By Donald T. Hawkins (Freelance Conference Blogger and Editor)
The Computers in Libraries (CIL) 2022 Conference was originally scheduled to be held on March 29-31 in Arlington, VA; however, it was converted to a virtual conference running on the Pheedloop platform because of issues relating to the COVID pandemic. So CIL 2022 became Computers in Libraries Connect (CILC). It attracted over 650 attendees. (Note: Because of its length, this article is in 2 parts (To read Part 2, click HERE).
Michael Edson, a writer and independent consultant, opened the conference by noting that we are working with an outdated concept of digitality (which means living in a digital culture), and it is hindering us from understanding our roles. Library institutions have a place to play in this world which is in a time of unprecedented change. There is a big wall between where we are and where we need to be, and we need to figure out how to get over it.
We need to think of the work to do to prepare for a societal world. Winning slowly is the same as losing. In her book1, Greta Thunberg very persuasively argues that we are in a fight for awareness now, and our awareness is nowhere it needs to be. The New European Bauhaus is trying to create a world that is green, sustainable, and just. What is our organization’s role in such a world? Digital culture may provide the means to find it.
It is hard to focus on the plus side of digital. We don’t know the world we are living in and we are uncertain about the role that our libraries can play in it. The state of the art today is a mixed bag of emotions. Edson has compiled a set of slides on his blog about The Web We Want, or Dealing With the Dark Side of Social Media for those who are curious about the dark side and what to do about it. It is hard to focus on the plus side of digital because the dark side looms very large.
What is a consequential action and what does anything digital bring to the table?2 The big wall is made of fear. Who will help society think about these ideas? What can libraries do now to prepare for this future? It has arrived, and the problems are real right now. We are digital library professionals, but our roles are very weak. Empowering is not something neutral; who are you empowering and to do what can be extraordinarily disruptive. Digital is now part of life:
After numerous studies and reviewing reports, Edson arrived at an updated concept of digitality, which will not occur within a walled garden.:
People without top-down control can produce extraordinary work together; see Wikinomics (Portfolio, 2010). We need to think big, start small, and move fast. Librarians can be very helpful in helping us to think clearly and competently. Motivational interviewing can be useful in understanding another person’s point of view.
Kristin Delwo, VP, SaaS Product & Technology Innovation, EBACO Canada, asked what open access (OA) means. Does everyone have equal access to it? EBSCO’s mission is helping people to find and engage with their libraries online. OA has been evolving during the last few years and it now generally means how to access things that are freely available. Even if the content is free, there can be other issues with it, such as comprehensiveness, trustworthy, distinctive from everything else, in an understandable language, and accessible (which really means discoverable). So open is not just about being free, but it has expanded into an equitable opportunity to discover and access content. EBSCO has 3 products to facilitate these opportunities: EBSCO Stacks, EBSCO Essentials, and EBSCOed.
Lessons Learned From the Brands You Love
A library’s website brand is important because it lets the world know what to expect of the library’s services and programs. It helps communicate everything the library has to offer and emphasizes that it is much more than a place to borrow materials. The Central Rappahannock Regional Library (CRRL) website experiences about 75,000 visitors per month but is maintained by only2 website managers who design the site and work with other colleagues to curate the content.
We have moved into a new era of marketing where the creation of value through content-driven experiences is the focus. We must learn how to be agile enough to quickly adapt to ever-changing web trends and take the best practices of the web from other industries and apply them to our libraries!
The top marketing trends of 2022 are:
- Businesses that focus on the customer experience win. Ajit Sivadisan, Vice President of Lenovo said “If you are not focusing on the customer holistically, you will fail the customer in a big way.” Companies that overcame challenges and technology silos in the pandemic were the ones that came out ahead.
- Customers expect a customized and personalized experience, but it is important to build trust also. 80% of senior executives rank data and insights as their top priority for the year ahead.
- Marketing and IT must collaborate because digital and customer experience are key to reaching new levels of innovation and creativity. If there is a change in the marketplace, there will be a change in customer expectations, to which we must be able to respond.
Here are 3 examples of brands that have responded innovatively to today’s marketing trends:
- Fixer Upper is a home renovation networking organization finds a style, then refines it and refines it again. They have identified their niche and related their brand to the community by making their customers feel like they have been invited into their home. “Place” (Waco, TX) has been redefined as a character and part of their story.
