Saturday, December 29, 2012

Article on storytelling for entrepreneurs and [possibly] for libraries

I came across another good read on storytelling for companies and those who want to tell non-fiction stories.
Storytelling: Why Stories Attract More Customers by Social Media Examiner writer, Michael Stelzner. Hence, in keeping with my interest in library and information science considering storytelling as a method of conveying information, I review some of the points made by Stelzner and make a wider commentary on its application. In addition to my interest in storytelling for library and information science, I also have an interest in entrepreneur storytelling, especially as a librarian interested in entrepreneur/small business library services. As such, in this article, my comments and review will raise points relevant to both intersecting areas of interest.

In the article, Stelzner interviews Dave Kerpen, author of  Likeable Social Media and also the co-founder of Likeable, an INC 500 social media marketing firm. Kerpen is also the author of a new book entitled Likeable Business: Why Today’s Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver. Kerpen therefore becomes the major source of the information in Stelzner's article, sharing his experience and practical advice on storytelling.

In the article it is stated that 'people love going to the movies and reading books...because we love to be engaged by stories.' In specifically talking about entrepreneur storytelling, the article states that 'everyone in business has a story to tell about how they started.' 'Wherever a company is started, no matter how big it is, it has a humble start'  and telling the story about how a company started can aid in making the company more 'likable'.

Stelzner's article also discusses how storytelling can be used convey non-fiction information. According to Kerpen, ones 'ability to take a piece of history and turn it into a story has to do with applying...traditional elements of storytelling with what really happens. Kerpen in Stelzner admonishes us to 'be truthful, but...embellish a little bit'. This I assume would be in conflict with my librarian's ethics of objectivity and telling the truth and nothing but the truth. Nevertheless, I also feel that librarians have a responsibility to convey people's ideas whether they be truthful, fictional or a blend of myth, legend and folklore.

Kerpen also advises that for our storytelling we must 'Make the characters come alive...set the stage and build a story that resonates with people.' He also advocates that with today's technology, storytelling is easier, cheaper and less risky, and that if it doesn't resonate with people, we can make changes and keep practicing and experimenting with storytelling until we get it right.

Kerpen also in final aspects of the article shares how social media has 'changed the barrier to entry to tell stories at scale.'
"It used to be that if you wanted to tell your story at scale, you had to buy your way in through media; for example, television or radio. You used to have to spend a significant amount of money on storytelling."
Today, this is no problem with the use of social media.

The article is useful to me both as an example of how business is using storytelling to convey information and continues to buttress my theories that libraries in order to keep up, will also need to explore this method in conveying information as well as in our offering of new and old services, especially via the Web. Currently, customers respond to stories, and libraries need to tell good stories in order to engage their customers. At the same time, as information providers and professionals responsible for information dissemination, we need to also consider whether or not using storytelling principles may be relevant for us to adopt in conveying non-fiction information. Can our profession begin a conversation on whether or not it is ethical for information professionals to use myths, folklore and even embellishments of the truth to convey important non-fiction information? Can our profession also ethically use storytelling which engages and takes advantage of people's emotions to lead them to truth?


Stelzner, M. (2012, December 28). Storytelling: Why stories attract more customers. Social Media Examiner Retrieved from:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Use of social media for information purposes by Government agencies in developing countries

Just reporting based on readings of two different articles about how state agencies in developing countries are beginning to take note of the useful informational purposes of social media sites such as Facebook. While these stories have been reported are not quite fresh, they do represent important trends that are relevant evidences to my viewpoint about how social media today needs to be regarded as not only a social space, but also as information sources.

In one article, the head of the Jamaican police has encouraged his officers to make use of Facebook to check out those reporting crimes, as well as those implicated in such reports ("Commish suggests", 2012). It seems as if the Jamaican police is just catching on to the intelligence gathering using social networks. However, it fundamentally points to the issue that professionals in some industries, such as security, are also utilising information from social media for work purposes.

In another part of the world, the electoral commission for Ghana, faced with a downed website, decided to turn to Facebook to disseminate Ghana's election results (Vota, 2012). Apparently it was a first for such an critical government document/decision or official document to be released solely via the social media before its official website. Put into context,  it is reported that 70% of the online population of Ghana on Facebook (, 2012), which means that 7 out of 10 of the online Ghanaian population would be able to access such results online, making it indeed a good venue to post the results.

This event continues to show that social media now becoming place to disseminate government information. Those interested in e-governance and e-government information will therefore now need to consider social media as a place to access and provide access to such information. It is also possible though that those who are not members of popular social media sites may find themselves excluded from publicly available knowledge, which may be of major concern if government agencies choose to only disseminate information via popular social media sites and not through other channels.

Both stories indicate that social media is fast becoming not only spaces where social interaction takes place, but also spaces providing information for officials as well as spaces for disseminating information. In short, social media are in fact functioning as information sources. This now presents library and information science with the challenge of now defining and accounting for social media as information sources, and including them within their official categories. This, I have presented on an earlier occasion is problematic, as social media possess several characteristics that pose challenges for our current information source categorizations (see post on Categorizing blogs as information sources).


