Wednesday, September 19, 2007

In 2017 libraries will be....

I am quietly amused that one of the results you get if you search Google for "In 2017 libraries will be" is this:
In 2017 libraries will be... - a photoset on Flickr

At New Zealand's annual conference for the library profession last week, we ran what Paul Reynolds over on McGovern online has called a 'really interesting poster / card campaign' (yes, we're blushing) to get delegates thinking about the future of libraries.

What began as a small campaign to encourage people to visit the National Library's trade exhibit area has since gone global, so I thought I'd use our own blog to wrap some context around the cards that have blown out of the drawer and all over the Net.

... promoting libraries

As part of a wider effort to promote the National Library and our New Generation National Library Strategic Directions to 2017, we issued everyone who came to the LIANZA conference in Rotorua with a replica catalogue card, strategically attached to a giant pot of mints in their conference satchels.

True librarians will note our attempt to faithfully reconstruct this important access technology... from the Dewey number for New Zealand libraries (027.093) to the hole for threading the cards onto rods in the base of catalogue drawers (a job, I learned at Conference, that only senior librarians were allowed to do).

... adapting ideas from other industry leaders

While we'd love to take full creative credit for the idea behind 'In 2017 libraries will be...', the campaign was actually inspired by the 'freedomis' campaign at Webstock in Wellington last year. You can see some of the Webstock attendees Flickr'd here.

I'm pleased that our adaptation of the idea is inspiring other tangents too. Michael Stephens on Tame the Web: Libraries and technology, for example, has suggested using physical and virtual cards to collect user feedback for strategic planning ("In 2017, my library will be"). Anyone out there keen to turn this idea into a widget?

...facilitating conversations

During the conference, we posted the catalogue cards on an external-facing wall of the National Library's exhibit area, surrounded by posters promoting our digital collections.

Over three days, it was nice to see the wall grow with the thoughts of the profession, from the anarchic to the academic. But having people stand in front of it and talk to each other (and us) about what they were reading on the cards was amazing. At one point we even had other trade exhibitors coming along to get a sense of what librarians (their target market) were thinking.

On the final day, the winner of the competition draw was "In 2017 libraries will be... loved". Sigh.

...a photo set on Flickr

The National Library is pretty experienced with digital collection building, so during the conference we managed to get a good digitisation workflow going to build a set of cards on Flickr.

Here are some lessons learned if you want to try this kind of campaign yourself:

  • Put your wall in a well lit space

  • Photograph for access not preservation (medium resolution JPEGS are just fine)

  • Use the macro setting on your digital camera if it has one

  • Set aside a special terminal specifically for processing the images

  • Download Flickr Uploadr or another widget to make life easy on yourself (six images at a time using the upload form on the Flickr site just doesn't cut the mustard)

  • Make decisions about your metadata (erm, that is tags, titles, and descriptions) in advance… you don’t want to be deciding half way through uploading 200 cards that they should all be tagged LIANZA2007, or to find your cards floating around the blogosphere sans provenance

  • Be prepared for some retrospective data cleaning (in hindsight IMG-257 isn’t the most useful title tag if the cards are going global, and we haven't de-duped yet, but we sacrificed best practice for expediency)

Meanwhile the ‘real’ cards are sitting quietly in a box waiting to be preserved for posterity. Nobody is quite sure whether they constitute manuscripts, ephemera, or corporate archives. Help? Not to mention the challenge of archiving a 'transitional' collection that is half physical, half digital. But that is another post altogether.


It has been fascinating to see the catalogue cards take on a new life post-conference. There have been over 3,500 views of the In 2017 Libraries will be Flickr set, though few people have commented on them like they did in Rotorua. I wonder if this is because the cards are anonymous? Or because it is an institutional profile? Or possibly just proof that the majority of people in social networking sites just observe and don't participate?

There is a nice integration of the cards as a slideshow on Paper Cuts from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library.

Emily Clasper has picked a few of her favourite responses on her blog, Library Revolution.

I also like the way Timothy Greig has taken the cards to the next level, and photoshopped his own card for Flickr

....ten years on

Ten years ago (according to the Internet Archive) the National Library was looking forward to a future in which ‘Computers will become the first point of access to library information held anywhere and the idea of a 'library without walls' will become a reality.’ Breaking news was TELNET access to the National Library’s Online Catalogue...

My pick for 2017 is that libraries will be environments where we can interact with digital information in a far more physical and tactile way. Something like the interactive CityWall in Helsinki, or using the e-scrolls we'll all be touting. What do you reckon?


wias said...

you know I would love being able to telnet to the new zealand national bibliography

Andy Neale said...

It would be interesting to understand why telnet would be helpful? I understand that the ASCII OPAC hasn't been updated by the vendor recently ... and we have no current plans to implement. Is it for convenience, or is there something else?

dorje mckinnon said...

The collection is a superb meld of the physical (cards) and digital (flickr) culminating in a snapshot of the current zeitgeist amongst librarians in NZ.

It reminded me of primary school where all along the corridor are paintings by the students. These just happen to be word pictures of the future.

Great stuff.

Brenda Chawner said...

Virginia, I thought this was a brilliant idea - not only did it capture people's imaginations, it also generated lots of comment in the biblioblogosphere.

Who would have thought 10 years ago that something that happened at a LIANZA (or NZLA as it was then) conference would generate such global interest?

Virginia said...

Thanks dorje and brenda - we had a great team of thinkers and doers at the Library who brought this idea to fruition (not to mention all the delegates at Conference who shared their thoughts)!