I had the really wonderful opportunity to meet with Michael Rosenblatt of Atoms Express, just after their successful Kickstarter campaign. This gave me the chance to see the demo units of Atoms in person, test them, and get some idea of the really wonderful interactions that are going to be possible when these are available later in the Spring.
Atoms is Lego compatible, and I believe will be a really, really interesting addition to the building/making activities in libraries, and great way to teach basic engineering and programming logic. It’s also a great example of what happens when sensors and motors get really cheap and modular…for example, using just a couple of these bricks, you could easily build a bluetooth reporting gate-counter. Or a shelf-count measurement device that keeps track of how often books are moved on a particular shelf. The potential is, as they say, endless.
Take a look at the interview, and see if you can see past the “toy” and to the tool.
Awesome demo from the CEO of Canonical himself, Mark Shuttleworth. He not only shows off the flashy bits, but talks about the philosophy underneath why Ubuntu is moving this direction. The fact that Canonical believes that they can get a single code base running from a mobile device all the way up to cloud-server architectures is just…well, impressive would be one way to put it.
Some great news from Makerbot Industries today at CES 2013. Everyone’s favorite 3D printing company had three big announcements earlier today,and I was lucky enough to get to speak with Bre Pettis again (video on the way).
First up was the new hardware, the Makerbot Replicator 2X. An updated version of the Makerbot Replicator 2 that was announced late in 2012, now optimized for ABS plastic printing with an enclosed build area, heated build plate, dual extrusion, and a newly-redesigned build plate that Makerbot promises is thicker, flatter, and easier to maintain than ever. The original Replicator 2 was optimized for PLA plastic, a much more forgiving and easier to work with material. But serious hobbyists were really disappointed in the lack of ABS support, and it looks like the 2X is Makerbot’s answer. It’s coming out of the gate at $2799, available to order now.
The second announcement was an update to their new printing software, Makerware. The update will include support for dual extrusion in the layout process, enabling users to place multiple objects on the virtual build plate and choose the color for each on the fly.
The third announcement is one of the most interesting for libraries, I think. Makerbot’s online resource for printable objects, Thingiverse, has been updated to include an API. The Thingiverse API comes complete with a demo app, the Makerbot Customizer, a webapp that allows for easy, on the fly, in the browser altering of existing 3D objects. Very exciting stuff can be done with this moving forward, and I’m really interested to see how it might be used.
I don’t think I’ve ever written about how CES works. It’s primarily a “business” show…it isn’t open to the public, and to register to have to show that you are somehow affiliated with the consumer electronics industry. There are a range of registration “types” but the two that I know librarians have used to get in have been to register as Press (which I have done for my trips) or as a “Industry Affiliate” (of which I am unsure of the requirements). The other registration types are more business oriented, such as exhibitors or buyers, and are unlikely to be used by libraries or librarians.
The best way to think of the show itself is as if one were visiting an unknown but interesting city. There are neighborhoods organized roughly by product type on the exhibit floor (Carville, Audiolandia, and Mobiletown, for example). There are also a ton of peripheral events, somewhat like suburbs, that spring up and feed off the sheer mass of CES proper (events like Digital Experience and Showstoppers, both large Press events that are not officially affiliated with CES). I don’t believe it is truly possible to see everything at CES, even with a large team of people covering the show…and individual can, at best, see just the very tip of a very large iceberg hidden beneath the waves.
Since I’ve attended as Press, I’ve got that attendance experience to draw from. Most of the big Press events are invite only, so unless you’re on The List you aren’t getting in to either the press conference or the parties, but there are dozens and dozens of events that are both open and easier to get into. On the other hand, Press have a few benefits that are really useful, like having access to the Press room, free wifi, wired connections when needed, and help with all sorts of navigational issues.
My first couple of days here at CES 2013 have been all about Press events, trying to gather info in smaller meetings and events. The last 2 days will be all about the Big Halls, roaming the exhibits looking for trends and new exciting things that might be overlooked. I’ve already got a huge backlog of content, mainly video, to edit and push out…but need better bandwidth and more processing power to do so quickly. I will get that out as quickly as I can, everyone.
