Head Librarian, Library Technical Services and Library Automation, Austin Community College (ACC) described usage of the SirsiDynix pilot in the ACC library. ACC has approximately 20,000 full time equivalent students on 11 campuses that are served by a single library collection.
Professors are being encouraged to create “no textbook” courses. OA has raised many questions as the library moves toward an OA solution.
Privacy and Copyright: Issues and Update
Frank Cervone, Executive Director for Information Services & College Information Security Officer, University of Illinois at Chicago, noted that our views on privacy have changed because of the ubiquitous technology with which we surround ourselves. The technology we have in our homes collects an incredible amount of information about us, and there has been a significant expansion of surveillance; for example, it is well known that London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world. Just having a phone allows our location to be tracked, which may be an invasion of privacy. Our views on privacy have changed: we are voluntarily providing information about ourselves, but that does not necessarily equate to permission to have it used for other purposes.
The urgency of addressing issues has changed, and some states have passed laws. We can learn a lot from critical infrastructure and increase the assurance of privacy by technical controls to make sure a process works correctly. Organizations have many key security concerns such as sensitive information loaded on to a server which usually result in a leakage of data affecting privacy. The solution is to not focus on all problems but on a critical few (a fundamental principle in risk management) and get to good practices by avoiding bad ones. Examples of bad practices are use of known passwords, old PCs running Windows 7, and use of single-factor authorization for remote or administrative access to systems.
Joyce Johnston, Professor of English at George Mason University, said that we have had a copyright explosion, and events are happening very rapidly. Three major initiatives in 2021 are:
- Modernization of the copyright office is now proceeding after being discussed for years. It will feature a new enterprise IT system that will be more flexible by modernizing supporting IT systems and ensuring that office practices are efficient and productive.
- A small claims court for infringement cases using the CASE Act which allows small users to avoid copyright lawsuits. Claims are handled by 3 judges, and use of the court is optional. Filing a claim costs $100, and maximum damages awarded are $30,000.
- Use of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in an attack on digital piracy. DMCA takedown have increased in the U.S. Research Gate has removed 200,000 infringing files as of September 2021 and is starting to develop an upload filter to detect infringements. Sci-Hub has been taken down again, but Pirate Bay still continues and even has its own YouTube video showing how to use the site safely. There is even Piracy as a Service (PaaS), but nobody has figured out how to combat it yet. Users of this service can be charged with receiving stolen property. This quote by owner of Sci-Hub is significant.
Things to watch for this year:
- Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) for library use could allow full access to digital materials by users ineligible for library cards and resolve issues of ownership of library collections. NFTs are part of the ALA “library of the future” initiative.
- Web hosts have long been held to be not liable for users’ repeated infringements, but a new ruling says they are liable if they have facilitated access in a way that significantly magnified the underlying infringement.
Library Enabled OA: Unleashing Student Work to the World
Juanita Richardson, Manager, Learning Resource Center, and Tom Blennerhassett, Scholarly Communications Librarian, Michener Institute (a small post-secondary institution in Toronto and the only one in Canada that is focused on the health sciences) described development of a student-run OA journal (MICH).
MICH evolved from discussions with faculty members about what to do with high-quality output from student assignments. Besides providing students a place to show off their work, it also taught them about the scholarly ecosystem and the publishing process.
Initial considerations were:
- Peer review: The journal was not peer reviewed because that could be a barrier for the students, and it would require them to publish research articles.
- Platform: The journal was hosted on a Public Knowledge Project (PKP) platform for which the university pays.
- Editorial Board: Staff members served as editors for the project.
- Faculty involvement: Many faculty members were interested in the project and helped identify student authors, and then reviewed their articles before they were submitted to the journal.
- Publication frequency: The journal appears annually.
By seeing what happens behind the scenes in publishing, students were taught about the scholarly ecosystem and learn how their work can reach beyond their institution. Most of them are career-focused and do not plan on becoming researchers, so they probably would not be interested in managing a journal in their brief stay (2 years) on campus. Therefore the library manages the journal with the support of the editorial board. The submission criteria and process were kept as simple as possible. The only requirements are that authors must be current or recent Michener students, the article must be related to the student’s work, and it must be approved by a faculty member. Finally, students are asked to create an ORCID ID which they can use throughout their career. Authors sign an agreement acknowledging aspects of copyright. The journal uses a CC-BY license.