Applying these lessons to CRRL, a “Guest Picks” program was instituted in which members of the library community shared their stories and their favorite titles.
- Whole Foods is heavily focused on locals and wants to bring in local suppliers so that they can function as a connector to the community. Location marketing goes beyond simple differentiation and promotes marketing and self-service options. Marketing efforts are concentrated within a small radius of the stores by “geo-fencing”. Whole Foods also did geo-fencing around their competitors’ stores and then sent marketing materials into those areas to try and convince shoppers to go a little farther to the Whole Foods store. These marketing efforts were so successful that Amazon purchased the company.
CRRL applied these lessons to their branch libraries and created web pages for each branch, listing new books locally available, amenities within them, events occurring at the branch, and blog posts written by local librarians. CRRL has 2 branches that have no physical resources except technology equipment for a makerspace.
- Disneyland uses color extensively to evoke emotions and create depth. Landmarks of different colors are used to keep people moving ahead. Every attraction is designed with an intentional use of color. It is used to distract guests; things like trash cans are painted “go away green” so they will blend in to the background and not be noticed. Color can create a unique customer journey.
CRRL uses color very well on its website. For example, the Online Resources page is very long, so color is used to distinguish each section, as shown here:
Notice the use of color shading to draw the user’s attention in the 2 examples below.
The Wall: A Two-Story Interactive Digital Experience
This session was one of the highlights of the conference. It featured an amazing digital wall that was built at the Edmonton, Alberta Public Library (EPL). “The Wall” is a two-story, 40-foot-wide, fully interactive digital experience that offers a unique way to stimulate learning. It was developed in a partnership with the Queensland University of Technology in Australia; Steve Till-Rogers, Director Technology Services, moved to Edmonton to direct construction of The Wall, which is the first of its kind in North America.
The Wall is in the downtown location of the EPL. It is 40 feet wide and 2 stories high. Here is an overview of The Wall showing a view of the dinosaur exhibit. As visitors interact with it, different dinosaurs appear and walk across The Wall. A major advantage of this type of a learning environment is that the user can create a personalized experience. EPL’s Wall has content on dinosaurs, the Great Barrier Reef, and a STEAM lab. A space exploration unit is currently being designed.
There were no previous blueprints; it was a custom design. ADA regulations were followed. The right panel has interactive surfaces on both sides. It was designed and built by Planar, a leader in LED design. It was interesting to note that, because The Wall is unique, the construction workers got invested in the design with pride. Here is a photo of Till-Rogers discussing the Great Barrier Reef module.
Software for The Wall resides on 3 servers and runs on 12 computers. The Wall has 70 megapixels of display surface, 25 interactive touch panels, and 324 Planar LED panels.
The EPL staff did not disclose anything about the Wall to the public before the launch day so it would be a surprise for visitors. It has been extremely interesting to observe how families, and especially children, have interacted with The Wall.
Maintenance of The Wall is continual. Surfaces are cleaned every hour. The construction is modular so single panels and cells can be replaced if necessary. Exhibits are changed every day and are listed on the library’s website.
The Wall cost about C$70 million (US$55.5 million); and was funded by the city council. Collaboration with Queensland University continues.
Search Intelligence Reports
Gary Price, Co-Founder, infoDOCKET and FullTextReports, well-known speaker at ITI’s conferences, usually presents an in-depth tour of some of the latest tools for search strategies. This year, he described the sources of his resources and directed his audience to his webpage listing all of them. He has created a web page on think tanks, added subjects, and made it searchable. A trade publications database will soon be available.
Gary’s business is no different from what information professionals have already done. Today’s challenges are a nonstop firehose of information, more data than ever before, and a lack of organization of this data. People’s search habits have not changed much. Gary recommends reading everything you can; he often reads an article from back to front, checking the bibliography first to see where the data comes from, which will help to determine if it is credible. Timeliness is important in building an audience.
Search Innovation Sandbox
Greg Notess, Professor Emeritus of Librarianship, Montana State University, presented another of his reviews of search engine developments and innovations.
