Crossing the Border: Changing Times for Librarians and Genealogists

Cynthia O'NeilSunday, 3:30 – 4:30

Description
Every library has the basic tools needed by patrons who are searching for their roots, but librarians may not realize the extent of their online and print resources. Cynthia O’Neil, Certified Genealogist, Board for Certification of Genealogists and genealogy expert at the Manchester (NH) City Library, leads you through the process of assisting genealogists, as new technology and tight budgets encourage genealogists and librarians to work together.


There has been a divide between librarians and genealogists.

Genealogists think: everyone who works in a library is a “librarian” and needs to answer questions
Librarians think: everyone asking genealogy questions will be happy with the resources we can provide

Genealogists span from simply the curious to amateurs to professions who have their own research styles, favorite tools, and want to do their own work. A new group of genealogists are family members doing this work to find family medical histories and family DNA.

Amateur give the professionals a bad name – examples of amateur questions:

  • Where is the book on my family?
  • Can you do my family tree?

Librarians help find information, not do their work.

The best genealogists want original records or primary sources, which often are not in libraries. They are in City Clerks office or Archives, but vary by state and county, which makes it difficult for visiting genealogists to understand. Secondary source are usually not what genealogists want.

Problems between librarians and genealogists:

  • The reference interview can be difficult for genealogists, because it is very personal information and they don’t want to hear that information may not be available
  • Library resources are usually secondary sources, copies, or gifts (which leads to an uneven or “worn” collection)
  • Families move away, so libraries might not have information
  • Genealogists often think that everything about a townsperson is available somewhere in that town
  • Genealogy is usually not the main focus (or skill set) of a public library

Resources libraries already have that are of use to genealogists:

  • City directories
  • microfilm
  • maps (USGS, town, etc)
  • published local histories (even of surrounding towns)
  • how-to books on genealogy
  • town annual reports and vital records
  • cemetery records
  • the World Almanac (contains a timeline of history and a perpetual calendar to find past days/dates)
  • know who to contact to find church records

Session Handout

The handout was a bibliography of suggested core collection for libraries in New England:

Books:

Databases:

Websites:

  • Check for your state or town’s historical society’s website
  • [many more listed, will add asap]

How to help Genealogists

  • Encourage them to call before coming so you can be ready
  • Help them find information outside of the library
  • Ask them to tell us what they can’t find, so we know what resources to look for
  • Give out-of-towners local history information in addition to genealogical information, to help give them context (since New England history goes further back than other areas of the country

Question & Answer period

Q:What kind of information do you get out of land grants?
Where people lived, especially during certain time frames, see how land was passed through family members, learn how land was used.

Q: Do you have patrons come in and say donated information is wrong? Is it our responsibility to correct it?
Leave it the way it is, but include a note (with patron contact info) to notify subsequent users. The printed information came from somewhere, but no record is perfect.

Q: Boston University is starting an extension program for genealogy – should history-reluctant staff be sent for training, or just have one person on staff who is the expert?
Many staff are afraid of genealogy questions, and no amount of training will change that. Some find they unexpectedly enjoy it, so encourage them to try. If they are covering the expert’s lunch, they can at least pass out their business card.

Advertisements

NELA ITS Spring Program – technology self-sufficiency!

The New England Library Association Information Technology Section proudly presents our 2008 Spring Workshop, “Library-Wide IT Proficiencies.”

The workshop is focused on teaching technology self-sufficiency, so library staff in every department can feel comfortable handling common technology issues. Using a “train the trainer” format, the presenters will emphasize sharing the practical knowledge and skills IT staff may take for granted. The goal is to reduce the fear factor many library staff have when dealing with common technology, from changing printer cartridges to navigating the network.

Date: Thursday, June 12, 2008
Location: Bryant University, Smithfield, RI
Directions to BU’s Bryant Center: http://web.bryant.edu/~conf/directions.htm

Cost: NELA Members – $55 Non-members – $65

PROGRAM SCHEDULE
8:30 Registration and Continental Breakfast
9:00 – 12:00 Part I: Proficiency, IT Staff and End Users
12:00 – 12:45 Buffet Lunch
12:45 – 3:00 Part II: Roadmap to Creating an IT-Savvy Library Staff
3:00 Questions and Program Wrap-Up

Each workshop attendee will receive a flash drive containing all presentation materials and handouts.

