Monday, December 16, 2013

What I've been learning so far from my storytelling course with iVersity?

So I have begun a new journey to improve my craft of storytelling by signing up for the online course "The Future Of Storytelling" on  at iversity This course is interdisciplinary and taught by German professors, but done in English. And so far, the course has been transformational and inspirational.

One of my favourite moments in the course so far, is the lecture by/interview with Dr. Hans-Christoph Hobohm. In his session, Dr. Hans-Christoph Hobohm, an information science professor, presented in a library space, the origins and history of storytelling. Hobohm in his short 22 minutes video summarised much of what I have learned from my readings on storytelling from both my comprehensive examination and self-directed studies. He also added a new dimension or perspective to what I already knew. Hobohm suggests that storytelling, contrary to what Walter Benjamin and others have argued [1], has never ceased from being around us.  Hobohm in talking about storytelling from past to present, indicates that how stories have been told have changed with technology, but that stories and storytelling are continuously being told in every human epoch and generation.

I particularly enjoyed when Hobohm discussed storytelling in library and information science. He suggested that librarians are awakening to the idea that 'libraries are houses of stories' and as such have been inviting authors and people to tell their stories in libraries. He also talks about storytelling in knowledge management, archival science and oral storytelling. Here he discusses stories as a way of capturing information, tacit knowledge and even wisdom.

I also learned from him about Story cubes, a board game for storytelling (See This game has dice, which instead of having dots, the dice have pictures. When we roll the dice, we must tell a story based on whatever pictures come up. As I saw this game, I knew that I would love to acquire it and use it for not only teaching future courses or classes in storytelling, but also in developing my own storytelling skills as well as those of my children.

The change in my outlook was evident today when I stopped by Indigo Chapters bookstore to look for the Story Cubes in hope of purchasing the last remaining one in stock at my London store. IndigoChapters no longer was a book store to me, but a 'storeroom of stories'. Games and books were transformed into stories competing for my engagement and finances. However, I left the store without any items, but hoping that one day, my own stories would be in that bookstore, screaming out for someone to purchase it.


1. Walter Benjamin (1969) discusses that the production of print literature, movies and television for the masses has killed storytelling. However, while one can contend that oral storytelling culture has suffered from print literature and movie production, one could also argue that with movies and novels come a new form of storytelling, which is the position that Hobohm and my online storytelling course maintains.


Benjamin, W. (1969). Illuminations, ed. and with an Introduction by Hannah Arendt. Trans. by Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken Books.

Windows Surface: A tablet for librarians to consider?

For December 2013, a relatively new tablet is on the market, the Windows Surface. As such I wanted to weigh in my few thoughts on this device as compared with the iPad. (Just to make it clear, I am not paid from blogging or to blog about any of these technologies.)

Unfortunately, I have not played around with the Windows Surface. In fact, I must confess that I have only played around the iPad 1 that I borrowed from my faculty's resource centre. I recently used the borrowed iPad to watch videos for a free online course I am taking, read a thesis, and to read some electronic copies of journal articles using i-Books. Despite the inexperience in using Windows Surface, I still wanted to give my opinions based on research that I have undertaken on the subject of tablet adoption in libraries.

In Scale (2013), I found that some early adopter librarians adopted tablets based on their own personal experience with the device. This is problematic as it is clear that some have sought to incorporate personal devices meant for individual use into an institutional setting that requires the device to be used by many persons or multiple users (Scale, 2013).

In my view, librarians need a more logical and systematic approach to determining what technology to adopt and implement in libraries. Librarians need an approach that is based on the mission of the library and the design of the device to help the library carry out its mission. While it is true that tablets and e-readers are meant for consuming digital content of which libraries have a mission to collect and acquire (Scale, 2013), we need to see which devices are best designed to do so without compromising principles such as the privacy of our patrons as well as adopt devices that are designed for use by multiple institutional users and not the ones that are meant for personal individual use. (See also my blog post critiquing this and recommending instead smart touch screen tables).

In this regard, I appreciate Windows Surface, which has been designed specifically for use within institutions ('Surface RT', 2013; Intel® Corporation, 2012). Surface RT is a tablet device designed for multiple user accounts ('Surface RT', 2013). Further, the device is already compatible with Microsoft Office and SkyDrive cloud storage, making it a useful device for not only consuming electronic media, but also creating content. Finally, it allows one to use a keyboard, rather than having to use the small touch screen keyboard that I disliked on the iPad 1 (see previous blog post).

Hence I conclude that it is perhaps worthwhile for librarians thinking about tablet adoption for their institution to consider Microsoft's Surface. I recommend getting the vendors to demonstrate its capabilities. So if you are still doing shopping for the holidays, go over to the computer store and check it out. Anyways, happy holidays and new year to you all! And I hope you  continue to stay tune to this blog in 2014 for more updates and blog posts.

I also looked back at my 2011 experiments with the iPad (see post 1 and post 2) and found that I have a greater appreciation for tablets today. My main areas of appreciation is the ability to enlarge the text to read of electronic journal articles or thesis papers as well as the capability to search and find a specific keyword. To me, these are the best part of e-reading over reading the printed page. However, I still prefer the navigation system of print. Let's see if future tablets will change my preference.


Intel® Corporation. (2012). Business innovation unleashed. Intel® IT Center Tablet Hanbook. Retrieved from

Scale, M-S. E. (2013). Tablet adoption and implementation in academic libraries: A qualitative analysis of librarians' discourse on blogging platforms. Library Hi Tech News, 30(5), 5-9.
Surface RT - The original Microsoft tablet (2013). Microsoft Retrieved from

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My December 2013 update on my research

So I have presumptuously began collecting and analysing data for my research. This is despite the fact that I have not yet given the revised proposal draft to my committee for approval. (Keeping my fingers crossed that it is better now and almost worthy of approval). Any way, I just want to share in this post briefly an update about some of my thinking as it relates to my current research and possibly future direction.

The general gist of my research has to do with constructing a profile of those who tweet and blog about library consultants and library consulting and analysing from these tweets and blog posts the presentation of the library consultant identity. In essence I hope to examine and analyse the identity of library consultants and library consulting as discussed and formulated in blogs and tweets. My approach is to use mixed methods, collecting both quantitative attributes and analysing qualitatively the narratives that I see emerging. In the end, I hope to tell 'a story' on library consultants and library consulting pulling the various strands of data together.

I have also been reading Simon Down's (2006) Narratives of enterprise. In my view, Down (2006) presents a good ethnography of how entrepreneurs craft their identity that may be relevant for my thesis on the crafting of the library consultant identity. However, after completing the reading, I realised that the book has had a profound impact on my own existentialism.

In some regards, Down is like me. He is an academic who has had a previous life as an entrepreneur. He also wrestles with his own self-identity as an academic who still feels the calling to an entrepreneurial identity. He also finds himself critical of entrepreneurial narratives as they tend to be anti-social. His work has got me wondering if the entrepreneurial and enterprising identity can be compatible with good moral values.

