Category Archives: TechSource

3D Printers for Libraries

I spent yesterday hanging out at the GigTank Demo Day, listening to 3D printing startups pitch their ideas and companies at investors. It was a fantastic event, as is normal for things that the Company Lab is running, and I had a good time listening to the excitement around 3D printing as a technology.

It made me want to look back and see how long I’ve been following this technology, and I was dumbfounded to discover that the first mention of 3D printing on this very blog was in 2006. In October of 2006 I posted about a company called Fabjectory that was way ahead of the curve in providing 3D printing as a service for people. Then, not quite a year later I held the first 3D printed object that I’d ever touched, and it happened to be a print of myself as a Nintendo Mii. That was in August of 2007!

In 2011 I was asked to record a video by the LITA Top Tech Trends committee as an experiment for doing some information updates on technology between ALA Annual and Midwinter, and the trend I pointed to was 3D printing.

There’s a lot more that I’ve written over the years, ranging from my interviews with Bre Pettis (CEO of Makerbot Industries) about libraries and 3D printing to reporting last year for American Libraries on the 3D printing news from CES 2014.

3D Printers for Libraries

All this time and interest in the technology is coming to head in the publication of a new Library Technology Report that I have written on 3D printing, called 3D Printers for Libraries. In it I explain all of the varieties of 3D printing and 3D printers, from the inexpensive fused-deposition printers that most libraries are installing to the highest end Electron Beam Melting printers that are used to produce medical-grade implants. I go through the pros and cons of a variety of manufacturers, and make suggestions for libraries who are just getting started in offering 3D printing as a service.

If your library is looking at starting to offer 3D printing, this is a good reference work to help you make some decisions about types of printers and pitfalls and problems you may see with them. If your library would like some help in making decisions like this, or in figuring out how  to offer 3D printing to your patrons, feel free to contact me (griffey at gmail.com or @griffey on Twitter). I’d love to help you get to a place where your staff is confident in offering 3D printing as a new technology offering from your library.

Gadgets in the Library Workshop

On two days in May I will be doing a workshop for ALA Techsource called Gadgets in the Library: A Practical Guide to Personal Electronics for Librarians. If you or your library is interested in managing tablets, ereaders, or other gadgets for staff or patron use, and if you’re interested in hearing about where I think gadgets in libraries are going in the next 2-3 years, spend 3 hours with me. I’ll help you get comfortable with gadgets and try to give you options for how to deal with them.

When: May 10th and 24th from 2:30pm until 4pm Eastern time
Where: Online! Listen from your desk?
Who: You! Or if you’ve got a handful of people that are interested, get a discount with the group rate.
Why: Because you want help with managing personal electronics in the library
How: Register here.

My Spring

I’ve got a few things going on this Spring that I felt I should promote here on the blog, just to tie together some interesting content that people might be interested in. So here’s a quick look at what I’m either doing or working on over the next few months.

This coming Monday, April 16th, I will be speaking at the Southern Illinois University LIS Spring Symposium about the Post-PC Era, which should be a lot of fun. I’m always excited to meet with new librarians, so this should be fun.

Coming sometime this month is Gadgets & Gizmos II: Libraries and the Post-PC Era (link forthcoming), a Library Technology Report from ALA TechSource that is a followup to my 2010 LTR on Gadgets and Personal Electronics. In it, I take a look at how the world of personal electronics has changed in two years (TL;DR version: A LOT) as well as some new tech that libraries are either just starting to implement (3D printing) and some trends that I see coming in the next couple of years (health and other personal data tracking, drones).

The thing that I am maybe most excited about is that this is the first Library Technology Report that will be Creative Commons Licensed. It will be published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which is a big experiment for ALA publishing. I intentionally asked to allow derivatives, because I’m very curious what might spring from that. I’m also very interested in how a CC license will effect sales of the LTR…most LTRs rely on subscription sales for the vast majority of their volume, but I wanted to try to reach as many people as possible. But it still makes ALA Publishing a bit nervous, I think, to have the CC on it, at least if you judge from the amount of time it took to get it ok’d.