- Current big movements from search engine companies focus on machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). Google has introduced a Multitask Unified Model (MUM) which they are calling “a new AI milestone for understanding information” that will help searchers when there is no simple answer to their queries.
- Bing has introduced Make Every Feature Binary (MEB), a neural network that increases the relevance of search results by understanding relationships beyond semantics.
- For those who write product reviews, Google has created a posting on its Search Central Blog suggesting useful guidelines.
- The cached copy of a webpage shows what it looked like when Google indexed it. A link to the cached copy appears on Google’s “About This Result” page.
- Google is rewriting title search results, but sometimes the rewritten titles are not accurate.
The Future of Search
Privacy concerns are rising.
- Google has promised that there will be no third-party cookies3 in Chrome by 2022, so advertisers are looking for alternatives such as First Locally-Executed Decision over Groups Experiment (FLEDGE), Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), and Topics API (which will replace FLoC).
- Alternate web browsers are also being considered such as IndexNow, in which websites push updates to search engines instead of using crawlers.
- To avoid ads or tracking, Neva and Brave Search offer private searching for a fee.
- Rumors persist that Apple is developing its own search engine. In 2021, Google paid Apple $15 billion to ensure that it will be the default search engine for Apple users, which is the largest single payment that Google makes to any company for this purpose. Although Google has paid Apple to stay out of the search engine business, Apple has filed some search-related patents and hired some search engineers.
- Discussions about Web3, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), Cryptocurrencies, and decentralized finances are occurring. These are not covered well by search engines, but nooft, Ludo and NFTGo have plans to cover these areas.
- OriginTrail claims to have the world’s first decentralized knowledge graph for organizing data on Web3.
What’s In Your Search Sandbox?
Marydee Ojala, Editor-in-Chief, Searcher Magazine, and Editor, IL365 Newsletter, said that libraries and librarians are needed to combat the spread of misinformation, identify fake news, and use search skills to prove how valuable libraries are. Much has changed: we have moved from a sandbox to the entire beach. Good information has been swallowed by a tidal wave of bad.
Even the scholarly literature is growing wildly. News is everywhere, and it is not always well curated. What is the role of librarians and AI? We need critical thinking, which we used to think of as common sense. Your idea of that may be different from mine. It is related to information literacy, in which librarians are deeply interested. We can be skeptical without questioning everything. Look closely before you click. Algorithms have been determining the relevancy of search for many years. MUM shows promise to help us as information professionals. We need to figure out how to get around the algorithms. SlideShare is now a pay site.
Other types of searches:
- Images. Photoshop is a way of life for some people. TinEye is good for reverse searches, finding similar images by searching for clues such as words, numbers, or backgrounds.
- Copyright-free images Pixabay has a large collection of copyright-free images, videos, and music.
- Retracted articles. Retraction Watch is highly recommended. 215 articles on COVID have been retracted, but the top 10 of them are still being cited!
- Video. When you search video, you are searching text, the transcript, or sometimes the channel. YouTube’s algorithms are not great.
- Repetitions. Repeating information does not make it true but makes it more believable. Press releases appear in many sources, and honest mistakes can be amplified through repetition, often on social media.
- Alerts. Google’s alerts are flawed. See Tara Calishain’s article on RSS feeds. ResearchBuzz has many digitized collections.
Reporters should cite sources in their articles and consider who the article is aimed at and who will be looking at it?
Don’t get fooled: what is the source, the quality of data, how old is it? How outlandish is it? Why is it here? How gullible does the creator think we are?
You can be fooled by search queries:
What is in your sandbox?
Day 2 Keynote: Community Internet Strategies and Partnerships for Better Digital Visibility
Nicol Turner Lee, Senior Fellow, Governance Studies and Director, Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings Institution, and Author, Digitally Invisible: How the Internet is Creating the New Underclass (Brookings Institution Press, 2022) delivered an inspiring and challenging address about library activities. She noted that we are facing new challenges, and closing the digital divide is a lifeline in which libraries have played a significant role. Many library users were unaware of the online resources available to them, so libraries have moved to increase their awareness. Some libraries used their CARE funds to buy Wi-Fi hotspots, and others put their books outside during COVID so people could borrow them. Some educators sat in their cars in parking lots to teach their students. Libraries were heroes of the pandemic; they introduced computers in their communities before they were introduced in schools. Today, many new books are digital which is becoming the new normal. There should never be a library that is not connected digitally. We must bring library resources directly to users which will help us solve the most pressing problem—misinformation.