These ideas also relate to what I am findng about librarians' views on library consultants who charge for their services. A Judas or betrayal to the profession theme is emerging even though I haven't really started the 'deep' analysis. So far I have seen two particular tweets that summarise this perspective. One tweet in 2008 where a librarian remarked [not verbatim to protect anonymity] 'Am I the only person disturbed by this listing of paid library consultants?' In a more recent tweet, another librarian remarked that 'what library consultants should be doing is lobbying businesses to create more librarian positions' [again not verbatim]. From these tweets, it seems to me that there is a sinister picture being painted about library consultants who charge for their knowledge, expertise and services.

Yet this is also contrasted by other tweets and blog posts, where there is an event where library consultants offer free library consulting services (ASCLA, 2013). Or a tweet by a librarian praising another person for being a 'good library consultant' [not sure though if the person doing the consulting was paid though].

So far, the story being told about library consultants and library consulting on blogs and tweets is an intriguing one, where most times they are portrayed as villains, both by librarians or even the public who express outrage at the fees charged or money spent on them. Yet, there is seemingly praise for those who engage in no-paid library consulting services. However, I can't disclose all my ideas here, but just some of the preliminary notes and perceptions that I am forming of the data as I go through. For more, you've got to read the thesis when it is done or follow up on my future publications.


Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies [ASCLA] (2013). 'Consultants give back: Free 30-minute sessions in Chicago co-sponsored by ASCLA and PLA'. [blog post]. Retrieved from

Down, S. (2006). Narratives of enterprise: Crafting entrepreneurial self-identity in a small firm. Chelteham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wattpad, publishing and libraries

In a previous post entitled, 'Thoughts about librarians as publishers', I expressed the viewpoint that libraries could participate in disrupting publishing by becoming new players in the publishing market. Well in today's post, I offer a similar viewpoint, but by discussing new player in digital publishing that is doing exactly what I recommended for libraries in my previous post.

I was recently led to discover a self-described 'unlimited, ever-growing library of free books and stories' named Wattpad (URL: ). On Wattpad, users are able to discover fictional writing, share stories with friends and follow authors of interest chapter-by-chapter online and across mobile devices. It is also described as a 'new form of collaborative entertainment that connects readers and writers through storytelling and creative fiction while offering mobile and social eReading experiences'. It also describes itself as a community of readers and writers. Finally, it is free!

According to TechCrunch writer, Darrell Etherington (2013), Wattpad is an online 'Toronto-based social network based on writing and reading'. On the other hand, the site is described by Social Times writer Devon Glenn (2012) as a digital 'publishing platform' that seeks to become the YouTube for Writers and Readers. Mashable writer Adam PopeScu (2013), describes Wattpad as 'the biggest under-the-radar e-literature community on the web' as well as a 'storytelling and consumption platform for readers who want deeper interaction' (2013). Already, amateur authors have been able through the platform to land book deals from traditional publishing company according to a Huffington Post news article ('Online Writing Turned Book Deals', 2013). 

In my view, I like that Wattpad describes itself as an 'ever-growing library' as that is what I believe it is. It is a free library where authors and readers are connected without the middle man of publishing houses. Wattpad in my view is the perfect model for public libraries that want to expand their e-book collections without having to pay the ridiculous licensing fees of traditional publishers. I suggest that such libraries invest their e-book monies into platforms to host works of local and established authors, and enable community and interaction between readers and the authors in socially virtual spaces. It is my view point that Wattpad is one of our latest competitors in library-land (at least for public libraries).


Etherington, D. (2013, Aug. 12). Wattpad launches new self-publishing crowdfunding, first revenue model for the social network. Retrieved from

Glenn, D. (2012, Dec. 4). How Wattpad plans to turn its publishing platform into YouTube for writers. 

'Online writing turned book deals: Three teen authors who got their big break online'. (2013, Mar. 23). Retireved from

PopeScu, A. (2013, Sep. 30). Wattpad is the most active social site you've never heard of. Retrieved from

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A library student "goes" to business school

This week I got the amazing opportunity to speak to students with interest in business and entrepreneurship. It was the launch of a new entrepreneurship club, Micro-Tyco at Western Univeristy (formerly University of Western Ontario). In this post, I want to describe in brief my experience and make some points that I think are relevant for my fellow library students and administrators of library schools.

The Ivey business school building, the setting of the event was very impressive. There were lots of rooms for small group collaboration, great space and decor, with lots of natural light. It did indeed seem like a great place for learning and a place that library school student would be envious of. It was within this pleasant setting that I saw the pleasantness also reflected in the faces and interactions of Ivey students.

After finding my way to the room of the event, I had a pleasant evening of learning more about the club initiative from the executive presenters, sharing my limited "knowledge" of entrepreneurship with other young entrepreneurs and interacting with those present. The atmosphere felt very comfortable and supportive. I felt comfortable as if I was among kindred spirits. Both among the young entrepreneurs there and the business school students there. Most importantly, I received positive feedback about ideas I shared there relating to entrepreneurship that made me feel really appreciated.

Through one on one interaction, I also found that the way that the Ivey students spoke about their teachers and their classes was very positive. They seemed very positive about their learning experiences at Ivey, which made me in turn wish I could experience being a student there.

That said, I want to turn my reflection to what I think about these issues as it relates to library schools.

1. Library schools need to ensure that students are pleased with the quality of their teaching, the building and facilities and have many positive things to say about their learning experiences. As one of my colleagues said to me this month, the best marketing for a department comes from its students. The more students feel positive about their experiences at library school, the more they will share and spread such good reports to others outside. This in turn will automatically pay off in recruiting new students to library schools.

2. By hanging out at Ivey Business school with these young entrepreneurs and business students, I felt that I had an opportunity to make them appreciate my skills and area of expertise in information. This got me thinking that the more opportunities I could get like this, could pay off in the future, as these persons may be my next network contacts to lead to future contracts for my services. My take home point from this thought is that library students need to seek opportunities to network more with business school students. In a previous blog post, I have raised the point that:
LIS schools need to help students learn the same networking skills that business students learn and practice, which can help them get jobs in any field or industry. Hence, we can not afford to isolate our students to talking solely with library professionals, but must also push our students to share what they are learning in library school with persons in other sectors, and get feedback about how what they are learning may be transferrable to jobs outside of traditional librarian jobs.
Well, these are my thoughts for now. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Collecting library users' stories to showcase the impact of libraries

It has become a habit for me to apologise for not updating my blog as often as I ought to. Further, such an apology is accompanied by an explanation as to the reason for my absence from contributing to the blogosphere. Well, if it is acceptable for my limited but regular readership, let such a protocol be deemed to be observed.

A matter at hand has been my observation of the collection of library users' stories to showcase the impact of libraries. Fay Durrant, Jamaican LIS professor in 2006 said and wrote these words:
There is an interesting study of the use of one of the telecentres of the Jamaica Sustainable Development Network. One fisherman who knew how to access the weather reports on the Internet would each day get the forecast and explain it the others so that they could use the information to prepare for their fishing expeditions.
That story has been written up as Islands caught up in the Web in the UNDP magazine Choices by Barbara Blake Hannah a journalist in Jamaica. I think that it would be very useful for us as Caribbean librarians to seek out these stories from our users as a means of determining the impact of information.
Durrant is not the only one to advocate that libraries collect stories of patrons to help us understand the impact of our services. A more relatively recent publication by Nyström and Sjögren (2012) also raised this idea (see previous blog post review of this).

