National Archives and Wikipedia

The continuing development of the US Open Government Plan, first promoted in 2010, and leading, in 2011, to the naming of a Wikipedian in Residence at the National Archives (NARA), is set to go the next step. All of NARA’s digitized content will be loaded into Wikipedia. Already 100,000 images from NARA are available freely and readily via Wikimedia Commons.

This is another alert to us in the library world that we need to take Wikipedia as a serious reference source, help develop our community members’ understanding of how to evaluate its content, and use it ourselves for some serious research.

This new open data reality can save us time and collection money. It furthers our capacity to bring vetted, primary sources to local users. It doesn’t mean that Wikipedia is close to perfect. But it is a strong indication that we need to move our professional discussion of best practices beyond the yes/no evaluation of resources to discover, learn and teach the how and why of discovering the best resource available to respond to the user need.

 

Librarians going beyond Google

In a continuing series of engaging panel discussions hosted by American Libraries, AL Live, the episode presented last Thursday offered a rich mix of observations, insights, and big questions about how library staff–most particularly reference staff–out-Google Google’s popular reputation as the resource par excellance. Going Beyond Google  worked through such concerns as utilizing Google web crawling to reveal library contents for user discovery; recognizing reference staff’s shift from fact-finders to evaluation guides; teaching students the difference between the wisdom of crowds and authentic data; and, most especially, the seemingly irreplaceable role human interaction–conversational communication–plays in getting the person with the question to infomation that best responds to addressing it.

The live webcast itself epitomized the very values being named and addressed throughout it. Panelists engaged each other, through Dan Freeman’s fast paced hosting, rather than announcing positions held individually outside the influence of the ongoing conversation. Virtual participants added meaty remarks, with Dan turning to these text chatters frequently enough to keep the preset discussion questions fluid and evolved under the comments added extemporaneously.

Among the takeaways from this model reference engagement process was the citing of an ACRL document authored by Megan Oakleaf,  The Value of Academic Libraries, which provides–and importantly for public and other libraries beyond academic ones–replicable charting methods for displaying how libraries, and librarian-provided services, provide institutional value.

Other takeaways included the restatement of reference (and other library provisions) in a “Google world” as being one of fruitful addition, wayfinding, mentorship, and authoritative balance rather than an unfruitful competition between librarian and search engine. The incomparable worth of communication–between librarian and information seeker–was highlighted as the epitome of library added value to any knowledge search beyond the identification of simple fact. And to that end, the webcast itself was a model of communication among librarians about where and how to get beyond Google.

American news habits and information needs

A week ago, during a multi-organization meeting about how public libraries play a role in connecting federal and state policy information to the community members in need of the real scoop, the topic of broadband access was teased out in a couple salient directions. One I found particularly wanting further discussion is how disconnected a community can become from changing government directions (think the Covered California insurance marketplace as an example) when its online access is limited to public computers? It’s not that skills like using a mouse or email continue to lack penetration; instead, what hasn’t bloomed in such circumstances is the habit of staying informed around civic engagement concerns.

How do we, as information specialists–and civil servants, help community members build the skills and the habits which constant news updating require of anyone participating in our culture?

Joachim Scopfel, Director of the Atelier National de Reproduction des Thèses, Charles de Gaulle University (France), has published an infographic that gives us not only numbers related to how Americans share news, but also points up the very venues for news that may not, after all, be all that available to all Americans. And even when technical availability exists, are community members engaging the most efficient methods for accessing policy updates? The research shows a continuing reliance on email over social media, as the online channel for updates. As with all correspondence, email brings with it the requirement that the recipient evaluate the authority of the sender: is the news included reliable, timely, and appropriate to the recipient’s own situation? On the other hand, a direct Twitter feed, from, in this example, Covered California, guarantees the authority and timeliness, while each message’s design should allow the reader to be able to judge quickly whether it pertains to her situation.

As information guides, can we boost community access to what’s official, help direct community members’ attention to how they, impacted as they know they are by government policy and policy changes, can take control over keeping abreast of those policy news bits, bites and bytes that affect them? What does tech access education look like in libraries offering the news skills needed as we approach the first quarter point of the 21st century?