TO REGISTER
Visit http://nelib.org/its/conference for both online and mail-in [pdf] registration forms.

MORE ABOUT THE WORKSHOP
IT staff must be able to assist in maintaining a library-wide level of competence and confidence not only in using current IT resources, but also in learning new ways of working smarter. The workshop begins with the basic elements of end user education to promote departmental self-sufficiency and moves on to the higher level of assisting librarians with cutting edge technology awareness and use. Participants will receive tools, techniques and many ideas on ways to increase the IT proficiency of all library staff.

ABOUT THE PRESENTERS
Gary K. McCone and Grace R. Sines work in the Information Systems department of the National Agricultural Library. As Associate Director, Gary is responsible for the development, maintenance and quality Assurance of computer systems and NAL databases, and has significant experience in providing consultation for the establishment of libraries in developing countries. Grace, Deputy Associate Director for Information technology, has over 20 years of experience in managing information technology services, and has authored numerous Federal policies and procedures concerning the implementation and operation of information systems.

Tip Top Tech Training

Laura Blake (NETSL) introduced Dodie Gaudet.

Experience as supervisors, dept. head, contract cataloger, aerobics instructor- lots of training experience (rec’d and giving).

Trainging is an integral part of lib’s job (our REAL job).

Emphasis on preparation.

PREPARATION:
wHAT DO YOU want to accompl. with traingin?
demo?
train?
train the trainer?

know situation, audience, environment:
who are listeners?
why are they here?
training staff to use the latest vers of software?
train patrons to use databse?

plan for time to practice training program!!!!! 2-3 hours- 1 hour of traing, then rest for practice.

Plan for breaks! esp for long sessions.

Know your material:
Make sure you know what you’re doing before you try to teach someone else (research more than you actually need so you are fully prepared).
helps build interest in topic
” confidence in you own knowledge of topic
good foundation for qa
allows you to choose best/strongest material

3 parts of presentation:
Opening- tell them what you’re going to tell them
Body: Tell them
Closing: Tell them what you’ve told them

Opening:
Get listener’s attention
Est. credentials
Give listeners a reason for listening
Involve audience (introduce selves- small group)

Body:
Cover info/steps from the very beginning
don’t assume the aud. has a background in the subj., if not sure, ask
Review any relevant history
if you think some of the people already know some of what you’re covering, and don’t want to insult them by expl. from scratch, ask “Who knows about?”
Rather than saying: Of course you already know that, try saying “You may already know…”
Include every step
things that are obvious to an experienced person are not always obvious to a new learner
be clear
reduce jargon (or define it)
paint a picture with words
prepare specific examples
use them to illustrate var. aspects of software
prepare examples of most common mistakes
show what happens when the mistake is make
show how to get out of it
speak to the listener’s wants and needs
be relevant
use gimmicks with caution- be releveant!
diff. people have diff. visual learning styles
auditory, visual, kinesthetic**
conceptual vs. detail (go thru every step)
give 2 diff. examples expl. the same thing (no more than three ex.)
give non-computer examples/draw parallels with everyday life
if someone doesn’t understand explain it in a diff. way (don’t repeat what you’ve just said)
ask other trainees who do understand to explain

Closing:
end on time
quickly review/summarize material
end with conviction, have a clear ending
get immediate feedback to incorporate into the next training
certificate of completion helps give closure

Prepare handouts:
Incl. screen shots if possible (useful if internet/computer is down)
Include step-by-step details
Include info about how quickly or slowly the next screen will appear
Don’t put too much info on one page
Leave lots of white space for notes
give them at BEGINNING of presentation

Practice:
Use the same computers that trainees will be using
practice with all a/v aids or props you will use, incl. setting up and moving around
remember the places you had diffic. when you were learning
notice where you tend to make mistakes (others will likely do the same)
modify presentation if necessary
review handouts for possible revisions
rehearse aloud (4 times if possible)
rehearse with people you know and get feedback
if you are wokring with other trainers, coordinate your parts and stay within you allotted time

We then took a quiz (I htink I only got one right!!!!), which illustrated the point that if you look for feedback from your audience, make sure it’s stuff you’ve just shared with them, and not random stuff that they should know but don’t.