However, today, I report on one such practical application of this by a public library. Recently, London Public Library in Ontario, Canada collected stories from its community via it's Website and presented them via the use of social media, (Facebook in particular). Sharma (2013) in one of London's community newspaper reports  Delilah Deane Cummings, co-ordinator of community outreach and program services at the London Public Library as saying:

“The library is filled with stories in all different forms whether it is books or movies or magazines or e-books and we are inviting Londoners to share their stories with us and with the community” 
Her quote summarises my own views that the library is indeed a collection of stories that transcend media formats. Her quote also captures my viewpoint that libraries need to collect and document blogs that tell personal stories to add to the wider collection of narratives and stories that are documented in other media formats.

In this particular case, the library used the post card memoir format for collecting community stories. The London public library permitted community members to submit drawings, illustrations or text of 150 words. According to Sharma (2013):
The project, Postcard Stories, was launched... and ... in part inspired by similar ideas like the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s “Story Me”  — a blog-based project collecting the stories of everyday people and the everyday interactions library staff have with patrons.
These comments and practices get me wondering if the ideas that I think about for my thesis are being disseminated telepathically (or perhaps through my blog). I been blogging, thinking about and discussing these topics, issues and practices of collecting personal stories or personal memoirs about library use and impact for some time now (see: Article on storytelling for entrepreneurs and [possibly] for libraries and Corporate online storytelling: for libraries?). It is so good to see my thoughts and theoretical musings being manifested in reality.


Durrant, F. (2006, November). The future of libraries and implications for the Caribbean. Address to the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Ordinary General Meeting, National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, W. I. Retrieved from

Nyström, V., & Sjögren, L. (2012). An evaluation of the benefits and value of libraries. Oxford, U.K.: Chandos Publishing.

Sharma, S. (2013, Sep. 12). Your stories could be part of a new public library project. The Londoner. Retrieved from

Friday, September 6, 2013

Caribbean libraries as facilitators in the governance process

This post is based on my own local experience, from which I draw lessons for libraries, but mainly for libraries in developing countries. This post attempts to address 2 questions:

  1. How national libraries can demonstrate their value nationally and in a relevant way to a nation's governance process especially in informing and educating citizens about national issues?
  2. How national and public libraries can use Facebook and other social media to engage their citizens in education on national issues?

Recently in Jamaica, there has been a debate about a proposal regarding the development of some islands belonging to the state (If you are interested in this subject see the news reports from Jamaica Gleaner on the subject). Since most of the information that I have been getting on the islands was from the mass media, I began to think it would be nice for me to see pictures of the islands under discussion, the Goat islands, that were not filtered by the mass media. Unfortunately, I was unable to access adequate images of the islands involved using Google Search, Pinterest or even Flickr. Unlike other parts of Jamaica, the Great and Little Goat islands are not well known sites and do not seem to be very well documented via photographs. Even the Wikipedia entry on the subjects at the writing of this post reveals very little information (See entry for Great and Little Goat island). This is where I began to wish for my public library and national library to step into the national dialogue.

I imagined that if my libraries (public or National) would post on Facebook or other social media (blogs, Flickr, Twitter) pictures and information sources (or quotes from them) in order to help people be better educated about these islands, this would be very useful in helping the nation be more informed to participate in the debate. So on August 28, 2013, I inquired of  National Library of Jamaica (NLJ) on its Facebook page if the NLJ could post a photo of the islands with accompanying information. On the 29th of August 2013, the NLJ obliged me by posting this photograph of a map of the goat islands on its Facebook page as well as a historical fact. But it did not stop there. By September 1, 2013, the Jamaica Observer, one Jamaica's leading printing press published some historical facts compiled by the NLJ in the article "The legend of Goat Islands". Then on September 3, 2013 the National Library posted on its Facebook page a current photograph from the Jamaica Gleaner along with another historical fact.

The event narrated here is an important illustration of how Caribbean national and public libraries can play a role of providing neutral and historical information for democracy and in the interest of the public to inform the national debate. Already, just glimpsing at the Facebook page comments on the photos shared by NLJ, I see many Jamaicans conducting information seeking, asking other questions as well as attempting to process the value of the islands. This is a clear example of what Benjamin Franklin stated about libraries in his autobiography:
libraries have improved the general conversation of the Americans, made the common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so generally made throughout the colonies in defense of their privileges. (Nix, 2012).
Only that this time, substitute "Americans" with "Jamaicans" and "colonies" with "nation". Another aspect to this, is the use of social media by libraries to engage citizens and provide this information to the public as well as facilitate this conversation in this social virtual information space.


Nix, L. T. (2012). The Library Company of Philadelphia. The Library History Buff. Retrieved from

The legend of Goat Islands (2013, Sep 1). Jamaica Observer. Retrieved from

Creating a good organizational story for preserving institutional memory

I have not blogged for a long time now about organizational or institutional storytelling. This has been due to the fact that while organizational storytelling is still one of my interests, it has moved to the periphery of my research at the moment. Currently, I have been thinking more about libraries, library education, library consultants and social media. However, on September 5, 2013, I got the opportunity to apply my interest in organizational storytelling at a meeting of a student club, of which I was one of the founding members, I was assigned the task to tell a newcomer about the student club. However, it was on the next day, after waking up in the quiet of the morning that I reflected on what I did and extracted these key principles.

Principles for creating an organizational story

1. Occasion for storytelling - Linde (2009) argues that for an institution to engage in organizational storytelling, it needs to create an occasion for storytelling. It is at an occasion for storytelling that we engage in what Boje (2008) dubs reflexivity (which in my words simply means reflecting on an organization's past or history). In my circumstance, the trigger for the occasion for organizational storytelling was the occasion of answering a newcomer's question about the organization, the student group. As we undertook the task of socializing the new member, we conveyed to the member the organization's history, something that we never had to do before seriously, on seeing that the club was only 2 years old.

2. Structure the narrative - From a summer course on storytelling I learned how to better create a story structure. One of the most popular means of doing so is by using a timeline. So for my student group, I created a timeline dating back to when we first began to the present. This involved dating the timeline based on the tenure of the leaders of the student club.

3. Identify the main characters or actors- According to Gabriel (2000), all good stories have characters that are portrayed in a particular light. As such, in creating a well-written or oral organizational story, one must always identify main characters. Many such characters end up being the leaders of organizations (Gabriel, 2000). Hence for my case, I identified the leaders of the student group as the main characters. As a group we began to characterise these leaders, developing descriptions of each leader to describe their personalities and idiosyncrasies that they brought to the group or organization, and how they impacted the group or organizational culture of the student club.

4. Identify key events - With the timeline and the leaders plugged into the timeline, the next aspect is to identify key events happening to the student club during the reign or tenure of each of our leaders. 

5. Provide a moral for the story -  This is where I extracted a piece of "wisdom" or advice about the organization based on its past. This "wisdom" is usually a summary in a sentence or few that gives meaning to the organization's past or puts the past in some perspective. Organizational storytelling experts like Gabriel (2000) and Linde (2009) discuss the fact that stories rarely just communicate dry facts, but also opinion or interpretation. From my interpretation and experience, the moral of these stories tend to provide for new members a perspective or lens for understanding the past events and viewing the events meaningfully as well as for use for future reference in interpreting the present and future reality.