The first issue was published in September 2019 and had 4 papers and an editorial. Issue 2 appeared in September 2020, during the pandemic and had 13 papers. It was a special issue on student perspectives on communication during the COVID period. Issue 3, published in September 2021, was edited by students and contained feedback from previous authors. Consideration is being given to publishing posters drawings, etc. in other formats than textual articles.
An AI Road Map for Academic Librarians
David Kung, Business Professor, and Linda Gordon, Librarian, University of LaVerne wanted to determine if AI can help them to be more productive in the library. Their university is a small private college in southern California where most of the students are working professionals.
AI was created in the 1950s and is focused on statistical analysis to predict outcomes. To start an AI project, it is important to identify key areas of impact and develop use cases. For the library, use cases involve analyzing student search behavior, resource recommendations, and service recommendations. We must acknowledge that our efforts may fail because AI is complicated.
The past year has been difficult, especially for a private university. We have many resources that are underutilized. Services are a key function of universities, and AI can help us enhance libraries. Some people think that AI is just simple counting, but it also has decision-making capabilities. Libraries have used AI in voice responses, directing traffic, space reservations and appointments, and chat services. Other functions of AI are content indexing, citation matching, content summarization, impact measuring, providing answers to directional questions, and improving operational and service efficiencies thus conserving budgets.
Analytics are used in many ways in libraries: for usage metrics, link resolving, generating proxy server logs, and aggregating usage statistics. In more advanced applications, AI can provide guidance to searchers by asking “is this what you are looking for?” and then directing them to other databases or to a librarian. Ultimately an AI system could take the user directly to the most used articles for their query. Results from a librarian-assisted search could be fed back into the system.
Here are some key steps in an AI strategy:
- Know what AI can and cannot do, and establish a governance structure for AI initiatives. Know who is accountable for what.
- Make sure there are viable partnering organizations within the university that can be formed, including the library which can provide real-world cases. (An MS degree in data analytics was established and has worked well.)
- Build the case and prepare data and skills requirements for each use case using a team of experts. It is important to win employee support and gain trust.
- Pursue rapid implementation and scale successful use cases.
- Learn from failures.
Cautions for AI applications in academic libraries include privacy, confidentiality, and the use of personally identifiable information.
The closing keynote featured a panel of 5 librarians discussing libraries’ biggest challenges and opportunities for 2022+ followed by a discussion period with questions posed by Jane Dysart.
Mary Ann Mavrinac: In many ways libraries have been preparing for the pandemic by sharing resources as we have moved into the digital age. 2020 disrupted us with budget cuts, furloughs, and fear. Since August 2020 the library has been fully open; what have we learned from the experience? Our challenges and opportunities are two sides of the same coin. A new space was created, and education was reimagined to prepare students for their careers. Teaching with Zoom is not quite enough and so other technologies such as open educational resources (OERs) have been used to heighten engagement. Enabling access to collections and getting resources to students, especially textbooks, is important, as is connecting with the university community and cultivating an inclusive climate for under-represented populations. To build healthier lives for hurting and stressed students and faculty members, space was made for wellness. An investment in leadership development for the middle management team was made.
Jim Peterson: The library was reconstructed in 2018 and is the only one in Kentucky with a 700 seat performance theater attached to it. A partnership with local school districts allows all students in the county to use the library. An attempt was made to get the district to bus students to the library (which is on the edge of town) without success. The library has a lot of advanced equipment like 3D printers, etc. During the pandemic, curbside pickup began, and 500 masks for healthcare workers were 3D printed. When the library reopened, a makerspace called “Some Assembly Required” was launched; it was well received and resulted in a lot of traffic for the library. The biggest challenge was getting back to the library building because all the internet networks and wiring had to be checked.