The Presentation:

Est. rapport with the trainees, be approachable
be friendly, smile
introduce yourself
have them into themselves
tell a personal story related to the traingin
review agenda- always let people know what to expect

Be attentive to your audience and their needs
review handouts with trainees
cover material at a slow enough pace so ppl. can absorb
cover same material with a different excercise
allow ample opportunity for people to ask questions
watch computer screens to keep people from getting lost- if there are many people have proctors to help

Watch audience for signals
if they look restless, change your pres. style, take a quick stretch break, or get them involved by asking questions
(web sites provided in handout)

We did a stretching excericise here- hands on small of back and lean back, finger on chin and push back to prevent leaning forward, pull back on fingers of each hand, touch thumbs to fingers, rotate hands, rotate feet.

We memorized a rhyme in parts, to stress the importance of breaking concepts into parts to learn more easily (handout provided).

Create an atmosphere conducive to learning:
-enthusiastic
-patient and non judging
-break things into small steps
-provide for success (praise, encouragement)
-inspire confid. be reassuring
-encourage experimenting
-make learning fun
-use humor
-encourage questions
if a questions is too detailed or out of the scope of this training, give a simpler answer and offer to go into more depth at the break
if the question is something you planned to cover later, say so. make sure you cover it later.
IMPORTANT TO HAVE TEST ENVIRONMENT, and encourage “play”- you can’t break this!
-for beginners who need help using a mouse, visit (website)

NEVER IMPLY THAT A TRAINEE IS STUPID B/C HE/SHE DOSEN’T ALREADY KNOW HOW TO DO THIS.

At regualr intervals during pres., sum up what has been covered and what is still to be covered.

Use a pointing stick or laser pointer instead of your hand

Don’t apologize to listeners, never say you’re not prepared

Acknowledge any problems that happen and continue.

Voice:
pay attn to vol, diction, pitch, speed
use vocal variety
pause for effect just before and after important points
elim. ahs, ums, likes, verbal tics – have someone count your tics when practicing
take care of yourself:
drink water and stay hydrated- talking is a dehyrdrating activity
avoid milk products before speaking
avoid overeating just before speaking
avoid caffeine and alchohol just before speaking
be well reasted- plan training for am if monring person, afternoon if not, etc.
stay in good physical and mental condition

attend workshops, etc. and remember what it’s like to learn something new
pay attn. to presenter/instructor
eval. presentation
always be preparing to give your next workshop

QUESTION: what do you do when nothing is going right? Acknowledge problem, try to solve as a groiup, then carry on.

QUESTION: how do you deal with people who show up late? keep going and catch them up later? this is usually the way to go. sometimes starting with intros (self, others) delays start of actual material and accounts for stragglers. late people can catch up with other trainees, over breaks, etc.

QUESITON: what doyou do with diff. learning speeds? Handouts are helpful for speddier people to work alone while you can help others who are having a harder time. Having a proctor/helper to go around helps.

Excercise: Explain how to build a snowman. We get 3-4 min to explain.

1) if it’s a snowy, go outside and gather a handful of snow. Cup boths hands and clap the hand without snow in it on top of the hand with snow. You may want to wear gloves. If the snow “packs” well, menaing if it consolidates enough to become significantly firmer, then the snow outside is appropriate for building a snowperson. If the snow sort of flies out of your hand or remains loose and fluffy, it is not good snow for making a snowperson and you should go inside and have some tea.
Example of good snow: http://www1.istockphoto.com/file_thumbview_approve/1421367/2/istockphoto_1421367_snowball_in_hand.jpg

2) gather decorative materials: eyes, nose, apparael, , etc. stuff you don’t care about because it will be out in the elements for several days.
3)start by making 3 snowballs, by repeating step 1. pack more and more snow onto the each ball

place according to aesthetic desirres in snowperson by attaching via snow.

Up and Coming Technology:Forget about Google: Some Technology Trends that will Change our World

3:45 –   5:00 Sunday

Susan Hassler, Editor-in-Chief

IEEE Spectrum Magazine

s.hassler@ieee.org

IEEE Spectrum Magazine/ Fellows Institute for the Future (IFTF):

Identifying technologies that will have a significant impact over next 10-20 years 

Extending biology

  • Augmenting our own biology-though chemistry, such as Prozac, steroids, etc in order to increase people’s attributes, as in bionic humans.   Examples: artificial eyes, ability to detect infrared, replacement limbs under neural control, subdural implants of RFIDs (radio frequency IDs) to take care of health, i.e. carry medical records.
  • Synthetic biology (creating new lifeforms): “Biology is the nanotechnology that actually works.” Example: synthetic bacteria to eat up oil spills.