This concludes my reflections of what I did as I facilitated the student club in creating and developing its organizational story. I am hoping though, that a year from now, I can use what I have learned to create a course on this topic. (See a previous blog posting about my ideas related to such a course in Corporate online storytelling: for libraries?).


Boje, D. M. (2008). Storytelling organizations. Los Angeles: Sage. 

Gabriel, Y. (2000). Storytelling in organizations :Facts, fictions, and fantasies. Oxford ;; New York: Oxford University Press. 

Linde, C. (2009). Working the past :Narrative and institutional memory. Oxford ;; New York: Oxford University Press. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

How public libraries can get involved in e-learning

Over the past week, I have been working on a project and doing some readings that got me thinking about new directions for public libraries. One of these new directions that I have been thinking about is the opportunity provided by e-learning. While I do not document my readings here, I just want to share some preliminary thoughts about how libraries could actually organize e-learning with face to face community that meets at the library. Excuse my crude ideas, without any backed up sources and references in the slide presentation below (hopefully I will get some time to present my arguments and case in more detail in the future):

Friday, August 2, 2013

Thoughts about librarians as publishers

This blog post is partially a reaction to a webinar I attended recently on the topic of librarians as publishers. The webinar, put on by the Ontario Council of University Libraries and the Public Knowledge Project featured three university librarians sharing their experience and knowledge from being responsible or library projects in hosting journals (See description of webinar at

While the webinar got me thinking more deeply about the topic of the roles that libraries currently play and can play in the future as publishers, I must mention however, that I have been thinking about this topic prior to 2013. However this event has motivated me to express some of my preliminary thought here in writing. As such, below I will outline five (5) current and future roles for libraries as publishers based on what I have observed and know about libraries:

  1. Journal hosting - was the one role that the webinar focused on. his include hosting journals for faculty, academic societies and even for student societies. I especially liked the idea of the library hosting graduate and undergraduate student academic journals.
  2. Monograph hosting - This too was mentioned in the webinar as a logical extension of journal hosting and possible future expansion opportunity for the university library with experience in journal hosting.
  3. Bibliographies of a university's research - This one comes from my own observation of the research and development bibliography developed by the University of the West Indies Mona Campus Library entitled Research for Development Vols. 2: A Bibliography of Staff Publications 1998-2002. Unfortunately, I cannot find a copy on the Web to link too, but only a  catalogue entry in WorldCat. This initiative from my memory has a foreword that indicates the importance of the library as playing a role in disseminating information about university faculty's research to the wider public.
  4. Bibliographic databases: This a logical extension of publishing bibliographies of a university's research. This too has been done by the University of the West Indies Mona Campus Library through the Mona Online Research Database (MORD).
  5. Out-of-print books and previously unpublished historical works or manuscripts: For this, I foresee librarians especially managing special collections, getting forewords from knowledgeable faculty as well as contributing their own forewords about manuscripts or other out-of-print works that are within the library's special collection. these can be published as e-books or as print copies on demand, using print on demand technologies such as book espresso machines. Szkolar (2012)'s blog post explores this issue of book espresso machines and how libraries can use these to enter in publishing.
Discussion (or viewpoint):

Academic libraries in particular have the options of becoming publishers of e-books, e-journals, databases as well as print on demand resources. Public libraries too can extend themselves into these opportunities by courting established authors and even local authors to let the library host their works and offer print on demand with book machines. A further even radical proposal is that libraries can even bypass copyright collecting agencies in paying fees directly to the authors for the books/resources that were downloaded and printed (especially the printed ones).

Hence, libraries could naturally extend into a royalty management role, that publishers currently occupy, but as a nonprofit institution that seeks to be equitable in balancing the need for access to information with the right of the author to benefit economically from his or her intellectual work. In order words, I am radically considering the opportunity for libraries to replace publishers and copyright licensing and collecting agencies. After all, publishers and such agencies are actually middle men between libraries and the author. Why not eliminate the middle men, and allow authors to interact directly with their readers through libraries, similar to how self-publishing platforms like Amazon also allows the author to eliminate the need for working with a publisher.


Szkolar, D. (2012, April 4). Espresso Book Machines: Should Libraries Offer On Demand Publishing?  Information Space [blog]. Syracuse iSchool. Retrieved at:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Changing library education with the times

This post follows my previous on Repurposing library education to prepare students for library consultancy, which is basically an introduction followed by a narrative telling of the history of library education and where we are at that new crossroads in library education. In that post, I begin to introduce my thoughts that library education needs to adjust with the times and environment in which governments are reducing library staff positions, and prepare graduates for new opportunities in library consultancy. I now acknowledge that what I have discussed may only be relevant to North American and European library education at the moment, based on their political situation where governments are trying to contain their spending on public services and respond to the force of neoliberalism and the perception that government is corrupt. What I describe here may also be important for large developing states like Nigeria, where there has been recent articles complaining about the library consultancy services in that nation ("Nigeria threatens to blacklist library projects consultant").

That said, I want to build the case for the need for library education to expand its options from just offering a Masters in Library and Information Science/Studies, to new degree options that will prepare graduates for the new opportunities in library management/administration and in library consultancy. I propose a new degree option to be named:

  • Masters in Library & Information Management (MLIM) or just the Masters in Library Management (MLM)
  • OR Masters in Library Administration (MLA)
My argument for these new options is that currently, an MLIS is very good at preparing our students for careers in academic librarianship and corporate or special libraries. However, the degree has less value preparing our students for a career in the public libraries. This is evident in a recent blog posting by the Canadian Library Association's Government Library & Information Management Professionals Network (2013) that reports statistical data of steady decline in the number of library science positions in the Government of Canada, between 1990 to 2012. Further, school libraries and children librarianship and other positions in public libraries are also struggling according to the 2012 Library Journal report on salaries and placement of library school graduates indicate (Maatta, 2012).  However, on the contrary, there are growing vacancies in public libraries for the more administrative and managerial positions (Maatta, 2012). However to be frank, I perceive that recent MLIS graduates may not be considered qualified for such positions and may be excluded due to an expectation that they must have a certain number of years of experience.

As such, I feel that in order to prepare mainly North American library students for their new environment, there must be an introduction of the additional degree speciality of a Masters in Library Management or Administration to prepare them to effectively manage libraries or act in administrative capacities, or to be able to provide consultancy services to existing library managers. Such a new option in the degree programme would focus more on issues of library management, rather than just exposing students to only one course on managing libraries and information organizations/centres.

This is in keeping with what I believe was the original intent of library education in the first place. On reading Rubin's (2010) discussion on the origin of professional library education, it is clear to me that Melvil Dewey was of the view that libraries are institutions to be managed like businesses, and operated efficiently and effectively. Further, it seems from reading Rubin (2010) that the Andrew Carnegie Foundation that also funded library education had a similar goal of producing graduates that would be able to effectively and efficiently manage the new libraries that were built by the foundation. As such, I believe my recommendations here are aligned with the original foundation of library education. What do you think?