The pandemic showed us that if you were not resilient, you could not survive. When 50 million kids were sent home, 15 million of them did not have internet access. We cannot help kids prepare for online tests if they do not have internet access.
We must urge our community organizations to stand with us. Our public institutions must play a role, so ask your community what you can do to improve the situation. Libraries must be funded. We must make them an important part of parent-teacher conferences and must correlate funding with the expanded role that libraries are playing. We must impress policy makers that libraries need money to survive!
This is all about libraries and their communities. We have an opportunity to impress on policy makers that we have the ability to affect change. We cannot exist as dinosaurs in a society that has things like AR and VR. What can we do to ensure that libraries hold their place? We have work to do. Government funding is not the cure-all we thought it would be. Libraries and churches are your friends.
Impact of Industry Consolidation
What do consolidation and mergers mean for libraries? Marshall Breeding, creator of Library Technology Guides, noted that disruption in our industry has been brewing for a long time, and we have been experiencing constant churn, most of which has to do with consolidation: companies acquiring other ones. How does this impact new technology for libraries that keep their systems (ILSs) for a long time, even decades.
Here are some major recent consolidations in the last two years:
It is interesting to note that the FDC’s review of Innovative occurred after the deal closed. The big news this year is Clarivate’s acquisition of ProQuest for $5.3 billion and the breakup of Follett.
Consolidation happens both horizontally (when mergers occur among ILS and RFID companies) and vertically (when smaller companies merge into top-level companies). Technology businesses are becoming public companies. There is much little churn and the story is not over.
The impact of consolidations is shown in several graphs on the Library Technology Guides website. Is the industry moving towards a monopoly? No, but it is uncomfortably narrow. The least competitive time was 2006-8.
Mining Library Data for Decision Making and Pivoting in a Pandemic
This session featured a panel of librarians discussing how data from libraries was used to pivot during the pandemic. Garrett Mason from the Indianapolis Public Library said that library closures did not have nearly the impact that had been anticipated. Despite the library being closed for 8 weeks, it was able to provide some services for the public. No staff members were furloughed or laid off.
Reference services were provided by phone or email, and a dashboard was created to track data on them. The Library Board was therefore kept informed and helped to make decisions on where and when to reduce service hours after reopening but still serve as many users as possible. Door counts were used to track attendance by users. About 1/3 of the public PCs were removed to maintain social distancing. There was no effect on PC availability, and even after the reduction, usage stayed below pandemic levels.
Diana Plunkett from the Brooklyn NY Public Library used a map of COVID cases overlaid on a map showing the location of the library branches to guide reopening and determine staff needs. Staff members were involved in the process through health readiness meetings in Zoom breakout rooms and talked through what to expect: what worked, what had potential, and what did not work. All staff members were invited to the meetings. Meeting notes and actions taken were published to the entire organization to ensure that everyone felt supported.
Sarah Rankin and Kasia Kowalski from the New York Public Library (NYPL) showed data on the composition of NYPL’s borrowers. (Anyone working or living in New York can get a library card.) During the closure of NYPL, the only way to borrow a book was to get an e-book. The library has opened, but physical checkouts are only available by grab and go; browsing inside the library has not resumed. The total borrower count is down 20%, but borrowing by people living outside New York City has increased. Borrowing by those in higher income ZIP codes is not down as much as in lower income areas. Pre-COVID digitally mediated services had a disparity in usage by income; higher income areas had higher e-book usage.
How the Pandemic Made the Digital Divide Impossible to Ignore
Laura Warner from the Brantford Ontario Public Library said that the digital divide is the gap between those who have the internet and those who do not. (She did not have a laptop or access to the internet when she was growing up. The digital divide is why she pursued a career in libraries.) Those who do not have internet access are missing out on many community activities.