And then finally, I’ll be doing a webinar for Techsource based on that very same tech report, a 2 day online workshop on May 10th and 24th titled “Gadgets in the Library: A Practical Guide to Personal Electronics for Librarians“. The workshop is going to be a great mix of practical advice for the management of tablets and eReaders (and other personal electronics…leave a comment if you want me to cover something specific!) and a look at some of the newly-affordable hardware coming down the road in the next year or so.

In June I’ll be attending the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, and will be meeting with various LITA groups, as well as the  Library BoingBoing/LibraryLab Members group. I’m also hoping to catch up with the LITA CodeYear IG, which has some cool things starting to come together. Exciting stuff happening at Annual, I hope you’ll come join me!

Apple Thinks Different, Part 1

Apple Think DifferentIn 1997, Apple Computer launched an advertising campaign that asked people to “Think Different”, a slogan that some believe is a play on the classic IBM motto “Think”.  Apple has become infamous over the years for pushing change onto its users, even when the commonly held belief was otherwise. Apple was the first to manufacture a home computer with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) with the Lisa, the first to ship a home computer with only USB ports (the first iMac), the first to drop the floppy drive, the first to pioneer the multitouch mouse, and they appear to be pushing the demise of the physical external media completely with their new Macbook Airs and Mac Minis. With the launch of the iPhone and the iPad, it’s pretty clear now that they have revolutionized one industry and created another. Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, is maybe the only corporate head that could claim not one, not two, but four revolutionary products under his leadership (the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone, and now the iPad) and in the meantime he helped reshape the music industry as we know it with iTunes and the art of making movies with Pixar.

I didn’t write the above to gloat about Apple’s success, or to cement the “fanboy” status that I’ve been labeled with at times. I wrote it to put some context and history behind this statement:

If handled properly, iCloud and the “file system” changes in Lion may be the biggest change in personal computing since the GUI.

icloudiCloud was one of the big announcements at the Apple World Wide Developer Conference on June 6, 2011. In most of the writing that’s been done on iCloud around the web and in print, it’s described as a “syncing” solution for data. I think this is the wrong way to think about iCloud. If it’s handled the way I believe it will be over the next few years, iCloud is going to solve a lot of user problems, and refine how we interact with data on computers. It will also introduce a ton of problems for IT administrators unless Apple has something up its sleeve that it hasn’t shown us yet.

So what is iCloud? iCloud is Apple’s answer to services like Dropbox, Box.net, and others who attempt to answer the the problem of dealing with data across multiple machines. Anyone who is involved in knowledge work (and I would argue this includes nearly all librarians) is probably dealing with more than one computer at some time during their working life, and thus must contend with the problem of either moving their personal data around with them or having everything in a central location online (The Cloud) and accessing it as needed. In their usual fashion, Apple looked at the problem, and are suggesting a solution that is at once elegant and remarkably different than any before it. Apple wants to destroy the file system.

The whole concept of iCloud seems to emerge from the lessons of iOS. Make things easier, more intuitive, less cumbersome…in other words, remove friction….and people will flock to your product. One of the criticisms of iOS devices is, I believe, actually its secret sauce; you don’t have to understand a file system. With the release of OS X Lion and the introduction of iOS 5, it’s clear that Apple wants alll information to be application driven. That is, any piece of data lives in the app that can deal with it. You can read a PDF on an iOS device, but you can only interact with it while using an application to do so. There’s no “saving” the file to a location in a file system (the “desktop” or “documents” folder) on an iOS device. There is just application, and data, and no other metaphor. This is what iCloud and Lion are bringing to the desktop, and where Apple has the potential to push us towards yet another new metaphor of computing.