Canadian Library Association (CLA) Government Library & Information Management Professionals Network. (2013, July 8). Library Science (LS) Positions in the Government of Canada, 1990 to 2012 [blog post]. Retrieved from

Maatta, S. L. (2012, October 15).  Placements & salaries 2012: Types of placements. Library Journal [blog post]. Retrieved from

Nigeria threatens to blacklist library projects consultant. (2013, June 7). Premium Times

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Repurposing library education to prepare students for library consultancy


I am coming to a conclusion about the path that library schools need to take for the transformation of library education. However, to make that argument, I want to take my time and build a case using several blog posts. This is perhaps my first prelude to the argument, in a story or narrative form.

This story comes as a result of my concern that while libraries will or may continue to exist for a long time to come, library schools may not (or at least not in the form that they currently exist or existed as in the past). There are a number of systemic problems with library schools, which have not sufficiently adapted to the changing environment of librarianship in practice. The main problem:

 •Library schools are producing graduates who may be unable to find employment in libraries as they are overqualified for the shrinking quantity of positions that are available in existing public and government-sponsored libraries.

In an era where governments and municipalities are cutting budgets, contracting out services and looking towards privatization, employment in libraries is problematic. This problem is primarily documented in a number of professional blogs. A recent blog post by the Canadian Library Association's Government Library & Information Management Professionals Network (2013) recently reported statistical data showing that library science positions in the Government of Canada, 1990 to 2012 have been steadily declining. In addition, as the Library Journal report on salaries and placement of library school graduates indicate, there are challenges with getting jobs in government-funded public and school libraries, with growing vacancies in libraries for the more administrative and managerial positions (Maatta, 2012).

However, within these challenges, I perceive new opportunities for library schools to reinvent library education and prepare existing and new graduates for entrepreneurial opportunities within the current library employment situation, without removing an emphasis on libraries. As such, I present a tale to introduce this idea, that draws primarily on a retelling of Rubin's (2010) chapter 3 that discusses historical events that have shaped library professional education.

The tale

Once upon a time, there were no library schools. Persons coming to librarianship were scholars, who previously gained experience in managing libraries from managing their own personal library collections. These scholars in turn trained the next generation of librarians through apprenticeship.

Then came Dewey, an entrepreneurial American librarian. And he said: "let there be a standard system for organizing global human knowledge in libraries". And there was the Dewey Decimal classification and the card catalogue.

Dewey looked at his system and saw that it was good. Then he thought to himself, why not share this system with the world and train librarians to use it. So Dewey said: "let there be library schools at universities to offer professional education for those who want to be librarians and let them be trained in the Dewey Decimal system." And then there was the first library school.

Decades passed, and then came Andrew Carnegie, another American entrepreneur. And he said: "Let there be free public libraries." And there were public libraries, built by philanthropy, but maintained by the public purse.

However, Carnegie realized that many of these libraries were not being properly managed and maintained. As such, he decided to investigate the situation and concluded that these new institutions needed professionally trained persons who could manage them well. After investigating the education situation of librarians he then said: "Let every free public library be staffed and managed by a librarian that has attained professional education at university level."

And there was funding to universities for establishing library schools and the establishment of more library schools and library degree programmes.

Decades passed and as governments assumed control of the continued funding and maintenance of public libraries, then came a great recession. And governments began to cut their spending on libraries and on universities.

Then came the Internet and people began to question the need for libraries and library buildings.

Then some library schools were closed. And others transformed into I-schools or information schools. And a gulf began to separate scholars and researchers at library schools from the practitioners of librarianship.

While all this was going on, a small group of librarians became entrepreneurs, offering their expertise to other librarians. At the same time governments began to reduce library services, restructure libraries, lay-off expensive professionally educated librarians, outsourcing or contracting out work to cheaper labour sources and even privatizing some services. And in time, some of these government-run public libraries began to employ these consultants on a contractual basis to help restructure libraries or solve problems or provide advice on solving certain library organizational problems. Since then, this new group of library consultants have been growing, similar to how business students undertaking MBAs later enter the workforce as consultants.

And I wonder if perhaps this growing library consultancy industry provides an opportunity for library schools to repurpose library education and provide library school students with the skills and knowledge to become library consultants.


Canadian Library Asssociation (CLA) Government Library & Information Management Professionals Network. (2013, July 8). Library Science (LS) Positions in the Government of Canada, 1990 to 2012 [blog post]. Retrieved from

Maatta, S. L. (2012, October 15).  Placements & salaries 2012: Types of placements. Library Journal [blog post]. Retrieved from

Rubin, R. (2010). Foundations of library and information science (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Applying my narrative information source framework to Twitter: Preliminary findings

Following from my previous blog post, I want to now demonstrate how my narrative information source framework is seemingly operational. After using Twitter to locate tweets on library consultants and library consulting, through the following queries, I began to see data that fit within the pattern of my theoretical framework:

Twitter query for library consultants:

Twitter query for library consulting:

Guide narrative information sources
Based on my preliminary results, many sources on Twitter functioned as guide or referral based information sources, pointing me to other types of narrative information sources. I would argue that Twitter can function as a type of search engine or reference tool to locating various types of narrative information sources. However, unlike Google, Twitter is updated by users or crowdsourcing, rather than a crawling spider program.

To show one example of how tweets located in Twitter function as a reference information source, pointing me to other sources is the tweet of a URL link to a blog commentary or review of

When accessed, the URL from this tweet, functioned as a commentary on or guide to  library consultant blog - This blog appears to be a narrative information source, narrating a specific library consultant's personal experience in her work of library consulting. This is just one of the many examples of  how tweets in my query lead me to other documents or types of narrative information sources.

Personal Narratives,  eulogies, biographies, memoirs (or mixed narrative/life-writing information sources)
Tweets can also lead one to the narrative information sources conveying personal reflections, reports of  personal experience or to information about the lives of library consultants. Blog postings directly retrieved from tweets included the following:

By Cindy Bajema:You Can’t Stop the Librarian in Action

from the tweet;

  • death and obituary of library consultant

  • First Project as Library Consultant

    I have even been directed to vlog posting (or a YouTube video) where a library consultant tells her narrative or personal story of her work and what it involves from the following tweet:

    Non-fiction information sources (Events & Documents)
    Tweets in my Twitter queries have also led me to discovering non-fiction narrative information sources such as:
    • the retirement of a library consultant (which in a sense is also a life-writing type of narrative information source)
    • and job information or job advertisement
    One tweet even led me to another guide or referral based narrative information source, specifically a directory of over 41 library consultants: from the tweet:
    Event information and press releases are also popular in Twitter. One event tweet was:
    Tweets like the above tweet discussing an event usually point to a document such as a press release.

    My Twitter search on library consulting also lead me to  documents that related to the work of library consultants such as Pelham Public Library's  25th of March 2013 posting of "The report put together by BPC Library Consulting for Performance Concepts..."from the tweet:

    Or to Springfield City Library's June 22, 2013 posting of this tweet

    Tweets in my search results also pointed to information about places that used or needed consultant services. A church (Bethel Seventh-day Adventist church) is mentioned in one tweet by librarian Amy Patrick ‏@mom2sadie in 4 December, 2012:

    Or this tweet by the Telluride Planet reports on a public library making use of a library consultant to gather information from the public about their priorities for the library:
    Conclusion and viewpoint

    Hence, as you can see, my preliminary conceptual framework of narrative information sources is able to from preliminary selective observation to explain the types of narrative information and information sources that one can access via Twitter.