Because of the vast geography in Canada which has extensive areas comprising remote, rural, and First Nations communities, there are many challenges in bringing the internet to them. Only 50% of households have internet access, and much of that suffers from low speeds in poor urban areas. As a result, Canada has one of the highest costs of broadband in the world. One reason is because there are only 3 summer months in which construction work to install it can be done. Seamless digital access across Canada needs to be built so that Canada can become a global player. In 2011the United Nations declared access a human right.
When COVID hit, the assumption was made that people would just keep going as usual, which did not happen. When libraries closed, many people were cut off from their source of digital access, so there was no opportunity for education, healthcare, or connection with family members. Libraries helped such people by moving their modems to the windows and also received grants to supply laptops and hotspots to people with who needed them. Some people sat in parking lots outside restaurants to get a Wi-Fi connection. Some libraries provided virtual access to courts. Despite these measures, libraries lost many of the people who were under-housed.
The pandemic has heightened the urban-rural divide. In many circumstances, people found themselves struggling with multiple people wanting to use the internet simultaneously4. Lack of internet access because schools were closed led to high failure and dropout rates. Toronto schools lent out over 170,000 devices. If one broke, the child had to bring it back to school, and it might take several days until it got fixed, meanwhile leaving them without internet access. Many people do not know how to navigate systems to make appointments, order groceries, get vaccinated, etc. Putting data on a smartphone is not an option for everybody. Many people cannot tell whether something is false or not. They want to be part of the community, but they can easily become victims of fake news.
Strategies for closing the digital divide include library education and access, infrastructure funding, inclusivity, and education, but more sustainable solutions are needed. The Canadian government’s goals are to improve the infrastructure to get everyone connected, provide educational opportunities, and ensure that education is embedded in our communities. Here are some policies that should be considered:
- Participation in the online world is a core principle of citizenship.
- The digital divide is beyond technological; it includes special, temporal, and social relationships. Technical solutionism will not close the gap.
- Lessons can be learned from initiatives that seek to enable disadvantaged individuals.
Using Internet of Things (IoT) to Connect People
According to dictionary.com, the IoT is the interconnection via the internet of computing devices embedded into everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data.” Brian Pichman, Director of Strategic Innovation, Evolve Project, addressed the issues relating to the IoT.
What does IoT mean for libraries? Will connected objects fundamentally change the way libraries serve their users, or is it another new technology that is simply more about hype than reality? One of the advantages of IoT technologies is that they allow for remote monitoring, data transmission, and control. Security is one of the biggest issues with the IoT.
When he discusses technology, Brian likes to refer to the Gartner Hype Cycle, which shows how technology moves into productivity.
It is estimated that there are about 26 objects/people connected. The IoT is changing how we do many things. It helps us save energy, regulate agriculture, develop smart homes, and connect to cities. A smart city uses technology to better understand its population and give better communication to people who live there. For example, culdesac, a car-free neighborhood in Tempe, AZ, was built to satisfy people’s needs.
The value of the IoT is detected from devices and sensors that derive data analytics and convert them to human value. If enough data is tracked, it becomes easy to decide what to do. The IoT requires sensors, and as they improve, we will get better robotics and more things possible.
Most people have smart technology in their homes that provides interconnections to data. Many devices such as cameras, doors, locks, lights, outlets, appliances etc. are new, but the internet is changing how we use them For example, a smart refrigerator might be able to detect how much time will elapse before food begins to spoil, or what cycle is occurring in the washer or dryer.. Smart vacuum cleaners can map and clean houses, and robots can interact and converse with people. Virtually anything we look at can be connected to the internet. Home automation has 4 components: connectivity, talking together, automation, and communication. The disadvantage of all this technology is that smart things make us more lazy humans.
Healthcare is a growing area for IoT devices. For example, exoRehab allows people to do physical therapy exercises tailored to their needs and monitor their progress in their homes. Tiny nanoparticles can detect the early onset of diseases.
How do we apply the IoT in libraries? The first challenge is usually getting the IT department to buy in. It is important to ensure that all devices will work on the same platform. Here are some tips for getting started.