Big week for all (library) things net

The Electronic Frontier Foundation released yesterday  its 2014 report on Who Has Your Back –a quick, clean way to see which online company platforms protect user privacy to what degree. It’s essential reading and a good guiding document for discussing privacy issues, advocacy, concerns, and practices with your library community, including students, the general public, and library boards.

This week also saw the FCC hold hearings on how making regulatory changes that affect net neutrality might be received by stakeholders. Hey, you’re a stakeholder. You can review the hearings, the current outcome, and make a response by following the #NetNeutrality hashtag on Twitter. (That feed includes links to formal documents published by the FCC in the immediate wake of the hearings).

It’s also been just over a week since the Gates Foundation made its formal announcement that the long-standing program that gave many American, as well as worldwide, libraries their first internet connectivity possibility, the Global Libraries project, will wind to a close across the next three to five years. That’s another indication that we need to step up, as library service providers in the 21st century, to evaluate and advocate for what’s good for our communities and what our communities need to have assured as sacrosanct when it comes to online access, privacy, and best practices for government and for us.

Get Your Training on in April!

Infopeople’s April Training Calendar offers libraries and library staff of all types a goldmine of possibilities. Noting that the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics for us library folk concludes “We strive for excellence in the profession by maintaining and enhancing our own knowledge and skills, by encouraging the professional development of co-workers, and by fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession,” taking responsibility to participate in one or more of these hits the spot. Bonus points for the curious who see this treasure trove as the answer to your wish list:

With California already being one of the first states to get involved in the Edge Initiative, exploring new methods and best practices you can apply for enhanced community connections gets a boost from the online course, Community and Civic Engagement: The Library’s Role as Connector, which opens April 8. Instructor Jane Salisbury, of Portland’s Multnomah County Library, brings years of experience and insight on reaching adults in the library community. Jane supervises Library Outreach, with services that target, among other populations, older adults and members of the disabled community.

Another online course opening April 8, Redesigning Library Spaces on a Shoestring: High Impact at Low Cost, gives participants access to instructor Ruth Barefoot‘s space planning, marketing, and architectural expertise and her experience as manager of San Jose Public Library’s initiative, the San Jose Way. Ruth’s reconceptualization of how to improve library space for today’s library service users can be simple if dramatic. A favorite tip I heard from her some years ago, when she was speaking of how to untangle overcrowded library space without great cost, is elegantly simple: take everything out of the space and then restore only those things that are necessary and useful, putting them back into the branch shell according to their importance and where they are optimal for library users.

A third online course opening in April will be taught by the ever popular Infopeople instructor Cheryl Gould. All Work Is Team Work, which opens April 22, carries Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC), an indication that it addresses the learning needs of non-degreed staff who want to demonstrate quality skills in library service provision.

The noon time, and always archived, Infopeople webinar schedule has got to be the best free training smorgasbord in town. On April 2, Laura Solomon, whose previous Infopeople webinars have skillfully and substantively broached such concerns as “Fine-tuning Facebook for Libraries” and “Absolutely Free (and Practically Unknown) Online Tools You Didn’t Know You Needed,” takes up Writing a Social Media Policy for Your Library.  No matter your library type, you gotta be sure your library gets this info!

Toby Greenwalt, who co-hosted the wowsome Spark Talks crowd at PLA in Indianapolis earlier this month, will explain why and how we need to Embrace the Evolution: Adapting Reference Service to New Technology,  on April 23. This preso is gonna show us that reference services can be designed for today’s user.

Kelli Ham, a health librarian at UCLA who has much to share–and has shared much–with Infopeople webinar participants, returns on April 16, with From Baby to Preschooler: Early Childhood Health Resources. Infopeople hosts an ELF 2.0 webinar, on April 10, Foundations of Early Childhood Development: It’s All about Relationships, with with John Hornstein of the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, and Sacramento Public Library Director Rivkah Sass.

And speaking of matters of health and wellness, Infopeople’s independent online learning series, which give participants the opportunity to dive deep in a focused area with a facilitator but no assignments and a two-month access period to explore, include a newly updated Affordable Care Act @ Your Public Library.  The reboot goes beyond healthcare insurance enrollment to address the information and community strategies identified by California’s healthcare policy makers and practitioners as most important for 2014 and 2015.

Phew! That’s a whole lot of possibilities to get your development on! Looking forward to seeing you in one of those “theres.”