    Finally, while I did not deliberately set out to show you that Twitter is useful for finding or locating business information, you can perhaps obviously see this from the data I present. Twitter in my view has thus proved a useful business reference tool for finding/locating current business information, particularly in the library and information industry. Industry events, competitors and market information are all available and can be easily monitored with a saved Twitter query. This is due to the fact that people and organizations are posting and referring to content/information online through tweets. Hopefully in my next blog post, I can expand upon the idea of Twitter as a business information source or resource. Or should I more accurately say that Twitter can function as/like a business information search engine?

    Thursday, June 27, 2013

    An introduction to my narrative information source analytical framework

    In my previous blog post, I made mention of my shifting focus to study library consultants. My study however, will still retain a focus on the study of blogs and tweets (or Twitter) as sources of information as well as social information spaces. It is on the point of categorizing information sources that I want to blog about in this post. Specifically, I want to discuss my framework for information source analysis of blogs and tweets

    I have created a theoretical or analytical framework for analysing the types of information sources that exist in blogs and tweets  that differs from the traditional categories of people and documents in much of library research literature. Instead I propose a method that classifies information into types of narratives, rather than into types of media/channels. In this sense, narrative information sources can transcend media and is increasingly applicable to the online and social media world, where the lines between storage medium and communication with people are blurred. In this framework, narrative refers to an account of either an event or an experience. This account can be told in varied ways where a person can either attempt to tell the account in a factual and objective way or can perform the account in an interestingly and aesthetically pleasing way to interest in one's audience (sacrificing some of the facts for emotional effect) (Gabriel, 2000).

    In my model narrative information sources fall into four main types or genres:
    • non-fiction (or objective) narrative information sources
    • fictional (or imagination based) narrative information sources
    • reality-based, but subjective narrative information sources and
    • interpretative or referral narrative information sources

    Non-fiction narrative information sources - is my term to cover categories of narratives such as those that exist in academic journals, newspapers, magazines and other documents that aim to be objective and present different viewpoints of an event or different experiences, or even the coverage of a single event or experience supported by fact gathering. The intention and purpose of non-fiction narrative information sources is to be accurate and objective in its reporting of an event or experience.

    Fictional narrative information sources - is my term used to cover the set of narratives that are based on imagination or even re-imaging one's world or reality (real event or experience). In this account of an event or experience, the creator may use imaginary characters, create an imaginary world, embellish and reconstruct reality or experience in ways that violate what we know about the real world or simply be creative with their event or experience in order to make it interesting and appealing to their audience's imagination and emotions. Sometimes fictional narrative information sources (like parables) aim to instruct others about real world events or experiences.

    Reality-based narrative information sources - for me are those narratives that are based on one's memory, viewpoint, or personal experience. These include biographical sources, auto-biographical sources, opinions and viewpoints, views or advice that comes out of knowledge that one possesses due to personal experience or the acceptance of the experience of others.

    Finally, interpretative or referral narrative information sources - is the term I ascribe to the category of narrative information sources that point to or refer to other sources, interpret other sources, provide viewpoints on other sources, or summaries commentaries or reviews. These sources are essentially based on and provide information (whether opinion or facts) about other narrative information sources.

    In conclusion, this is the framework that I hope to use when conducting my analysis of tweets and blog postings. However, it is still in the beta or development stage, and I welcome your comments on it. Nonetheless, my preliminary beta test analyses have made me excited about the framework. In my next upcoming post, I hope to blog about how I have been finding this analytical framework useful and effective in understanding blogs and tweets as business information sources. Stay tuned this blog for more exciting details.


    Gabriel, Y. (2000). Storytelling in organizations: Facts, fictions, and fantasies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    Research Update: Shifting to study library consultants

    For the past two months since beginning to teach and reflect on library management issues, my eyes have been open to the library consultancy industry. Since my original research interest was on studying entrepreneurs, I have seen this trend as an opportunity for me to shift my focus a bit for my research proposal, to the study of this particular type of "library entrepreneur". Currently I am considering a study of knowledge sharing by library consultants via blogs and tweets. This group is apparently underrepresented in the library and information science (LIS) literature. Most studies on librarians ignore this group of independent or self-employed workers or entrepreneurs, in favour of librarians employed to or working full-time in institutions.

    So who exactly are library consultants?
    I searched around four library dictionaries for the term "library consultant" and only found the term in Prytherch's (2005) compilation. According to Prytherch, the library consultant is:

    an individual offering a range of professional skills and advice relevant to the operation of libraries. Usually these skills will be marketed on a commercial basis by a Freelance self-employed person who is not directly employed by the library concerned, but who may be retained on contract for a fee. (p.410)
    According to Prytherch, an alternative, albeit broader term is the term "information consultant". the information consultant however is "a generic term used by self-employed Freelance individuals operating on a commercial basis in the areas of information handling and related fields" (Prytherch, 2005, p. 350)

    Recent sources have indicated that there are many library consultants (or at least in America). In a press release for the American Library Association (ALA) 2013 conference, advertised is a session where library consultants offer 30 minutes free consulting to librarians. For this event, here is the list of consultants expected to participate:
    • Lori Bowen Ayre of The Galecia Group; 
    • Liz Bishoff of The Bishoff Group; 
    • Carson Block, Carson Block Consulting Inc.; 
    • Nancy Bolt, Nancy Bolt & Associates; 
    • Yolanda J. Cuesta, Cuesta MultiCultural Consulting; 
    • Carole D. Fiore, Training and Library Consulting; 
    • Donna Fletcher, Donna E. Fletcher Consulting, Inc./Library Survey Consultants; 
    • Cheryl Gould, Fully Engaged Libraries; 
    • Catherine Hakala-Ausperk, Libraries Thrive Consulting; 
    • Stephen C. Maack, REAP Change Consultants; 
    • Gretchen McCord, Digital Information Law; 
    • Ruth Metz, Ruth Metz Associates; 
    • Sam McBane Mulford, ideation * collaborative; 
    • Kathy Page, Page + Morris; Paula M. Singer, The Singer Group, Inc.; 
    • Melissa Stockton, Quipu Group; and 
    • Richard L. Waters, Godfrey’s Associates.
    Additional profile of the consultants participating is available on this website:

    Not only that, but ALA also has a section, the Association of Specialized & Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), which offers the Library Consultant Interest Group.

    Twitter also provides a channel for accessing the most recent news being shared on library consultant, as is evident on the embedded Twitter widget below:

    In addition, I have put together a crude slide presentation as part of a business/market research into the opportunities in library consultancy below:


    In my view, this industry, made possible by new public management trends in public and school libraries, which has seen increasing opportunities for librarians to offer their expertise to libraries for a fee rather than becoming full-time employees. Rather than employing full-time librarians, boards and municipalities responsible for libraries seem to be contracting or outsourcing special projects or services to library consultants, while reducing qualified full-time library staff for less trained and qualified and cheaper labour. Depends on how you look at it, this is an opportunity or a crisis in contemporary librarianship.


    American Library Association. (2013. May 28). Consultants give back: free 30-minute sessions in Chicago co-sponsored by ASCLA and PLA [Press release]. Retrieved from

    Prytherch, R. J. (2005). Harrod's librarians' glossary and reference book. 10th ed. Aldershot, Hants, England: Ashgate.