I have talked before about the lowering cost and ubiquitous appearance of small sensors…accelerometers, compasses, and more. These are exploding right now in the form of health and fitness monitors, but are starting to expand into toys (Little Bits and ATOMS) and other lower price point devices. Combine these with 3D visual sensors like the Leap and the Kinect (always keep in mind that anything that acts as a controller can also act as a sensor) and you’ve got the potential for measuring more and more things about the world and people in your libraries.
One of the recurring themes that I’ve seen thusfar at CES2013 is just that _everything_ now has robust digital sensors that measure movement, tilt, direction, and even heat and pressure. These are showing up everywhere, and the fact that they can be sold in a toy for about $10 should show that their ubiquity is likely to keep growing.
I’ve talked about my idea for building a “watch the shelves” system from a Kinect and a small server, and remain convinced that there is something about to happen regarding the ability to generate and analyze new and interesting pieces of data about the physical spaces in libraries. With more and more ways to easily and cheaply measure movement and interaction within our spaces, there is the potential for better and better use of the spaces in question. Of course, the flip side of that is that we may discover that some of our sacred cows aren’t nearly as valuable as we imagine them to be.
If you COULD measure movement of people inside your library, what would you measure? Movement through stacks seems the most obvious, but what other uses could we put cheap people counters to? What other information should we be collecting?
This is my 4th trip to the International CES, and as I packed for the trip, I was amazed at the difference in the technology that I’m taking with me. Each year I’ve tried to bring along any technology that I thought I might need to report something that happened at the conference, whether it be creating text, photos, videos, or some combination of the above. In my estimation, I’m now able to do better content creation with about ¼ of the equipment as 4 years ago.
4 years ago, if I wanted to capture decent photos and videos, I had to have a camera and a video camera. There were cameras that did well at both, but they were largely SLR or other extremely expensive and hard to use pieces of equipment. They were also well and out of my budget. So at that point, I traveled with a Canon point and shoot for still shots, and a Flip camera for video. To edit what both of these captured, I needed to carry a laptop, and at the time I had a 13 inch Apple Macbook. I also carried a Zoom h2 audio recorder, because neither of those were any good for pure audio capture, and my cell phone at that time (the iPhone 3G) didn’t have the best audio either.
Now? My iPhone 4S can capture HD quality video, is an amazing still camera, and is a great audio recorder. I am carrying my laptop, but at this point it’s a 13 inch Apple Macbook Air, at half the weight of my old Macbook. If it really mattered to me, I could edit the audio, video, and photos exclusively on my iPhone and leave the Air at home…or compromise, and trade the Air for my iPad just for the screen size. The “stuff I need to carry to cover an event” is now totally capable of fitting in my pocket, even if I decide to bring along a better microphone for the phone. It’s a bit easier with other gadgets in the workflow, but it’s an amazing change in just the last 4 years.
Time for an experiment! I’m heading to the International CES 2013 in Las Vegas tomorrow, the largest consumer technology show in the world. I’ll be tweeting, photographing, videoing, and otherwise throwing content at Libraryland from CES for the next 5 days. I set up a website and for the very first time decided to experiment with crowdfunding something I’m doing and ask for donations. Or, to put it a different way, I’m becoming a busker for the trip.
I’ll provide tweets, videos, photos, and hopefully some insight into the technology trends for the next 12-18 months. If you think that’s valuable, donate some money to the cause. As a bonus, I’ll be doing a Google Hangout on January 16th at 2pm Eastern time where you can listen to me talk about the trends I saw, cool new products, and things to keep in mind if you are doing technology planning for your library. I’ll also be upping the interactive component, and will be pulling people who are interested into the Hangout with me, where we can talk, you can ask questions, etc.
I think all the info you need is at the Griffey @ CES2013 website, but if not, there is a contact form over there you can use to let me know what I’m missing.