Apple is making the iCloud infrastucture available to anyone developing applications for either OSX on their desktops or for iOS on their mobile devices. The way iCloud will work is that you will create a document/spreadsheet/image/presentation…any piece of data, really…using an iCloud-compatible app. That piece of data is automatically pushed to iCloud servers, and available anywhere you call it. With the new file management tools in OSX Lion, you never have to hit the save button, you never have to choose where to put the file, the data is just saved as soon as you start creating it. Close the program, open it on the same computer or on your iPad or iPhone and the same file, and the same data is just there.

At the WWDC announcement, Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that “the truth is in the cloud.” The cloud is going to be the definitive place for your data, and the local access to it via your applications will be just a window into that truth. While the newest version of OSX doesn’t do away completely with the file and folder metaphor, it does its dead best to get you to stop thinking about folders and organization. By default, when you open a Finder window in Lion, the sidebar doesn’t even list your hard drives…and the topmost option in the choices for viewing your data is “All My Files”, a completely non-hierarchical view that organizes your files by type (Images, Music, Movies, etc). Once Lion gets fully integrated into, it will vastly decrease the importance of local storage.

I’ve posted in the past about how different a touch-based interface is than a mediated user interface. Changing the metaphor does more than just alter our perceptions of the use of a computer…it actually changes the uses themselves. New and different interactions are possible with touch that would never have been possible in a mediated interface (and, of course, the reverse is true…interactions are possible with mediated interfaces that aren’t with touch). This move from a desktop metaphor (folders and files) to a new one (data lives where it can be accessed) is going to provide new abilities to programs, new workflows to users, and new and different ways to think about our data.

I’ve a bit more to say about this as it relates to libraries and public systems, but for that I’m going to throw you over to ALA Techsource and my post there. Please excuse the blatant cross-promotion. :-)

Really excellent discussion happening over on Friendfeed around this post. Embedded below.

Gadgets in the Library: A Practical Guide to Personal Electronics for Librarians

In the middle of April, I’ll be doing a set of two webinars for ALA TechSource on how to manage gadgets inside the library. I’ve done a lot of talks about the theory of gadgets, and why I think they are important for libraries, but this is the first time I’ve tried to put together some real practical day-to-day tips for how to deal with these things. Here’s the description from the registration page:

From the iPad to eReaders, gadgets are everywhere. As these personal electronic devices become more and more ubiquitous in everyday life, it’s essential that libraries are fluent in the language of these devices. Whether your library wants to make use of these items in its services or purchase them to lend out to patrons, this interactive workshop will give you the foundation you for bringing your library into the future through gadgets.

Session 1: Non-e-Reader Gadgets
Wednesday, April 13, 2011, 2:30pm – 4:00pm Eastern

This session will cover the following topics:
Personal Electronics are Personal
Operating Systems vs Devices
iOS & Android
Circulation & Policy

Session 2: E-Readers and More
Wednesday, April 20, 2011, 2:30pm – 4:00pm Eastern

This session will cover the following topics:
Types, differences, decisions
Amazon, Nook, Sony
Cataloging and Representation in Systems
Summary and Conclusions

The webinars aren’t free, unfortunately, but it’s a flat rate for both ($85), and if you want to gather your entire library together to watch, you can do so.

If you’re interested, please register…and if you have questions for me about what’s going to be covered, or you signed up but want to tell me exactly what you’d like me to cover, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Touch and User Experience

I just posted over at ALA TechSource on some of my thoughts after using the iPad for most of a week…I’m convinced that we’re about to hit a period where we will have to start thinking about reworking our user interfaces for Touch interaction. From the post:

We are used to mediated interactions with digital objects, using a tool as an intermediary or proxy. We’ve been interacting by metaphor, instead of directly. The mouse pushes a cursor around the screen, and the cursor interacts with the object (window, file, text) that we’re interested in. On a touchscreen, especially the modern touchscreen, you are interacting with the digital world directly. For those who haven’t had this experience, I can’t emphasize how much this changes the relationship between the information and the user.

Let me know what you think…do you think that libraries will move towards Touch-based technologies in the next year?