    Friday, June 7, 2013

    Personal reflections of Jamaican Information Scientist on a presentation of Blacks in Canadian picture books

    This post is perhaps unusual for my professional/scholarly blog, as it blurs the line between my spirit and work. It comes from my reflections and observations from personal experience, specifically, tackling my reflections at my 2nd Canadian Association for Information Science conference, where I attended the 2013 presentation: “Picturing Difference: Multiculturalism in Recent Nova Scotian Picture Books.” by Vivian Howard, Dalhousie University. To give a bit of context, I want to begin by discussing what the presentation was about, then discuss the points in the presentation that resonated with me and why. Finally, I want to discuss my emotional response to the presentation.

    To summarize, Howard's presentation was essentially on picture books representing the Black Nova Scotia community. She focused on 3 picture books, (two fiction and one non-fiction). From I heard the topic of the presentation, having discovered that Jamaican Maroons were the first Jamaican immigrants to Canada, I anticipate hearing the mention of the Jamaican Maroon community that were immigrants to Nova Scotia. This came on around the second slide. As such, I felt emotionally connected to the presentation because it speaks of black people and particularly about Jamaicans. It reminded me of my UWI undergraduate days as a student of Political Science, where we studied our own history and institutions from our own skin colour and local perspective (a hidden value of studying at local universities).

    There were other emotional points and inflections through the presentation that resonated with me. I saw in one of the picture books the mention of "natty dreadlocks" with the illustration of a dreadlocks man playing a drum. As I saw it, I definitely felt connected to this manifestation of a Jamaican spiritual identity within Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

    It further got more emotional for me in the presentation, when I began to learn about Viola Desmond, Black woman, entrepreneur, and the "Rosa Parks" of Nova Scotia Canada, who "sat down for her rights" in order to fight against racial segregation. This information was presented from the non-fiction picture book by Warner and Rudnicki. (2010) and had special resonance with me, making me feel as if I was taking in a Black history month's presentation.

    I also listened to a video interview of Black author, Shauntay Grant, where it was evident that Grant did not intentionally plan to write the stories she did as picture books, but it was through coincidence that a publisher attended Grant's spoken word performance, and invited Grant to publish her poem as a children's book. Her two books if you are interested in checking them out are:

    Up Home (2008)

    As I connected with the presentation and looked around the room and noticed that I was the only black visible minority there among the information scientists. Then it occurred to me, where were the others that looked like me in Canada? Where were the Canadian black information scientists and why were they absent from this conference?

    Howard, V. (2013). Picturing difference: Multiculturalism in recent Nova Scotian picture books. 41st Annual conference of the Canadian Association for Information Science, June 6-8, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. (See programme at

    Warner, J. N., & Rudnicki, R. (2010). Viola Desmond won't be budged!. Toronto: Groundwood Books/House of Anansi Press.

    Further reading:
    Grant, S., & Tooke, S. (2008). Up home. Halifax, NS: Nimbus.

    Grant, S., & Tooke, S. (2010). The city speaks in drums. Halifax, N.S: Nimbus.

    Milan, A. & Tran, K. (2004). Blacks in Canada: A long history. Canadian Social Trends Sring 2004 Statistics Canada — Catalogue No. 11-008, p. 4. Retrieved from

    Tuesday, May 28, 2013

    What my lived experience teach about how academic libraries can support post-secondary student entrepreneurs?

    I have held very negative views about business for much of my youth, even at one time gravitating towards Marxism. However, my university years helped to bring me in touch with realities. After almost completing my Bachelors in Political Science, I started to be more conscious of the fact that I needed to be job ready. Further, I was not willing to walk into politics, which I had a new distaste for after encountering university student politics. It was only then within my university years, that I awakened to the possibility of being my own boss and starting my own company.

    For throughout my education, I could not recalled being encouraged by teachers to pursue entrepreneurship. Career guidance was biased towards becoming professionals or getting jobs. I find that even children books published are biased towards getting children to think about traditional careers. This for me is why our librarians need to step into the gap and demand that our children publishers not only produce books for children on traditional careers, but also books on the life of entrepreneurs and consultants.

    All this said, it is only within years of my transition from undergraduate to my Masters that I began to consider and even study entrepreneurship for myself. This led to my Master thesis and eventually my first book (Scale, 2012). Yet, the greater good that came out of this experience is that I realised by doing my Masters in Library and Information Science, how libraries could have played a more important role in shaping young persons into realizing the option of entrepreneurship as an alternative to career seeking and job search.

    Well, it is with this new understanding, that I have resumed studies as a PhD student. And as such, I now attempt to operate as a potential student entrepreneur, interrogating the academic library system to see how it could support me in this endeavour. As such, I just want to share briefly some of my own findings/observations (which may or may not be peculiar to the university system that I am within:

    1. Most of the resources for entrepreneurship and career development are located within the business library.

    This is problematic, as the business libraries in both universities that I study at are usually separated from the general library collection that social science, science and even humanity students access. Hence, unless they actively browse the library catalogue for such resources, there is little way of serendipitously discovering these resources.

    2. Only business students get adequate training in using and accessing business databases.
    This is problematic because, only business students will have the competence of knowing when to check a business database to find information, the strength and weakness of each and knowledge of which database to search for particular information. 

    To some extent, select library students are introduced to these databases (especially if they are undertaking a business resource course). Nonetheless, all the rest of university students are excluded from this insider knowledge that could help inform their business planning and research.

    Conclusion:  The way that the business library resources are separated from other disciplines, excludes students from other disciplines that do not take business courses from exposure to business resources and even the knowledge in how to use these resources to assist them in researching and planning businesses. 

    Alternately, there are business incubators on campus. However, in my experience, business incubators and librarians operate separately, and not in partnership.


    1. Academic librarians must do something to reduce this unequal access and exposure to business resources. We cannot just leave all business resources within the business faculty, and not permit other students from other disciplines to not gain exposure to these resources.
    2. Academic librarians must also approach business incubators with a partnership to train student entrepreneurs in business resources and the use of the library resources to support their business research.

    When we have done this, we as librarians would ensure equal opportunities for all post-secondary students to not just seek jobs, but also to become entrepreneurs.


    Scale, M. (2011). Written information and planning in Jamaican small businesses: A usability approach. LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing

    Sunday, May 26, 2013

    Critique of tablet adoption in academic libraries

    It is been a while, as due to teaching, writing for publication and doing my own research (as well as networking), I've been unable to maintain this blog. However, today I've been able to get some space to put down some ideas that I have been mulling over for some time. This concerns the adoption of tablets in academic libraries in particular. Based on an article in the Huffington Post and my own research and evaluation of the features of tablet devices (which should come out soon in an article in Library Hi Tech News), I am taking the opportunity in this post to contribute to the librarian discourse on tablet adoption in libraries.

    In April, the Huffington Post Canada  (2013) reported Thorsten Heins, BlackBerry's CEO, as predicting that the market for tablets will decline within five years. While Heins may not provide a very strong basis for those predictions, it may be worthwhile for librarians to heed his words and consider carefully whether or not to invest in tablets within the next 5 years or perhaps consider laptops as alternatives.