Commish suggests cops use social networks in criminal probes (2012, October 12). Jamaica Gleaner Retrieved from … (2012). Ghana Facebook Statistics Retrieved from

Vota, Wayan (2012, December 11). Did you know the Facebook tipping point happened in Ghana on Sunday? Retrieved from …

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Jamaica's contribution to LIS scholarship: A distant memory

Last week when I browsed the Annual Reviews of Information Science and Technology, I realised that in the  index/indices of the early volumes, I could find Jamaica. As I moved to the more current volumes, Jamaica disappeared from the indices/indexes. Our glory days in LIS have faded and are now a distant memory.

I remember the story told to me by a retired librarian that in the early days of librarianship in Jamaica, Jamaican librarians were well respected in the international LIS community. We were the first nation to host and plan the International Association of School Librarian conference, as well as supplied one of its President and founding officer, Amy Robertson. In addition, when we went to international conferences, the retired librarian told me, and persons heard Jamaica, all Jamaican librarians could stand tall, as everyone greeted us with respect and admiration.

I further remember a Jamaican student on the exchange program with a Canadian university, telling me that her professors asked her what has happened to Jamaica's scholarship in the field of LIS. The student told me that they had high expectations for the nation's LIS scholarship and has been wondering what has taken place to slow our productivity and influence to date.

Also of mention is Jamaican-born librarian, Dorothy Collings, who contributed to the development of the field of comparative librarianship. Collins suggested that North American librarianship training is not sufficient for tackling the problems and situations of global librarianship (Jackson, 2001). As a result of her own experiences and background, Collings drafted and developed courses on Comparative Librarianship and later became an authority on the matter (Jackson, 2001). Collings’ contribution to the development of the concept of comparative librarianship is cited in a number of studies (Jackson 2001, Bliss, 1993; Lor, 2008).

I ponder now that there is great work to be done in the Caribbean region, but am mindful about how governments are cutting funding to libraries and other information institutions. In short, I see need for a renaissance in LIS.


Bliss, N. J. (1993). The emergence of international librarianship as a field. Libri, 43(1), 39–52. DOI: 10.1515/libr.1993.43.1.39, //1993 Published Online: 19/10/2009

Jackson, W. V. (2001). “The Pioneers: Dorothy G. Collings (1911-1991).” World Libraries, 11(1 & 2), Retrieved from

Lor, P. J. (2008). Critical reflections on international librarianship. Mousaion, 26(1), 1-15.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Searching for entrepreneur blogs: Online Techniques

As comprehensive examination preparations are now on my agenda, one of the area that I contemplate is the area of methods for locating entrepreneur blogs. While using Google Blog Search or Technorati is a no brainer to me, (as these already have developed obvious tools to locate blogs), it is essential for me at the PhD level to look into the academic theories involved in justifying the use of these tools. For this task, I have contemplated looking at the theories of Bibliometrics. One such paper that influences my thoughts about the possibility of using bibliometric techniques and methods to locate blogs of interest for my study is the paper by Vaughan, Tang, & Du (2010). Alternately, there is the paper on selective blog mining by Rubin, Burkell and Quan-Haase (2011), which does not purport to use bibliometric methods, but dubs the study as a grounded theory analysis. 

However, using some techniques for searching the Google search engine from  Vaughan, Tang, & Du (2010), I ran the following experiment. I wanted to compare Google blog search with a site search using the domains of two well known blogging platforms, Wordpress and Blogspot. I did this in order to compare the results with the Google blog search. The results (collected as of the date of this post) are as follows:

Google blog search "entrepreneur" -About 26,400,000 results (0.18 seconds) entrepreneur- About 1,590,000 results (0.19 seconds) entrepreneur - About 2,740,000 results (0.31 seconds)

Quantitatively the results differ. Blogspot domain search has more than Wordpress. Yet combined, both produce less than 5,000, 000 results, which is not even a fifth of the blogs retrieved using the Google Blog search. This raises the question as to what are the other domain names that Google indexes as blogs. It also raises question about how do these results differ qualitatively. These are questions that I do not intend to answer just now, but do wish to explore in the future.


Rubin, V.L., Burkell, J. & Quan-Haase, A. (2011). Facets of serendipity in everyday chance encounters: A grounded theory approach to blog analysis. Information Research 16(3) paper 488. [Available at] 

Vaughan, L., Tang, J., & Du, J. (2010). Constructing business profiles based on keyword patterns on web sites. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 61(6), 1120-1129. doi: 10.1002/asi.21321 

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Library Catalogue as Online Service

Through my Twitter feed (an excellent place for stumbling across useful and relevant resources), I stumbled upon this article by Dempsey (2012) on the library catalog. The article extends on some of my thoughts about the library's online public access catalogue. I have long thought of the library's online catalogue as being the library’s flagship online product/service. To now read Dempsey (2012) encapsulating my view in his brief sub-heading of 'The Catalog as an Identifiable Service', now gives me reason to post some of my thoughts on this subject.

