17 September 2013

Meandering Thoughts on Library Users

Focusing on the module two theme of the nature of library users and their communities resulted in me finding some parallels in other sources around me. Without planning I caught a show on television last night... “The Observer Effect” on SBS One – talking about ‘the sharing economy’ and how the internet is bringing back the early human behaviours of borrowing, bartering and renting rather than ownership which Rachel Botsman described as a relatively new behaviour. Her message is that a transformation is happening in how we consume things; that we don’t really benefit from a power drill that we use for only 15 minutes in its entire life – we really only need the hole that the drill can produce. She suggests that people are starting to question if they need to work so hard to buy things that really don’t bring them happiness. The host uses the concept of the library card being all important for borrowing a book rather than owning a book.

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Imagine if every street had it’s own 'library' of power tools, gardening implements, lawn mowers, hedge trimmers, specialised cake tins, sewing machines, knitting needles, crochet hooks and paint trays. These older behaviours are clearly linked to community norms focussed on objects, whereas ownership is more about the individual's relationship to objects.

Rachel Botsman's TED talk has some interesting concepts for libraries too. She talks about trust being the currency of the collaborative economy, and that collaborative consumption empowers people to make meaningful connections that enable rediscovery of humanness. Libraries, for the most part have the trust of their communities and are sometimes described as the 'heart' of their community (eg. Libraries are the heart of a university) - having 'heart' is very humanising description for an institution.

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Then, in my tweetstream up popped an infographic exploring how children of different generations operated and how they use the Internet now. How 3 Different Generations Use The Internet by Kati Lepi. It actually looks at more than just the Internet - it includes reading of newspapers, books, watching television, cultural and social behaviours. It's interesting for looking at broad differences, but I feel it's so important to not judge the individual by their generation's stereotype. The risk of patronising the baby boomer and expecting the school leaver to have a very high level of technical skill does no one a service.  People's natural tendency to introversion or extraversion can highly influence their online behaviours as much as their generation does. Within any group there is a spectrum of lurkers to over-sharers.

In the Clay Shirky book (Here Comes Everybody) talk video, he mentioned that the Internet natively supports the formation of groups - I agree with this - but I wonder if the introverts feel just as challenged in these groups as they report in face-to-face (f2f) group dynamics. The Internet appears to work almost at the speed of thought. My introvert friends tell me about the challenges of participating in f2f conversations and needing more time to ponder and formulate their responses. In an online world is this harder or easier? It's possible that for some the remote nature of the Internet means they can feel bolder about responding, but the speed at which content grows might make it harder to track down content that's a few days old once you have eventually developed your ideas on it. As an illustration, I wanted to link to a blog post about how poor most people's IT skills are (basic file management for example) in this post. I'm sure I only read it a few weeks ago, but it's lost to me already. I didn't bookmark it because it was not all that remarkable until I started reading the article on the digital native vs digital immigrant debate.

A few days ago a bookless public library opened in Texas. (Bookless Public Library http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/09/14/222442870/bookless-public-library-opens-in-texas) The section in this article that struck me was this sentence about a much earlier bookless library that was started in 2002.
"Years later, however, residents — fatigued by the electronics — requested that actual books be added to the collection, and today, enjoy a full-access library with computers" -- Reema Khrais

Fatigued by the electronics! Yep - I know folks who choose to go off the grid periodically to experience a slower pace, with more time for meditation, less distractions. And the other phrase that intrigues me is "full-access library". In this article this appears to be a library that has print as well as ebooks - but it has so much more potential. Access to everything! The internet can't mow your lawn, but perhaps your library can use the Internet to connect you with a community of sharers, or barterers who can help you get the job done.

Libraries traditionally focus on information resources in the form of containers (physical or electronic files) of intellectual output. Sometimes the best information resource is a person: an expert, or someone who has contacts with a specialised group.

  1. The Observer Effect with Ellen Fanning. Broadcast 15 Sep 2013 on SBS One. http://www.sbs.com.au/ondemand/video/48149059617/The-Observer-Effect-Sneak-Peek-of-Episode-16

  2. Botsman, Rachel. The currency of the new collaborative economy is trust. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/rachel_botsman_the_currency_of_the_new_economy_is_trust.html

  3. Lepi, Kate. How 3 Different Generations Use The Internet. 14 Sep 2013 http://www.edudemic.com/kids-of-the-past-vs-today-infographic/

  4. Shirky, Clay. Clay Shirky on Here Comes Everybody

  5. Chappell, Bill.Bookless Public Library Opens in Texas 14 Sep 2013 http://www.wbur.org/npr/222442870/bookless-public-library-opens-in-texas

  6. Jason Tester Guerilla Futures. Borrow one here. http://www.flickr.com/photos/89306448@N00/5867660141 (CC Licence)