    The main problem with librarians adopting tablets that I have found documented in the literature is the mismatch between the tablet being designed for personal use, whereas library adoption of tablets typically seek to facilitate multi-person usage. This is pointed out by Lotts and Graves (2011) who applied the iPad technology to reference services and found that their use of the iPad for reference services conflicted with the intended design, as librarians sought to make the iPad available for use among multiple librarians. Baggett (2011) also suggests that tablet applications or apps are designed for personal or individual use rather than for multiple users of an institution. Hence, these sources both point out that adopting tablets, whether for use among multiple librarians or multiple library users, is a mismatch of the use of technology with its intended design.

    Instead, I recommend that libraries consider the future technologies that may be more relevant for our situation. In my view, libraries should have smart touch screen tables (rather than tablets) that can serve as online catalogues, e-white boards, and devices for reading or accessing e-resources and the Web. For these purposes, smart touch screen tables are better than tablets for libraries, as they have larger screens. The technology is already here, with interactive touch screen table vendors such as Digital Touch Systems providing such technology (). As librarians, we perhaps need to take the initiative and be innovative, discussing and negotiating with such vendors, rather than just adopting every new technology fad.


    Baggett, M. (2011), “Technology: A new wave of tablet computers”, Louisiana Libraries, Vol. 73 No.3, pp. 13-17.

    Huffington Post Canada  (2013, April 30), "Thorsten Heins, BlackBerry CEO: Tablet will be dead in 5 years", Retrieved from

    Lotts, M. and Graves, S. (2011, April), “Using the iPad for reference services:  librarians go mobile”, College & Research Libraries [C&RL] News, Vol. 72, No. 4, pp. 217-220.

    Thursday, May 2, 2013

    Library online catalogues enhanced by harvesting online reviews

    After a pause to prepare for teaching and work on some journal articles for publication, I have now returned my attention to my research proposal and in particular, my research problem. I have begun the process of narrowing down my idea again, and am exploring the possibility of studying "Blogs as narrative information sources for knowledge sharing". In this blog post, I just want to share with you some of my thinking through the issues as I formulate my research problem. Lets begin with a fictional story to represent an aspect of my problem.

    Joseph searches the library online catalogue on restaurants. After reviewing the results retrieved, he shakes his head. Which of these resources should he check out? Which one will be worth his time? Why doesn't the library online catalogue provide any signals to advise him about the content in these resources? Does he have to go to Google or Amazon to read reviews for each material before taking the time to retrieve or browse them?

    What Joseph contemplates is not far from reality. Libraries are already implementing online catalogues that draw on summaries and reviews from other online websites to help given readers more information about catalogue entries.  In my observation, I notice that the London Public Library (in Canada) uses the Encore, a product of Innovative Interfaces Inc., which facilitates reviews from library users/readers (Encore, 2012?), and even seems to harvest reviews and ratings from This is of interest to me, because I am developing a research proposal with the idea that one of the practical implications of my research is the harvesting of blog content to enrich library catalogue entries.

    According to the overview of Encore on the Website:
    Encore offers a suite of applications and web services that delivers a universe of information in ways that are intuitive, relevant, and, perhaps most important, familiar to today’s internet users. Through a single search box, Encore connects users to all the trusted resources the library collects or selects. Plus, Encore gives users ways to connect with each other and participate in your library’s information landscape.

    How? Encore elegantly presents all manner of discovery tools, including faceted search results, Tag Cloud, Did You Mean…?, Popular Choices, Recently Added suggestions, and RightResult™ relevance ranking. It integrates federated search, as well as enriched content—like first chapters—and harvested data, and facilitates community participation with user tagging and community reviews.
    Consequently, it appears that our online catalogues and discovery systems are already making use of online reviews generated by ordinary users to enrich the information in the OPACs.

    Another Canadian library, the Toronto Public Library also uses a similar service called Syndetic Solutions™ from Bowker. According to its website, Syndetic Solutions™ from Bowker “is the premier source of specialized, high-quality bibliographic data designed to enhance library online catalogs”. It also offers Syndetics Classic™  which reportedly provides:

    a wealth of descriptive information and cover images relating to videos, DVDs, CDs, audio books, and all types of books—from young adult chapter books to conference proceedings. Various elements of content are added weekly for over hundreds of thousands of new titles each year. Syndetics Solutions™ strives to provide a wide variety of the most useful and highest quality information available, much of which can not be found on online booksellers' catalogs and not available from any other source. New options are constantly being added to the service .

    Hence Syndetics Solutions™ seeks to enhance the online public access catalogues of libraries through displaying descriptive data about the resources within the library's collection that can signal to readers the content within particular resources. Among the the descriptive data are summaries and annotations, tables of contents, author notes, book reviews, topical headings, images of book covers, and actual excerpts from within the books (Bowker, 2011). Of interest here are the reviews, of which Bowker (2011) reports that Syndetic Solutions product, Syndetics Classic, offers more than 2.8 million reviews as part of its enrichment elements. According to the its FAQ page,  Syndetics Solutions harvests its reviews from the following publications:

  • Library Journal - coverage beginning with 1985
  • School Library Journal - coverage beginning with 1985
  • Publishers Weekly - coverage beginning with 1985
  • Criticas - coverage beginning with 1999
  • Booklist - coverage beginning with 1988
  • Choice - coverage beginning with 1988
  • Horn Book - coverage beginning with 1985
  • Kirkus Reviews - coverage beginning with 1983
  • New York Times – coverage begins with 2007
  • Doody’s Reviews – coverage beginning with 1993
  • Quill and Quire – coverage beginning with 1996
  • Voya (Voice of Youth Advocates) – coverage beginning with 1993

  • As such, Syndetics, unlike Encore, does not harvests its reviews from any ordinary person online, but rather from selected and "trusted" publishers.

    My viewpoint on this matter is that while "authoritative" and "trusted" reviews by so-called "experts" are useful, we cannot ignore the ordinary or lay person's own review. According to a Technorati (2013) report, "blogs rank among the top five “most trustworthy” sources" that consumers use to make purchasing decisions (p. 4). Further, a study has shown that a good portion of consumers (approximately 70%) trust in and value online reviews similar to personal recommendations (Anderson, 2010).  In addition, it has been found by Johnson et al. (2008), that blogs have been deemed as highly credible sources of information for those who use them (albeit biased sources). As such, the data shows that in the online environment, online users desire authenticity, candid remarks, the biases and personal viewpoints expressed in online reviews in general and in particular, those views expressed on blogs. Which is why, my current research in validating blogs as information sources and narrative artifacts for knowledge sharing is important.


    Anderson, M. (2010, Nov 29). Local Consumer Review Survey 2010 – Part 1. BrightLocal Retrieved from:

    Bowker (2011). Syndetics classic: Enrichment elements. Retrieved from

    Encore (2009, May 22). Twelve libraries launch Encore 3.0: Libraries implement ratings, reviews, new discovery features, and more. Retrieved from

    Encore (2012?). London Public Library (Canada) patrons embrace social participation. Retrieved from

    Johnson, T. J., Kaye, B. K., Bichard, S. L., & Wong, W. J. (2008). Every Blog Has Its Day: Politically-interested Internet Users' Perceptions of Blog Credibility. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), 100--122. Retrieved from ttp://
    Technorati. (2013). TechnoratiMedia. 2013 Digital influence report. Retrieved from