While I do not care much for the discussion on how the online catalogue of libraries is changing and how people are becoming interested in making catalogue data open, I find more intriguing the idea that in the world  of online resources and the Web, the library's premier service is its online catalogue. Wells (2007) makes the statement that ‘ [e]ven though the online public access catalogue (OPAC) now functions against a background of alternative information-gathering technologies it is likely to remain at the centre of library operations for the foreseeable future as the primary automated point of connection between library users and those information resources which the library owns or otherwise wishes to promote’ (p. 386). In fact, so crucial is the online catalogue as a library service, that I feel that a library's website should be organised around it. Just like Google, the OPAC's interface should be the landing page of the library's website.

Currently, I am contemplating a paper (even while I should be preparing for my comprehensive examinations) on 'Extending the online public access catalogue (OPAC) through storytelling principles: How can storytelling inform the design of online information retrieval systems for libraries?' In this paper, I hope to focus on the centrality of the OPAC and how to improve its communication using storytelling principles. It is my hope that the paper, which is both a conceptual as well as practical look at applying theoretical research on storytelling and narrative from organisational storytelling, digital storytelling, web-based storytelling, knowledge sharing and computer interface design, to reworking and extending the OPAC, be accepted for presentation at a conference that I intend to attend in the summer. So I will save my under-developed and premature ideas about this topic for later iterations on this blog.


Dempsey, L. (2012, December 10).  Thirteen ways of looking at libraries, discovery, and the catalog: Scale, workflow, attention EDUCAUSE Review Retrieved from

Wells, D. (2007).What is a library OPAC? The Electronic Library, 25(4): pp. 386 – 394.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Proto-type of a story-based information retrieval system for libraries

Sometimes, it is easier for me to communicate my thoughts via a slide presentation, rather than textual information. This blog post is one of those post in which I find it easier to communicate my ideas in a slide format drawing on storytelling concepts to express an online information system that I am thinking of which could be applied to the new library online public access catalogues. In this slide, the inspiration for my ideas or prototype comes from two authors: Schank (1982) and Laurel (1993) (see their references below).


Laurel, B. (1993). Computers as theatre. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub. Co.

Schank, R. C. (1982). Dynamic memory :A theory of reminding and learning in computers and people. Cambridge Cambridgeshire; New York: Cambridge University Press.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Corporate online storytelling: for libraries?

I found an interesting read on movements towards corporate online storytelling this week in my Twitter feed. In Elliot's (2012) article for The New York Times, I discovered that Coca Cola is about to rebrand their online presence as an online magazine. In doing so, Coca Cola's new Web site is to reflect its marketers recasting 'communications with consumers as storytelling rather than advertising.' I quote:

'Just as attention is being paid to developing content ...for brand storytelling, an appetite also exists for corporate storytelling.'
Storytelling on Coke's Web site will be 'subjective, not objective...favorable to the brands, products and interests of the Coca-Cola Company.'

'Although the content comes “with a point of view,” Mr. Brown acknowledged, “we want to be a credible source.”'

Coca Cola is also not afraid to make mistakes with their online storytelling and magazine type site. The informant Ashley Brown, director for digital communications and social media at the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, states:

“I’m sure we’re going to make mistakes,” he said, “and readers are going to tell us.”

Implication for libraries

I think I am ahead of my time in LIS: advocating online storytelling for library websites when the field's not quite ready for it. Currently there have been moves within library schools to dispense with storytelling courses from LIS curriculum and library education (Sturm, 2010). Further, within LIS, librarians have predominantly seen storytelling as a service to children (Sturm, 2010). This is despite the fact that there is a growing interest in storytelling and the professionalization of storytelling for adults (Sturm, 2010). In fact, there is also growing interest in corporations for corporate storytelling (Greene & Del Negro, 2010). Hence, while business schools are becoming more interested in offering storytelling courses (Marek, 2011), library schools are thinking about getting rid of them altogether.

In my view, there needs to be a course within library schools that will deals with institutional digital storytelling. This is because, in the age of social media and Library 2.0, libraries need to move online and tell their stories. Libraries need to find ways of connecting with their users and potential users in the online world. We need content on our websites and a social media presence that is constantly updated and engaging, reminding our users that we are a channel to credible information sources. Our Websites must now be more like blogs or online magazines, with a constant flow of information. We should not only tell users what we have, but also post commentaries and view points, to represent the information that we have within our collections. In short, we need to take a page from Coca Cola's book on corporate storytelling. If Coca Cola is thinking about becoming a publisher, why not libraries?