 

Information Technology

  • Wireless communication and computation, distributed (decentralized) sensing, RFIDs (radio frequency IDs) in computers, cell phones, clothes, cars, etc.
  • Projection: gigabit internet access available in 47% of homes in developed countries within 10 years
  • 1980s= Era of personal computers
  • 1990s=Era of Internet “Google is currently the epicenter of interconnected knowledge and applications on the web.”
  • 2007-2027 = Era of sensor networks; imbedded chips & tracking devices to read them. 

Distributed information:

  • From centralized grids to decentralized & customized for smaller groups of users.
  • WIFI cities
  • Ad hoc mesh wireless networks
  • Voice-over IP
  • Global networks of science and innovation

Power & Utilities:

  • Home fuel cells, reverse-flowing grids, storage technologies.
  • “Things don’t need to be in one place anymore.” 

Things mentioned:

CA Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology

OptiPuter: optical networking=couples computational resources over parallel optical networks in real time

SAGE

Blue Marble dataset

Falco Kuester

 iGrid2005: 4k digital video=very high resolution video.  YouTube is the tip of the iceberg

Ian Jukes and Anita Dosaj: The Infosavvy Group

How will these innovations change the way we live?

Connected and available 24/7 =not true until 10 years ago

Networks dictate how we learn and how our children learn. It is NEW that ALL networks are interconnected.

Roy Amara, ”We tend to overestimate technology in the short term and underestimate impact in the long term.”

Information once it’s digitized will travel from format to format.

Literacy will no longer mean “the ability to read and write,” but will mean “the ability to understand and work with many forms of media.”

Libraries will have to curate these many forms of media.

Libraries will have to deal with far-flung membership, instead of geographically-based membership.

Physical libraries will remain valued sources of social networking.

 

 

Discussion Group: Wireless

Description:
Wireless technology now has many faces. Join ITS members to discuss the various issues that we face with all the wireless devices and platforms. Non-wireless users and “thinking about it” persons are welcome too. The ITS business meeting is included.


Introduction to NELA-ITS, and what they do – work with and talk about technology, and plan an annual ITS Spring Technology workshop.

Wireless is very common in libraries today, so today’s session is an “in-person tech support session” with ITS tech staff.

Issues brought up:

Problem is with signing on with IE7 and/or Vista not with bluesocket connection (but okay with IE6 and/or Firefox).

  • check for firmware upgrades
  • check “security” settings in browser – try setting everything to default
  • check any other security settings (Norton, McAfee, etc)
  • Connecting to wireless with Vista has actually worked better than XP for ITS staff, as Vista recognizes a wireless connection and automatically locks down other areas of the computer to protect it

Wireless laptops in the library

  • Circulating laptops saves on room as they don’t require dedicated table space
  • Using wireless laptops as lookup stations in parts of the library that would be difficult to wire
  • Handling updates can be problematic, as they all need to be turned on and “unfrozen.” Perhaps leave them on overnight to let updates happen
  • Use same virus protect as on public computers
  • Think about using some kind of bandwidth limiting (or a packet shaper). Bluesocket can also do this

How to balance access and security?

  • Access should be as wide and freely-available as possible
  • Keep in mind that if a network is hacked, then all information on that network is potentially vulnerable
  • Weight likelihood of break-in (such as Coast Guard Academy or a college’s student network) with needs of the public

Wireless printing

  • Provide a link for patrons to download printer driver
  • Have a separate printer networked to the wireless router
  • Have patrons send document as email attachment to special email account
  • Keep a flash drive handy to move to a print-enabled computer

Turning off wireless connection at night?

  • Turn it off at night to keep people from hanging out in the parking lot
  • Police will sometimes prevent loitering, even though the connection is on
  • Seems to be bad publicity for library

Wireless network separate from staff network, to protect ILS and staff from external computers

  • currently using free Comcast network access
  • use VLAN

Network monitoring (if one person brings in an infected computer, just block that one person instead of shutting down the entire network) and a splash screen (patron must agree to Acceptable Use Policy)


ITS Annual Business Meeting

  • Rick Taplin is incoming Chair
  • Scott Kehoe is Vice-Chair
  • Marilyn Borgendale is secretary
  • Members-at-Large: Margaret Perkins and Brian Herzog
  • Kathy Lussier is outgoing Chair
  • NELA-ITS has a Yahoo group – sign up for meeting announcements
  • Usually meet bi-monthly in Shrewsbury, MA
  • Main activities is planning for Spring Conference, sessions for NELA Annual Conference, and a cookout at Rick Taplin’s house.

