Top Technology Trends

The three presenters at the Top Technology Trends session were Walt Crawford, Paul Takala, and Anita Brooks-Kirkland.

I have been following Walt Crawford’s writing for a number of years, and it was an honour to hear him speak at the Top Technology Trends session Saturday at OLA 2009. Walt Crawford is the Director and Managing Editor of the PALINET Leadership Network (http://pln.palinet.org/wiki/index.php/PLN_Home). Walt Crawford’s newsletter is Cites & Insights at http://citesandinsights.info/.

Walt Crawford

[I later learned that PALINET merged with SOLINET (Southeastern Library Network, Inc.) to form LYRASIS (http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6635133.html?rssid=191).]

Walt Crawford likes to throw out words of caution. He is concerned about the lack of business plans for free web services (now commonly referred to as "The Cloud"). Some of these services are disappearing because not all can rely on advertisements or eventual buy-out by Microsoft or Google. Walt was also concerned about the rush to support mobile devices– he doesn’t have a data plan for his cell phone, and he believes smartphone service is likely outside the affordable price range for many people.

I liked Walt Crawford’s warning about those who argue that technology is "inevitable." Saying something is "inevitable" is not a replacement for a sound argument. He even put forward the concern that open source software isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Since experts have to be paid to update and modify the software, open source solutions for libraries aren’t necessarily better than closed source. In fact, because many library software products have APIs, there is usually more than enough capacity for customization and enhancements. He referred people to the American Library Association Midwinter Conference session on Top Technology Trends where this issue was discussed. The mp3 recording of the session is here: http://litablog.org/podpress_trac/web/1268/0/TTTMW09.mp3. The video of the session is here: http://litablog.org/2009/01/26/top-tech-trends-midwinter-2009-video/.

Paul Takala, the manager of Electronic Services at Hamilton Public Library, cited one major benefit of open source software, and that is the fact that libraries can keep the code if the vendor is dropped. Hamilton Public Library is using Drupal, an open source content management system for its next web site. Open source software is also used on the public computers at the library. Open source software made it easier to meet the objective of having all public computers do everything.

Paul Takala’s background is interesting. He likes to avoid platitudes, and that comes from his experience with aid projects in Gambia. He compared the "dead machine" approach with the "living garden" approach. A dead machine approach in Gambia was a project for diesel-powered water pumps. Over time, maintenance and acquiring diesel became problems. On the other hand, hand-pumped wells supplying water to gardens produced a sustainable economy and improved the diet. Paul Takala said we need to spend more time asking "why" instead of jumping to "how." Technology needs to be functional, useful and used.

As an example, we need to spend more time on catalogues and not library web sites. Library catalogues get used a lot.

Paul Takala listed some other goals and challenges. The rate of change is increasing. Green IT and global warming are important challenges (he talked about wireless networking and server virtualization at the Hamilton Public Library as ways to be green and to reduce costs).

Paul Takala referred to the OCLC report Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources. Libraries need to be about "transformation" not just information. Libraries need to be part of the community infrastructure, and they need new tools to engage the community. He referred to the methodology "Asset-Based Community Development." We need more than computers and software for access to information resources– we also need to look at staff skills as part of the tool set to transform communities.

Anita Brooks-Kirkland, Library Consultant for the Waterloo Region District School Board presented a number of times at OLA 2009. She has posted her presentations at http://bythebrooks.pbwiki.com/OLA%C2%A0Super-Conference-2009. Her focus for the Saturday Top Tech Trends session was on the new K-12 school environment that has been enhanced by web 2.0 technology such as wikis and blogs.

Anita Brooks-Kirkland

She made a good point about schools inappropriately blocking YouTube, since many children and teachers around the world post excellent instructional videos on YouTube. Kids learning from kids is what this is all about. Teaching should be conversations, and not always lectures. "Writing" is no longer limited to text, as a variety of media tools can be used for networked learning. Google Apps are great for students collaborating from home because Google Apps are free collaborative office software tools.

Contribution, not completion, is the ultimate goal. Mastery of the subject material is better than mastering the standardized tests. 24/7 learning is available. Ontario students have to stay in school until 18 by law, and so there’s a demand for tools that allow for the social, collaborative construction of meaningful knowledge. The Glenview Book Blogger (http://gpss.wrdsb.on.ca/blog/) is a model for success because it attracts boys to books.

The Upper Grand District School Board teacher-librarians can share information literacy lessons on UGLIwiki: http://bethmc.glogster.com/ugliwiki/.

Anita Brooks-Kirkland described some IT problems, such as security and privacy– major concerns when young students are involved.

Her wiki is at http://bythebrooks.pbwiki.com/

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