Libraries are already telling stories within their walls. We have countless exhibits and exhibitions within our walls and some libraries have taken these and posted them on their websites. However, our practices are all being done without examining the theories of good storytelling, digital storytelling and even the theories of institutional or corporate storytelling. My questions are:
  • Are library professionals equipped to tell good stories online and offline? 
  • Are library professionals able to recognise what stories are worthy of being told?
Storytelling can be fictional, non-fictional or a mixture of realism with fiction as in the case with life writing or organisational storytelling. Libraries can use parables to tell stories that convey a truth about how libraries work. Libraries can tell stories to workers within the libraries or even to the users and other outsiders of the library.  In fact, I have written 3 blogs posts about how libraries can use storytelling to their advantage (See blog post 1, blog post 2 and blog post 3). However, none of these posts even begin to speak to how libraries can use online storytelling to attract library users and engage them in using the library's online or physical services. This is a gap that I am also studying at current.

At least one LIS scholar, Marek (2011) has begun to develop a body of knowledge on organisational storytelling for libraries, though aimed at library managers and administrators (see my blog post on Kate Marek) Hopefully, I will be able to develop a course after completing my comprehensive examinations and research proposal that will also address this issue. For indeed, from the start of my PhD program, my original interest has always been in using the Web and folklore to design a more engaging experience for library users. And so far, I have felt that my extensive readings have equipped me with the theoretical knowledge to do so.


Elliott, Stuart. (2012, November 11). Coke Revamps Web Site to Tell Its Story. The New York Times. Retrieved from:

Greene, E., & Del Negro, J. M. (2010). Storytelling: Art and technique (4th ed.). Santa Barbara, California, Denver, Colorado, Oxford, England: Libraries Unlimited.

Marek, K. (2011). Organizational storytelling for librarians: Using stories for effective leadership. Chicago: American Library Association.

Sturm, B. (2010) Storytelling. In  Bates, M. J., & Maack, M. N. Encyclopedia of library and information sciences (3rd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. 

Notebooks as information sources for academic libraries?

This week I stumbled upon a link to an academic conference showcasing: scholarship on note taking and note writing entitled Duly Noted: The Past, Present and Future of Note-Taking. I appreciated reading the blurb for the conference as it did provide a case that studying note taking and writing notes are important as writing does play a role in oral processes and oral communication in our modern or post modern world.

According to the blurb posted by Stockman (2012), note taking scholarship involves the study of the activity of "jotting down of things people say". To study this, researchers analyze the artifacts or objects of  note books or written notes.This area is perhaps difficult to study, as notes are meant to be ephemeral, and those surviving do so because their disposal was neglected by their creators and eventually found their way into libraries and other institutions that took steps to careful preserve them.

Another area of study in note taking scholarship is the annotation of books. This involves the study of the notes that people make in published books. Based on the blurb, it seems that one of the data source which one could use to observe note taking is academia, especially college students, who both take notes based on lectures as well as may annotate their text books. Stockman (2012) does point out that this practice is not only a feature of modern times, but indicate that note taking has been a practice seemingly as old as the history of writing.  Torah and Talmud scholars have engaged in note taking practice and textual commentary, as well as ancient scholars noted stuff on clay tablets and parchment.

Why should we care?

It is easy to note that not all persons write notes that are legible and that not all notes are useful. However, libraries have always had the knack for sorting through the universe of information and selecting very useful resources and information that are relevant to meeting the information needs of their present and even future communities.

Notes are in fact ephemeral information sources, usually done for the purpose of reminding or preserving something for memory. It is clear that today, people engage in digital note taking and that even some blogs and Twitter may function as that for some persons like myself. I note stuff to retrieve it later for future use when it becomes relevant to do so. However, even noting stuff in a public media reveals that a person believes that his or her personal notes can have some public value, beyond private use, study and purposes. This brings me to the issue of libraries and how they should view or treat notes and note books and even annotated textbooks.

Position 1: Libraries should collect notes and notebooks. Especially university libraries. And especially student notes from a course. And even notes from faculty. 

This is based on the assumption that students who have completed a course would be interested in sharing their notes or donating their notebooks to some repository to help other students. I can remember from my own university days, that students voluntarily passed on their notebooks and course materials to other students pursuing the course that they already completed.

Another assumption I have made is that university students would seek out course material from previous years and want to access such material to get a sense of what a course is like and what may be covered. Again there is no guarantee that the notes taken from a previous year will be covered in the present, but it may still be useful to the students.

Most importantly, faculty would be the greatest beneficiaries of such note taking preservation strategies, as faculty would be able to view what students noted and compare with their own notes. In addition, new and old faculty could both benefit, by reviewing what was covered in a previous course.

Position 2: Libraries should have at least one copy of an undergraduate textbook to be dubbed the annotated copy.
While libraries prefer users not to annotate their resources, they should in my opinion reserve and permit at least one resource (out of mutliple copies) to be annotated by students with pen or pencil. The rationale for this is kind of weird, born both out of personal experience and experience with the current Web 2.0 trends.

In a weird way, I believe that students like to see what others who have read the book before have to say about it and especially specific points. I myself enjoy looking at what others thought about an idea expressed by the author. I have read books annotated by others that have commented on which points expressed by the author was weak or strong. In addition I have read  a book where a student annotated unfamiliar words to a more familiar words so that one would not have to reach for the dictionary to look them up. As such, the practice I believe is a useful one for students who read the book after, depending on quality of the annotation.