OS Follies

Review of Vista, Linux, and MAC OS.

Barbara Andrews, Andrews Consulting – Vista

  • Very easy to connect to peripheral devices. Connected to projector with no problem.
  • With printers, “I’m able to connect to any printer pretty much seamlessly.
  • Coming out with service pack in next year. Continuing sales for XP through 2009.
  • Look of desktop – more modern. More MAC-like.
  • Right side of desktop, Windows sidebar. Gadgets on the right side of desktop. Barbara has a clock and an RSS Reader for news updates. Can add more gadgets.
  • While showing different clocks can add as gadget, Barbara said, “How useful all this is, I don’t know, but it’s fun!”
  • Start menu no longer says start, just a little button.
  • Start menu set up differently.
  • Search box in lower left Start menu. As typing, Windows does an active search. FAST!!!!
  • Lower right of start button is the sleep button. Puts the computer in low power, but will come right back to where you left off when you wake it up.
  • The windows all have an address bar at the top and a search button to the right, so you can search files in a particular folder.
  • Control panel is organized by categories, but allows you to go back to classic view for people who like the old way.
  • Somewhat hidden in Vista and Office 2007, there’s no Help menu. Look for the question mark.
  • Snipping tool allows you to capture parts of the screen. Can select an area of the screen, and it converts the image into a JPG file.
  • Save button still has image of a floppy disk.
  • User account control – prevents something from being done to the computer from off site. Security feature. Bad thing is it can be turned off.
  • Photo gallery – Like iPhoto (MAC program.) Looks a lot like Picasa.
  • Minimized windows – if you put your pointer on the task bar, you get a thumbnail of what’s in the window.
  • Added 3D capability. Hold Windows key and press tab, able to scroll through different windows with a cool 3-D effect.
  • Built-in parental controls. Can set up an account for a child and set up types of Web sites they can visit, time limits for the computer, control access to games, block access to specific programs.
  • Can use a USB drive as additional RAM. Once you use a portion of the flash drive as memory, it can’t be used for storage again.
  • Windows firewall been improved, Windows Defender is built in.

Wes Hamilton, Western Massachusetts Regional Library System, Linux

  • Up until recently, GNU Linux hasn’t really been considered as a viable alternative to Windows, but people are working to change that.
  • Linux is known to be very reliable.
  • Known for maximizing the resources built in your computer. Can get more bang for your buck.
  • Known for its freedom to choose, to copy software freely. Also a problem, because there are so many people contributing to linux, that there are so many distributions of Linux.
  • Showing Ubuntu today. Fedora, Open Suse are also popular distributions.
  • Ubuntu – latest and greatest version doesn’t come out until Thursday. Couldn’t get it to project. Showing last version – 6 months old.
  • Ubuntu is known as Linux for human beings.
  • Ubuntu makes it easier to take advantage of the built-in security.
  • Ubuntu is simple. Installs what you need automatically.
  • Affordable – It’s affordable. Also affordable in terms of support costs.
  • You’re free to put what you want on the desktop. They don’t choose for you.
  • Disk usage analyzer – provides a nice map where all the disk space is going. Graphical representation of how much space each directory is taking up. If running out of disk space, can run this program to figure out how to free it up.
  • If you run into trouble, there’s a large support community to tap into.
  • Thought years ago was that it’s not the operating system that matters, it’s the applications. Strong point for Windows. But Ubuntu automatically comes with these applications: Open Office, Firefox, Evolution (replacement for Outlook, isn’t quite there yet.). Automatic updates for these applications as well. Gimp is similar to Adobe PhotoShop.
  • If there is a program you need that isn’t installed, can go into Administration and Synaptic Package Manager. Tracks different packages can install, but doesn’t automatically install them. Can go there to install other programs.
  • In terms for libraries, if you have an older computer, starting to slow down. One option is to get an Ubuntu CD to build a simple Public Access workstation.
  • Adding linux to an existing system can be problematic. Need to partition drive to make space for Ubuntu.
  • “Ubuntu just works except when it doesn’t.”
  • Question about Koha software. Wes has looked at the code; it seems to be very impressive.
  • Question: How old computer? What’s realistic? Wouldn’t do much older than three years old. If older, other distributions are geared for lower resources.
  • Question about viruses. Aren’t a lot of viruses on the Linux platform. Worms have happened from time to time in the past. But it doesn’t happen enough to make it an issue. Free anti-virus program called Clam.
  • Question about Ubuntu and wireless. Depends on the wireless cards. AMD, HP known to be friendly with linux. Broadcom can be problematic and they make a lot of wireless cards. There are always workarounds, it’s a matter of how much time you can spend on it.