Richard Huffine: When the pandemic arrived, the FDIC library staff discovered that they were ready to go virtual, and they expect to be virtual well into 2022. Everyone has learned how to use collaboration tools to capture video, record it, and distribute presentations to staff which are all over the country. We will probably never go back to our offices full time, so hybrid work will become more prevalent. Some people will be able to do their jobs no matter where they are. Employers must be flexible, and employees must be responsible for their time, which is hard for a library that has service desks. One option is direct delivery: buy a book and send it directly to the requester rather than taking it out of the library and risk losing it. Government libraries have found ways to be more flexible. One of our challenges is to defend the collections we have in their existing formats. We have seen many advances in a short time. Innovation is thinking outside the box, and we must make sure that information professionals are part of that process.
We have an opportunity to rethink and have a relationship with our vendor community and hold them accountable for the products that we purchase and improve the work that we produce. When people have too much in front of them, they do not know what to choose, so we must partner with our vendors and make sure that what they have is being used by a broad number of people to best advantage.
Hannah Byrd Little: History informs the future. The school where she works has records about the 1918 influenza pandemic, In the K-12 world, each new year is a “temporal landmark” which indicates a fresh start. “Trigger” events cause us to step back and think about the big picture. Obstacles were overcome: hearing the teacher through a mask, cooperating with the teacher and being patient when he/she is also teaching remotely, etc. Here are some things that Hannah hopes will remain after the pandemic.
School librarians have taken on new responsibilities: how we care for all the needs of the children (physical, technology available at home, social and emotional), how we interact with parents(who want to be involved with the curriculum and school policies and government, and addressing pandemic related learning gaps and delays. College and career preparation may need to change, and family schedules and work habits may look different.
Susanne Marsalisi: Communico is focusing on providing educational content to help libraries by going beyond technology and helping libraries to pivot and get what they need as we work toward more virtual events. Many libraries got comfortable with things like curbside delivery, so Communico designed pickup software for public libraries which was helpful to libraries when they were closed to browsing. We are working to support virtual room reservations and virtual services to deliver one-to-one events. We are seeing libraries share their Zoom licenses so that people can book a conversation in the same way they would book a conference room. Career counseling and homework helping have become very important in the last few years. Libraries are turning to their mobile technology as a way to promote digital offerings and make sure people know about their resources. People have gotten new habits in place and are using libraries differently.
As we move into a new normal environment, people are wondering what the next iteration of virtual will be. Can we have in-person and virtual events happening at the same time? How do we get people to come back to the library after they have become used to being remote? What promotion, programming, and marketing needs to be done to do this? Users may not be coming to the library physically, so what programs and services and tools will be needed by the digital community which is engaging with the library no matter where they are located?
How to we handle failure and what action did you take?
Mary Ann: We had to reduce capacity. We lost 70% of our seats, all collaborative learning, and tried to offer virtual discipline-specific events. Nothing happened. People like to learn in the presence of others, and this does not translate virtually.
Richard: When the library got a request for a book, they tried to give it to people by mail. Some people wanted an audio book. They asked users what format they needed and how they should proceed.
Do you have any strategies to reengage communities after the pandemic?
Mary Ann: We are staying with virtual for now, but will move to hybrid in the future.
Hannah: Educators are exhausted working in the hybrid mode. The library had no online services this year, only in person. Classroom space was a challenge.
Jim: A makerspace is a good dynamic for engagement.
- Start smaller and be very structured. Keep engaged.
- Bigger audiences are a struggle for libraries when people come back to in-person—they are excited and noisy, so we need to figure out how to set up zones in the library.
- If you do not have the ability to enable, let people do things like bring their own chairs, etc. Make your own case. Librarians should make sure they are part of curriculum planning and that their resources are integrated. This is not a time to give up on the roles we can play. Let your voice be heard.
- Valuing the information is important and we are responsible for getting the information out. Word of mouth is increasing now. We need many channels.
- Be nimble and flexible. Don’t be afraid to fail—be the learning organization we are supposed to be. Fail fast, pivot, and be insightful.
Internet Librarian 2022 is planned for October 18-20 in Monterey, CA.
Donald T. Hawkins is an information industry freelance writer based in Pennsylvania. In addition to blogging and writing about conferences for Against the Grain, he blogs the Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian conferences for Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and maintains the Conference Calendar on the ITI website. He is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, (Information Today, 2013) and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits (Information Today, 2016). He holds a Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley and has worked in the online information industry for over 50 years.