In addition, Biblical scholars also annotate and intersperse the Bible with commentaries and notes. In the online world, this practice is resurrected, with many persons commenting on books read and other media and publishing those comments for other to see. It is therefore in my opinion, human and natural for persons to annotate and comment on ideas in books, and have an interest in what others found interesting, important or useful in a book. This permits conversation.

However, the problems with this is that, like the online world of practical jokers (or trolls) and the offline world of bathroom graffiti artists, we will have some useless and poor quality annotations. Quality control would be an issue, but I do not think that this has to be a limitation that prevents libraries from even experimenting with this practice.


Stockman, Sebastian.  (2012, November 9). Duly noted: The past, present, and future of note-taking.  The Altantic Retrieved from:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Caribbean student's pre-assessment of the library school at Western University

As a library person trained in the only English-speaking library school in the Caribbean region, it is good for me to do my doctoral studies up north, where I can be exposed to another dimension of global librarianship.
My own library school at University of Western Ontario (now called Western University) is very interesting in how its organised and how it carries out the mandate of preparing the next generation of librarians and information professionals of the future.

First of all, the library school is shared with the school for journalism, media studies, popular music and culture, with the recent addition of a section for health information science. These are all included under what is dubbed the 'interdisciplinary' Faculty of Information and Media Studies.

Another interesting thing about the library school here at Western University is that the faculty tend to highly value the perspectives of political economy and critical studies. Analysis and the study of library issues by many faculty members tend to reflect Marxist, feminist and other postmodernist theoretical perspectives applied to analyzing the issues of library development. I personally come to the conclusion that the library school emphasizes that librarians must approach their work, the profession and their research with personal values and ideologies, while critiquing how the institutions of libraries and other information environments are being affected by neo-liberal agendas, ideologies and hegemony.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

My own thoughts about my future research trajectory

This is perhaps a more personal post than previous on this blog. In this post, I express my own thoughts on my own role as a scholar and academic in the landscape of social media research.

I recently reflected on my first publication of an article on Facebook, which was the first research that engaged me and made me come alive (Scale, 2008). I also reflect on my current research on blogs. Back in 2007, I consciously chose to focus on Facebook and social media as an area of specialisation in the first place because, in coming to academia, I saw myself as not being an expert on the areas that my senior colleagues were in and wanted to master an area that they themselves were not experts in. Hence, my decision to target the virgin territory of emerging and new technologies.

This has in fact become my research trajectory for the next decade or so. The research story that I want to tell over the next decade of my life (if all things remain constant) is the story of how social media makes us more human. Instead of destroying our human identity, social media is actually reconstructing how we as human beings deal with meaning, existence and life in the everyday profound and mundane events and moments.

Everything that human beings have been doing for centuries in coping with their existence, grappling with who we are and formulating our identities continue online. Whether it is playing pranks on others (online trolling), gossiping, forming friendships, attacking enemies, to the more positive of telling our stories, sharing our experiences and knowledge, we all as human beings are just doing what what those before us did, but only digitally recording our actions, stories and events in our lives.

I am reminded that posting personal information on Facebook, Twitter or on a blog makes me more human. Such acts presents me as a real person that possess experiences  thoughts, feelings and ideas that another person can relate to. Like for instance, I posted over this week a comment:
"Sometimes you work on and rewrite a paper so much that you get tired of the subject and no longer want to do it."
This attracted number of unexpected like and comments that re-affirmed to me the value of academics blogging. The fact is that scholars and academic persons can be intimidating, especially for their students. Students who see these great lecturers and professors who have many publications and come to class as a repository of knowledge, feel that these persons are sometimes not human. Caribbean students in my experience see such persons as walking encyclopedias, especially if they are able to roll of their tongues the ideas disembodied in books and other publications. However, academics, by posting personal information online can reveal the other side to their identity. That they err, make mistakes and have feelings like everyone else. That they themselves have struggles that their students can relate to.

This is why I guess that I will continue to blog and post personal stuff online despite the fact that we live in a time of surveillance, and where nothing one post on the Internet is truly forgotten. For me the issue is that what we post and share online is just a fraction of ourselves in a moment and does not represent our constantly evolving identity.

When I return to the Caribbean (all things remaining constant), I believe that my task is to be the scholar and expert on how we as a Caribbean people, like  the rest of the globe, appropriate social media to demonstrate and express our humanity, while participating in global documentary practices that leave traces or digital 'foot/hand prints' of who we are, what we have done and how we are connected to and related to the rest of the world.


Scale, Mark-Shane Everett. "Facebook as a Social Search Engine and the Implications for Libraries in the Twenty-first Century." Library Hi Tech 26.4 (2008): 540-56.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Update on Blog research: More blog-based small business information sources

It has been some time now that I have updated this blog. Much of the time has been spent reading and writing for other media such as for journal articles or reference books. However, I have decided to pause and reflect on some current connections between my research and what I find on the Web.

