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.
For those that missed it, I was the host of the first episode of American Libraries Live, a new monthly show from American Libraries. I had the best panel ever to work with backing me up, Marshall Breeding, Nina McHale, and Rebecca K. Miller. They could not have been more awesome to work with, and I can’t wait to do more with both the show, and these awesome librarians.
Take a look, and I’d love to hear suggestions for how to make it better in the future!
Really great write up of the internals of the tech team for the Obama campaign over at The Atlantic. Librarians and educators should read it as an argument for why it’s important to have technologists on your team directly, and not just rented out.
But the secondary impact of their success or failure would be to prove that campaigns could effectively hire and deploy top-level programming talent. If they failed, it would be evidence that this stuff might be best left to outside political technology consultants, by whom the arena had long been handled. If Reed’s team succeeded, engineers might become as enshrined in the mechanics of campaigns as social-media teams already are.
While this blog has been quiet, I’ve been working away at a redesign of the LibraryBox website. Said redesign is now live, all new content, and most importantly, instructions for how to build a v1.5 LibraryBox. These instructions are far, far easier than the v1 instructions, and I took at lot of time listening to feedback about the Project, trying to find the right tone for the site. What I wanted to do was try and tell the story of why I think LibraryBox is potentially an important project. I think I managed that.
Go take a look, let me know what you think!
This morning I was privileged to give a keynote address to the Homewood Public Library in Homewood, IL for their Staff Development day. It was the first time I gave this particular talk, and it was a distillation of an essay that I’ve been trying to write for some time. The thrust of both is that the technological changes coming over the next 5-10 years are likely to be so transformative that we (libraries and librarians) need to be thinking now, hard, about how we prepare for them. How do libraries continue to measure our value when our historical measurements become useless? How can we use open hardware to prepare ourselves for these newly-needed measurements? How will the continued and unavoidable drop in price, increase in processing, and lessening of power consumption of hardware be useful for libraries?
I don’t have lots of answers. But I think these are the beginnings of some interesting questions.
So here’s my slide deck from the presentation. I hope to have the essay/post/whatever it ends up being done soon. I really want to start talking about this with other librarians.
I’ve been re-reading a number of posts the last few days, and a few of them just truly stand out as things that have changed or are changing my thinking about tech and libraries…just really, really great things. If you haven’t read these yet, go do so:
- Living our Values by Meredith Farkas – Meredith has been someone in libraries that I’ve looked up to for a long time, and is one of those people that seem to grok librarianship in a way that I’m still stumbling towards. There are others in this group (Jessamyn West, Michael Stephens, Michael Porter, Karen Schneider, and so many more) that I am indebted to for inspiring me to start writing this blog in the first place. If you haven’t obsessively read Meredith’s blog from beginning to end, you’re missing a great resource on how to be a librarian in the 21st century.
- Walking Away from the American Chemical Society by Jenica Rogers – When searching for words to describe Jenica, I find that the same words describe her writing: Brave, amazing, inspiring, fierce, and honest. To find all of that in a person AND to have that person be in a leadership role AND be public about said role? I’m not sure it’s ever been done this way in libraries. She’s doing leadership right.
- Hardware is Dead by Jay Goldberg & How Low (Power) Can You Go? by Charlie Stross – I’ve been spending many, many processing cycles thinking about hardware, and the Maker movement, the future of technology and libraries. These two essays sparked whole new pathways, and helped me light new areas to explore. I’ve got a lot to say about this stuff, which I’ll hopefully be doing over the next year or so.
- How to See the Future by Warren Ellis – I’m just going to quote a section of this, because it’s so good I can’t even use my own paltry words in talking about it:
Understand that our present time is the furthest thing from banality. Reality as we know it is exploding with novelty every day. Not all of it’s good. It’s a strange and not entirely comfortable time to be alive. But I want you to feel the future as present in the room. I want you to understand, before you start the day here, that the invisible thing in the room is the felt presence of living in future time, not in the years behind us.
Go read these. I’ve got nothing to say that even comes close right now.
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.