Obviously, I’d love to know what everyone thinks of this…it’s a huge experiment, so any feedback is awesome.
I haven’t written much recently about MPOW, but we had a really interesting retreat before the holidays about organizational structure that I thought might pique some interest. We’re a growing library at UTC, but we’re growing in ways that seemingly aren’t typical for libraries in the US. Whenever I read about changes in structures for libraries, it tends to be in the direction of fewer professional librarians, more staff, more temporary/part time work…the same deprofessionalization that drives labor practices in the corporate world. I’ve even seen reports of public libraries going the Wal-Mart route, and hiring “part time” people just under the full-time limit in order to not have to pay them benefits…which may keep libraries open, but at a much larger cost to the stability of the workforce, I would think.
So when we started examining our own structure, and the changes that have been happening organically for years now, it was somewhat of a shock to see that our library is doing the exactly opposite of this. We are small, but even at our size the traditional ratio of staff-to-librarians is very different than at every other University that I am familiar with. When I was hired almost 9 years ago, there was a very small majority of staff-to-librarians..something like 18 staff to 14 or so librarians. The numbers at most of the institutions we looked at were much closer to 2-1 or 3-1 staff-to-librarians. The interesting part to me is that over the last almost-decade that number has shifted significantly, but towards the professional positions, the faculty positions. With our newest set of faculty hires, we are going to be something like 18 librarians to 13-14 staff…and in most cases that I can think of, the increase in librarian lines has come through the attrition and combination of staff lines.
We are in a position in librarianship where the “traditional” staff positions are being more and more disintermediated by technologies. When we moved our library ILS to OCLC Worldshare, we knew that it was going to have an impact on our departments. By eliminating the traditional copy cataloging functions, smoothing out acquisitions workflows, and other efficiency gains, we’ve been able to reposition a huge amount of hours towards more professional work. It’s allowed us to begin to expand in ways that we couldn’t without those efficiencies, and every time we’ve asked the question “What do we need to be a better library?” the answer to the question has been “Someone to head up this new thing…a librarian that can handle X”. So in almost every case we’ve had, we’ve chosen to go the route of creating more professional positions, and not less.
CAVEAT: This is not to draw massive distinctions between LIBRARIANS and NON-LIBRARIANS in some insane hierarchical or judgmental way. It’s simply that my library operates under the auspices of the UT system, and for us, hiring staff means a lower payscale, less flexible responsibilities (changing the job responsibilities of a staff member vs a faculty member is more difficult) and we are tied to those things and really can’t change them. These are the rules of the game we play in order to make the best organization we can to serve our patrons.
So with this move to a new library, we have a different set of challenges. We’re reaching a size now where communication and management is becoming more difficult, and we’re struggling to maintain a flat structure when the pressures of hiring seem to be driving us towards more levels of management. We don’t necessarily want that, and prefer a structure that keeps as many of us “on the front lines” as possible, without the reporting/management hierarchies that can bog down operations. But it’s a struggle to see how that can be done given how and where our growth is occurring.
So, libraryland: How do you handle growth of an organization that actively wants to prevent increasing the complexity of structure? Is anyone else seeing the growth of professional positions at the cost of staff or paraprofessional?
I razzed Erik a bit about taking 91 episodes to finally get around to talking to me, but the truth is that I’m thrilled to be a part of This Week in Libraries #91, talking more about myself, library technology, consumer electronics, LibraryBox, and more.
I was very pleased to be the guest of Steve Thomas on his podcast series Circulating Ideas this past week. There’s a whole host of great episodes of the podcast, and I highly recommend diving into the back catalog. My conversation with Steve ranged from which sci-fi technology I’d most like to have to how and why I built LibraryBox, and many points in between. There are way worse ways to spend an hour.
I'm Jason Griffey, a librarian, technologist, writer and speaker. This is my personal/professional blog, but I also write Release Candidate (focusing on future tech) and for the ALA TechSource blog. Visit my homepage for more.