I note that a number of traditional media who produce online news also produce blogs that produce content related for an audience interested in small business issues. Two such media outlets are the Washington Post ( and the New York Times ( However, that is not to say that these are the only two, as I recognise that many media outlets producing online news have their news posted in blog-like formats or structures. The above two though, explicitly refers to these as blogs (by the direct inclusion of the term 'blogs' in the associated URL).

The available of small business news blogs must be contrasted by the conflicting and seemingly low numbers of blog users presented by Pew Internet statistics. According to Pew Internet statistics

Only 13% ever use the Internet to create or work on their own online journal or blog. ( Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2011, May)

Only 14% ever use the Internet to create or work on their own online journal or blog
(2011, Pew Internet & American Life Project, June, 2011)

80% never used blogs as a source to get information about one's local community and 1% not sure. (Rosenstiel, Mitchell, Purcell & Rainie, 2011, Sep. 26)

Only 20% ever commented on a local news story or local blog they read online. (Rainie, Purcell, & Smith 2011, Jan. 18)

30% say that a social, civic, professional, religious or spiritual groups in which they are currently active in have their own blogs. 14% do not know. (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2011, Jan.)

4% posted comments, questions or information about health or medical issues on a blog.
(Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2011, May)

On a typical day, 11% get news and information from the website of an individual blogger. (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2010, Mar.)
These statistics point a picture of only a few persons making use of blogs as information sources. Yet, the content being created on blogs may be very very relevant, current and useful for small business operators and entrepreneurs to access.

Blogs to me are new media to disseminate information that were previously done through word of mouth or ephemeral publications like magazines or newsletters. The fact that traditional media outlets have appropriated them, also strengthens the case for libraries and even users to know about blogs as information sources and when to use them and how to identify and find good ones. Hence the need for my research.

Edited: November 1, 2012 to include proper citation of references


Miller, C., Rainie, L., Purcell, K., Mitchell, A., & Rosenstiel, T. (2011, Sep. 26.). How people get local news and information in different communities. (Project for excellence in journalism). Washington: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from
Rainie, L., Purcell, K., & Smith, A. (2011, Jan. 18.). The social side of the internet. Washington: Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from‐Social‐Side‐of‐the‐Internet.aspx
Rosenstiel, T., Mitchell, A., Purcell, K., & Rainie, L. (2011, Sep 26.). How people learn about their local community. (The Project for Excellence in Journalism/the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Local News Poll Jan, 2011).Washington: Pew Internet & American Life Project. Retrieved from

Monday, October 8, 2012

Categorizing blogs as information sources

Just sharing my latest presentation, "Categorizing blogs as information sources: Implications for collection development policies of libraries" presented at #Influence12 – Symposium & Workshop on Measuring Influence on Social Media Sep. 28-29 at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

More details on the ideas presented at the conference are also available at

Google Power Search course and its application to libraries

It has been a while since I last updated this blog. However, in the span of time I presented a paper at a symposium, and did Google Online Searching Course, officially named "Power Searching with Google". It is the latter that I would like to talk about, and in particular, spin off ideas about the application to libraries.

My experience with Google's online Power Searching course

Google's delivery of the online certificate course used slides, video and HTML (text). I appreciated this, but however felt, that for my own benefit and other persons who are at an advanced or intermediate level, having a pre-assessment would be very useful. I was bored going through all the videos and HTML (text), reinforcing what I already knew and picking up little new pieces of information once in a while. It was after doing the mid-course assessment that I recognised what I did not know, and through this process, Google could direct me through its feedback to the relevant video, slides and html text to improve.

Hence, a pre-assessment, would be able to assess the student or candidate, and save them time by a) showing them where their knowledge is weak and b) directing them to the place to get the relevant update to their knowledge.


I see application to government organisations too, especially in the English-speaking Caribbean. Agencies like the national training agencies could adopt this type of online delivery to train the nation's skilled workers who are not yet certified. I also see it possible that institutions like the Institute of Jamaica, with responsibility for encouraging literature, science and art in Jamaica, could set up online courses in Jamaican science, literature and art, while delivering online certificates to those who complete the online courses as being knowledgeable about local science, art or literature.

Even national libraries could do the same. National libraries are generally knowledgeable about a nation's information resources. As such, national libraries could offer certificate course in nation's information resource, testing candidates for their knowledge of major national information sources and where persons might be able to locate what type of information.

This latter point is essential, as libraries have traditionally seen their training roles in terms of preparing users for use of in-house collection (the old paradigm of bibliographic/library instruction). Today, libraries are now seeing their training roles in terms of preparing users to use collections within and outside of the walls of the library (hence the new information literacy paradigm). As such, it is now not a matter of should libraries offer online courses for clients, but the issue is how do we do it so that our clients or users are actually motivated to pursue and complete these courses. For me, the answer seems plain: offer them an online certificate course with a pre-assessment that first helps them to identify their gaps in knowledge and where they need to go in order to update their knowledge. Let the online certificate be the motivation, and market the course and the certificate. I'm sure those, seeking professional development and career development opportunities, will be glad to do library online courses on information literacy for the exchange of a certificate, so that they can add a line to their curriculum vitae (CV), or résumés.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Web permits more complete storytelling than print media