Some possibilities for library buildings (and others as well):
- Increase energy efficiency by automating heating, cooling, and lighting (such as turning lights off when nobody is in a room),
- Using a smart sprinkling to know when to water the grounds,
- Using smart locks to control access to conference rooms by sending the code that unlocks the door to meeting attendees (some hotels are already using this for their guests),
- Understanding where people are by using Wi-Fi to see how much traffic occurs in various areas of the library; if you know where your users are, you can advertise in those spaces,
- Use virtual assistants to answer frequently asked questions,
- Make reordering supplies easier by using smart appliances or smart printers,
- Use a video doorbell to know who needs to get in (particularly for a back door where deliveries are made),
- Monitoring devices that have been loaned to users to know where they are at any time, and
- Using technology like Amazon Go to automate checking books in and out.
Connected devices provide opportunities for hacking, and there are always the questions of who owns the data and what can they do with it. With so many devices operating all the time, it is unlikely that anyone will want to listen to terabytes of data, so the security and privacy questions may not be as important as they appear.
To find devices, Brian recommends going to technology conferences such as the Consumer Electronics Show or South By Southwest and asking exhibitors if their products are appropriate for libraries and will they sell to them. You may find that you are the only librarian there which will work to your advantage.
Special Plenary Session: Opportunities for the Future
Frequent and popular speaker at several of ITI’s conferences, Lee Rainie, Director of Internet and Technology Research at the Pew Research Center, and Author, Networked: The New Social Operating System (MIT Press, 2012) presented a fascinating report on new opportunities in the world of digital libraries, obtained from Pew’s recent survey of adults 18 or older that asked how they used the internet and technology amid COVID and adjusted to its impact.
Technology has been a lifeline for some people during the pandemic outbreak; 90% of the survey respondents say that the internet has been essential or important for them personally. One of the big changes has been teleconferencing or phone chats. About 40% of people did something new that they had not done previously. There has been a lot of interest in the transfer of interpersonal connections. Text messaging is important to people. About 30% of home broadband users have done something to improve their internet service during the pandemic, but about 40% said that they had some problems with technology, and 26% were struggling to pay for broadband access. Some people say their phone does everything they need.
Among parents with children in grades K-12, most say their screen time rules have become less strict during the pandemic. Those with lower incomes are more likely than those with higher incomes to say that their children faced tech-related challenges during the pandemic. There is a strong feeling that children have lost ground in their education during times of remote schooling.
The pandemic did not do good things; 25% of Americans say they feel less close to family members and 53% said that about acquaintances. Clearly, something big and distressing is going on in the culture.
In the digital landscape, there have been 3 big revolutions: broadband, mobile, and social. 25% of survey respondents do not have home broadband. We have never seen a technology spread so rapidly through the culture than smartphones. A growing share of Americans said that they use YouTube; Facebook remains one of the most actively used online platforms among US adults. Increasingly, people use multiple platforms.
About 3 in 10 Americans go online “almost constantly”, but this varies greatly by age. The share of Americans who receive TV by cable or satellite at home has fallen, and a majority of those without subscriptions now used to have one. Nearly 1/3 of Americans regularly get news on Facebook. Critical posts get more likes, shares, and comments than other posts.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans to use many platforms. On Twitter, about 10% of Democrat users post 90% of the content. Democrats and Republicans often live in different media worlds. The country is very polarized; Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on basic facts. Partisans do not think the other side shares their values. Many people say they have seen misinformation online and have shared it.
Lee’s final subject was the “new normal” and what it will look like by 2025: Many experts think that it will be far more technology-driven, and will present big challenges. Large societal changes will make life worse for most people as authoritarianism and misinformation spread. Here are 3 “mega-trends”:
- “Tele-everything” will be embraced, which will improve healthcare, workplaces, and social activities. More people will work from home, and there will be more virtual social and entertainment interactions.
- Our yearning for convenience and safety is fueling reliance on digital tools and speeding the adoption of new education and learning platforms which affects workplaces, family life, and living arrangements.
- The best and worst of human nature are amplified. Empathy will increase, but so will bigotry and closed communities.
Libraries have very successfully reinvented themselves as technology experts by adding to their expertise and being seen as curators of online learning programs. Special communities (veterans, businesses, parents, etc.) regard libraries as critically important in their communities. (End of Part 1; to Read Part 2, click HERE.)
- No One is Too Small to Make a Difference (Penguin Books, 2019)
3. Third party cookies, sometimes called “tracking cookies” are those placed by companies and are used to generate ads relevant to the searcher.