Apple OS 10, Scott Kehoe, Northeast Massachusetts Regional Library System

  • Links to this presentation available at http://del.icio.us/bibliotechy/osx
  • As he tries to get system to project, Scott says, “All of these systems work great with projectors until we came into this room.”
  • Not a Mac guy who’s been using Macs forever and can’t stop talking about them. Well, he wasn’t one of those guys until a year ago. “Once you go MAC, you can’t go back…It makes everything fun again.”
  • Dell died last October – blue screen of death constantly. Tried using MAC. “Now you can’t pry it out of my hands.”
  • Apple notorious for the one-button mouse. But in OS 10, you can now use a two-button mouse.
  • Works really well with peripheral devices. Doesn’t prompt you for disks to find drivers.
  • Compatibility isn’t an issue. Scott uses Mac version of Microsoft Office, no trouble burning CDs that work on any OS, thumb drives work.
  • Software – knocked because does not have as much freeware. In past year, Scott has noticed a change in the amount of software available for Macs.
  • In the guts, Macs are using the same hardware as PCs.
  • No viruses to worry about. No Spyware, no bloatware (all those icons that come with your new Windows computer for programs you don’t want.) “I’m the only Mac user I know who uses Symantec anti-virus on my Mac.”
  • Menus are plain English.
  • Help menus are actually helpful.
  • DeepFreeze has a version for Mac. A site license includes license for Mac.
  • Talked to librarian today who just loves the built-in PDF support. The PDF just pops open without a separate download for Adobe. Don’t need to worry about Adobe updates.
  • All three of us share in common – we can all use Firefox. “Firefox in the Mac works just like Firefox in Windows.”
  • OS 10 is called Tiger. Came out in 2001.
  • New version of OS 10 (Leopard) will come out next Friday according to media speculation. Similar to a Windows Service Pack, but Apple charges you for you.
  • http://www.apple.com/retail/storelist. Apple stores have free WiFi, have all their stuff out to play with, free classes.
  • State/local government store online. Government employees get a discount.
  • F9 key – brings all of your open windows forward on your desktop.
  • Spotlight search – constantly indexing stuff in the background of your computer. Immediately start searching as you type.
  • Easy to set up another user account with restrictions for children. (Vista is a little slicker, according to Scott)
  • Question about joining a Windows domain. Very easy – Scott is on a domain at work. Easiest way to get in is via IP address. Once you know the IP address of your server, click on Connect, type IP address, and your part of Windows domain. No problem sharing files.
  • Question about when Office 2007 will be compatible for Mac – will come out with Mac version 2008 in January.

 

Up & Coming Technology with Susan Hassler

Susan Hassler, editor for IEEE Spectrum, gave us a look at the possibilities for technology in the next 10 to 20 years in her talk on Up & Coming Technology. The subject of her talk came from the results of a survey of 700 members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, known as the IEEE Fellows. They were asked to project out 10, 20 and 50 years on where they see potential technological advancements. The engineers balked at projecting out 50 years, but did come up with some predictions for the next 10 to 20 years. According to Hassler, the engineers were very serious about their predictions and stayed away from the sci-fi realm. For example, they did not see robotic nurses caring for the elderly any time in the near future or self-driving cars. She focused her talk on two major areas of potential advancement: extending biology and the smart interconnection of everything. The full article that IEEE Spectrum ran on the survey results can be found here.

Extending Biology

The surveyed engineers predicted biotechnology would impact us before nanotechnology. They were particularly interested in augmenting our own biologies, ie bionic humans. These developments could be used to fix people with injuries or trauma, but they also talked about enhancing people. Artificial retinas were one example. Not only could they cure blindness, but they may also be used to detect infrared or to enhance vision in other ways.