Let me begin this blog entry with a disclaimer:
"Beware of this article. Heavy theoretical ideas here. Not for the mind that cannot grapple with abstract ideas."
That said, I now turn my attention to discussing some ideas based on a journal article by Robinson (2009). Robinson (2009) presents a case study of a journalistic investigation into a scandal involving a Republican public official and his past and present abuse of authority, link to cyber-homosexuality and past child sex scandals.The main gist of the article is that the Web permits a new paradigm in journalism than the limited traditional paradigm of the newspaper medium. According to Robinson (2009), the Web permits a more complete and interactive telling of a story than what newspaper medium permits. More storylines are available through the Web than in traditional print journalism where, the editors have to make decisions about what to omit and what to include in the story, as well as to order the facts in coherent manner.

As I read this, Robinson further solidified my view about how online storytelling and online media like blogs have transformed the way that we need to think about information. With print, the storyteller is constrained by the medium, and has to organise and edit the story told, in away that makes the reader more distant from the source. However, with blogs and the opportunity to embed audio and video, more of the story can be told and unfold, including the raw footage of what the storyteller saw or heard. This new ability, for the storyteller to take the user to where the events happened and unfold as they tell the story, makes it possible for the reader or audience of the story to not just access the reported events, but also to experience the events as the reporter captured it.

For me, the new media emerging from Web 2.0 technologies are now enabling us to see how the printed textual information sources have limited the power of communicating non-fiction information, while being authoritarian and lacking interactivity. With social media, we can get access to the events minus the interpretation and spin of the storyteller, as well as through comments from others access alternative perspectives about the events (even in real time as is the case with Twitter). Hence, the non-fiction storyteller in the world of social media has less control over the interpretation of the story, especially when they seek to include evidence about the event that took place so as to give the reader an experience of what actually took place. I should also note that blogs therefore present those who wish to communicate non-fiction information a platform for presenting the raw materials for storytelling, so as to help readers reconstruct the story for themselves.


Robinson, S. (2009). The cyber-newsroom: A case study of the journalistic paradigm in a news narrative's journey from a newspaper to cyberspace. Mass Communication and Society, 12(4), 403-422. doi: 10.1080/15205430802513234

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Public library services to small businesses: A dream for the Anglo-Caribbean?

Just had to post about the Bradely Collins'  American Libraries article on public library services to small businesses (Collins, 2012). It is an important article that captures my dream and vision for the island public libraries of the Caribbean. After reading the article, I have itemised the services, resources and other ways that libraries can facilitate the development of small and medium businesses. You can read the entire article for yourself via the referenced URL at the end. In the mean time, I provide you with a summary of the most salient points.

 Business library services to include are, but are not limited to
  • business resource workshops or seminars (outside resource personnel can be invited to present)
  • librarian attending business functions and connecting with business interest groups in order to identify needs and how the library can partner with them to meet the needs
  • market research assistance
  • business networking opportunities

Resources would include, but are not limited to:
  • online business databases
  • pathfinders for business resources 
  • pathfinders outlining steps involved in business start-up
  • business and career collections - dedicated section to these
  • access to trade journals that fit local demographic
  • computer access
  • books and multimedia on creating and running a business
  • sample business plans and other business templates
  • databases on community demographic information and industry trends

Facilities would include, but are not limited to:
  • fax and copier services
  • computers with Internet access
  • providing meeting places for business interest groups
  • spaces for meeting and training

With respect to the English speaking Caribbean region, I perhaps should undertake an Anglo-Caribbean study or survey some time in the future to see how many if any public libraries are actually offering any of these business library services to their populations. It would be useful to discover how well Caribbean public public libraries fare in this area. On a more personal note, I am dreaming to see the day when a Caribbean public library will develop a section or department specific towards Business, Science and Technological Innovation, with the mission of developing and managing specialised collections for business development and scientific and technological innovation.


Collins, B. (2012, July/August). How public libraries are a boon to small business. American Libraries
vol. 43, 28-31. Retrieved August 23, 2012 from

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Prototypes of virtual agents that provide business information

While browsing, I have discovered prototypes of virtual conversational agents that do provide business (or company) information online. They are available on this online directory:

I have even discovered pre-existing virtual agents that offer legal and financial information online:

Even though I have not evaluated these agents as yet, (which might make for a useful future project), I believe that these discoveries support my perspective that conversational agents can be used to convey business information. It is just a matter of deciding what knowledgebase or database of business information or even company information that one wants a conversational agent to store.

Hence, I see that business librarians can perhaps adapt the conversational agent towards providing company information. Already in business information there is what we commonly call the company profile (See Abels & Klein, 2008, p.42 for definition of company profiles) . Or industry profile for that matter. Hence, a conversational agent could be designed to answer questions about what company produces what products and services. Information provided could also include whether the company is publicly traded or private. The agent could also be designed to indicate the ownership structure of the company.


