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Demspey on libraries, networked services and mobile communications

The latest First Monday contains a great essay titled Always on: libraries in a world of permanent connectivity. Written by OCLC’s Lorcan Dempsey it gives a broad overview of the changes in networked communication and service delivery and explores the coming issues for libraries (and by extension, museums) wrought by mobile communications and mobile patrons.

Here’s a few pithy quotes.

On how libraries ‘present’ themselves:

One clear development is a blurring of our social, business, learning and educational lives as the pattern of our communication and interaction across time and space changes. For example, the Blackberry has raised the expectation of anywhere, anytime availability in some work environments. Think of this in institutional terms. This blurring raises interesting questions about how libraries are ‘present’ to their users, and how their users see the library. The position of the library as a functionally integrated, discrete presence, whether on the Web or as a physical place, becomes diffused through various manifestations (a physical place to meet, a toolbar, a set of services in the course management system, a FaceBook application, a set of RSS feeds, office hours in a school or department, and so on). It also changes the relation between the library and other service providers on campus as organizational boundaries track less well to learning and research behaviors. As more activities move onto the network, and as the network becomes more diffused through mobile communications, then workflow and information management become pervasive issues which prompt interesting questions about how academic support services are best configured.

On ‘timely services’:

Participation in a shared communications space blurs boundaries between work, social interaction and leisure. This is related to our altered relationship to time and space, as it becomes possible to engage in different types of activity wherever we are and at whatever time. This may be both liberating and stressful, and poses interesting questions for service providers tied to ‘office hours’. If assignments are prepared at two o’clock in the morning, should reference services be available at those times?

On the centrality of network services:

As a growing proportion of library use is network–based, the library becomes visible and usable through the network services provided. On the network, there are only services. So, the perception of quality of reference or of the value of particular collections, for example, will depend for many people on the quality of the network services which make them visible, and the extent to which they can be integrated into personal learning environments. Increasingly, this requires us to emphasize the network as an integral design principle in library service development, rather than thinking of it as an add–on.

Grab your favourite beverage and read.

One reply on “Demspey on libraries, networked services and mobile communications”

Ah… when the distribution channels for information are in sync with this change to operation, i.e. people carrying mobile devices and hooked up to the web 24/7, it is entirely logical to pose these questions, and necessary.

Perhaps a tougher question, in the realms of information management and culture change, is changing (or minimising) the distribution channels of old (from snail mail services, pigeon holes and paper) to electronic, to stimulate this change so that there are internal efficiencies.

How the ‘house’ is kept is the way it runs.. to move to new ways of relating, may mean grappling with dropping older ways. Strangely enough, that doesn’t happen overnight unless a mass of people precipitate that change or authority is given to enforcing it..

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