This was the first point where Hassler began discussing RFID, which we revisited later in “Sensor Nation” portion of her presentation. RFID is a great thing for companies like Wal-mart, she said, because they can keep inventory, but if you put it in your pocket, “they can track where you are.”

She mentioned a husband and wife who planted RFID chips in their hands so they would not need to use keys or passwords. You can read more about this couple here.

There are a couple of schools in Japan where kids have RFID tags in their backpacks or on their person. When they arrive at school, an e-mail is sent home saying they arrived safely at school. (Yikes! Personally, I find this very creepy.)

Smart Interconnection of Everything

Three areas of technology converge to get to the Smart Interconnection of Everything.

  • Computation and Bandwidth to Burn
  • Sensor Nation
  • Distributed Networks

Computation and Bandwidth to Burn

Many survey respondents (44%) predicted that in developed countries we will have Gigabit Internet access available in homes in 10 years or less. Another 45% said it will come in 11 to 20 years.

Sensor Nation

Hassler talked about a world where people have teeny tiny cameras and teeny tiny GPS sensors. Prices are falling for both RFID chips and RFID sensors. Hassler said the 1980s were shaped by personal computers, the 1990s were shaped by the Internet. “The next 20 years will be the era of sensor networks.”

Distributed Networks

Technology and other entities have typically followed a top-down, hierarchal structure. This is changing in many areas. For example, in the power industry, electrical power had always been delivered from the power source. We now have the capability for consumers to generate power during low-use periods and feed it back to the power plant for use by another consumer. Hassler saw this in the library profession as well, where users can have more of a role in library service.

What happens when these three areas converge. Hassler’s response is Google Maps, (powered by computers with large bandwidth, using satellite technology (Sensor Nation), on a distributed network.) But Hassler sees much more significant results as these three areas become bigger and seesmore convergence.

A note on Google: Hassler says Google’s search is very fast, very great. But it’s also very crude. They’re bringing audio and video into the search, “but it’s not like bringing a human being in” (hmm….like a super information-seeking librarian?) Hassler says, “When our technology starts to mimic our own abilities, we expect it to do more. ..Technologies are like extensions of ourselves, but we get disappointed when they don’t live up to our expectations.”

Hassler talked about a OptIPuter project out of the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technlogy where scientists are using an enormous optical network and software that allows users to to look at multiple streams of video content in real-time to watch real-time video with absolutely no degradation (think of the jerky video you see when you’re streaming on YouTube.) I won’t go into too much detail here other than to mention that although this all seems like very high level stuff with no relevance to the ordinary user, Hassler noted that the Internet started out this way. Hollywood has been very interested in this technology as a way to delivery movies over the Internet, and this is something that can plausibly be available in households in the future.

Hassler did discuss some issues for libraries to consider amidst all this technology:

  • What does it mean to be literate? It no longer means just being able to read and write. How can libraries help people become literate?
  • Libraries need to think about archiving digital content. Will an academic library archive every podcast created by the class of 2007?
  • Physical libraries will still have a role in building social networks.

The discussion following this presentation was very interesting. The question of cost – who will pay for all of this? Hassler says it will most likely be private industry that will see a value in making this happen. Will the data collected by private industry with this technology make it worthwhile?

A comment was made that it may increase the divide between the haves and the have nots. Hassler’s response – maybe, maybe not. She didn’t see the cost lying in the devices, but in the bandwidth. With the growth of publicly available wireless networks, it may not be as much of an issue here. The $100 laptop project has sent computers to people in developing nations, but the problem there is they don’t have a telecommunications infrastructure that supports high bandwidth.

Hassler had talked briefly about the differences between digital natives (the generation that has grown up with computers) and digital immigrants (the rest of us) which led to a question about a younger generation of technology users who are looking for instant gratification and may not be fully considering the consequences of these decisions. In response, Hassler asks, “Are they less well educated? Are they less equipped to make plans? Or do they just make them in another way?”

An academic librarian said his concern is making technology relevant for students, and he doesn’t see that the current equipment in his library is supporting this. With the proper technology, he said, these students could be in digital group study instead of going to the library for group study. “I thought that as I walked through the exhibit hall,” Hassler said, noting that she was surprised there wasn’t more technology in the exhibits. “I thought where is all that stuff?”

I will attach Hassler’s PowerPoint to this post as soon as I get it.