Abels E. G. &  Klein, D. P. (2008). Business information: Needs and strategies. Bingley, UK : Academic Press/Emerald.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How should the future e-book be designed?

On April 10, 2012, I was interviewed in an ebook/i-book project. Students from the Media, Information & Technoculture programme in my faculty at Western had created an i-book or e-book (their terminology was "i-book"). The students therefore, were conducting testing of the i-book and getting reactions to it. I volunteered to participate and give my reactions.

I had to navigate the i-book through the iPad. This was not a pleasant experience for me, as the iPad mediated between me and the information in the book. I found it hard to locate what I wanted due to the need to understand the iPad's gesture technology.

As I compared it with my experience using the physical book, I felt it was much easier to manipulate the physical book, due to the fact that I know exactly what to expect. As I turned the cover page, I would expect to see title page and table of contents. With the i-book, it was not clear where these were. In addition, the pages took a long time to load. There was neither instant or immediate access to the content. I also had to be searching the screen and scrolling and figuring where the familiar information that I expected in a book was, like index etc. With the book as a physical object, there is less need for mediation and greater opportunities to manipulate the book as an object and locate the information I needed (provided it has indexes and table of contents). Plus I knew exactly what to expect, which is not a guarantee with the iPad mediated i-book that I examined.

This experience also brought to light my earlier discussion and review of Laurel's views on computer interface metaphors. In a previous blog post I spoke about the need for humanities to inform computer design. Well, my experience tells me that how we currently think and go about designing e-books is all wrong. Which brings me to the idea of how folklore can help us create better concepts and designs for the e-book.

I read in my university's science library newsletter about a Harry Potter story where Harry Potter interrogates a blank diary by writing a question and receiving a written response (Goodman, 2012). This story inspired some scientists in Australia to create bioactive paper that can conduct blood tests (Goodman, 2012). This bioactive paper receives the input of human blood and outputs results in text informing users about what their blood type is (Goodman, 2012).

Bearing this in mind, I feel that the future of our books need to be more interactive and designed similar to the ideas that Laurel (1993) expresses in her book Computers as Theatre. This is why I feel that the future book must break with the tradition of trying to imitate the printed or traditional book, and take on a totally different paradigm. In this regard, I recommend the artificial intelligent conversational agent to help book publishers transcend into the perfect e-book paradigm.

The agent is specifically applied in education as virtual tutors or virtual coaches in e-learning (Rubin, Chen & Thorimbert, 2010). Some agents have been designed as talking characters from literature, history or science. One example is the Shakespearbot, ‘an interactive chatbot designed to assist in the learning of the life and works of William Shakespeare’ (, 2012). Designing AI conversational agents to simulate talking characters could potentially impact the publishing of future e-books. Agents could in fact be designed as talking books. Rather than permit sequential access to information, an AI talking book could provide a more direct approach to helping users find information located in the book. Hence, the potential for future e-book users to ask books questions in natural language of what they want to know or find out and retrieve direct answers in the same is also a possibility. However, current publishers seem oblivious to this idea. industry data suggests that only two non-English publishers are currently applying the agent, but more for the purposes of customer service, rather than seeing the application as a talking publication (See Figure 1). While publishers may not yet see agents as having a potential to transform the industry, Rubin, Chen & Thorimbert (2010) propose that libraries use agent for storytelling and for even leading book discussions.

Figure 1. directory’s 2 search results for chatbots used by publishers.

In fact, even Laurel (1993) propose agents as storytellers as well as guides to information in a multimedia database. Agents can be performers that tell the user what is contained in the book and even suggest what to click next based on the user is currently reading. This is important as findings from Hertzum, Andersen,  Andersen, and  Hansen (2002) indicate that people when interacting with new information sources such as virtual agents want to develop some assessment of them before they can trust them. Hence whatever information the agent can provide to help people assess their value as information sources can help in establishing trust (Hertzum et al., 2002).

As such, I suggest that the future books take a leaf out of Harry Potter's page and design future e-books to be interactive responding to user input in modifying the information displayed. I also suggest that future e-books incorporate multimedia performances that indicate to users what the book is about and what sources inform the book. Further, I suggest that agents be employed to help users navigate books to content that they need. Since the traditional book has become a disembodied storyteller, let us reincorporate the traditional embodied storytelling practices through conversational agents in the future e-book.


Goodman, M. (2012, August). What’s your type? The Pipeline, Western University The Allyn & Betty Taylor Library Retrieved from

Hertzum, M., Andersen, H. H. K., Andersen, V., & Hansen, C. B. (2002). Trust in information sources: Seeking information from people, documents, and virtual agents. Interacting with Computers, 14(5), 575-599. doi:10.1016/S0953-5438(02)00023-1 

Laurel, B. (1993). Computers as theatre. Reading, Mass. : Addison-Wesley Pub. Co., c1993.

Rubin, V. L., Chen, Y. & Thorimbert, L. M. (2010). Artificially intelligent conversational agents in libraries Library Hi Tech, 28(4), 496-522. (2012). About Shakespearebot. Retrieved from