Saturday, December 13, 2014

An idea for the use of a 3-D printer in the library

As I have been following up the maker-space movement in libraries, I remember conversing with a former library student who noted that he did not see the purpose of having a 3-D printer in the library. I also remember a retired LIS professor questioning the need for library maker-spaces. In this post, I reveal my one idea for how a 3-D printer and a maker culture in the library can fit into what I see as a traditional library mandate.

London Canada's maker-bus (October 2014)
To begin, I must make it clear that I do not see the maker-space as a new trend or fad in libraries. For me, libraries have historically played a part in a "maker culture". What I mean by this is that for years, libraries have stocked up "how-to-do" or "do-it-yourself" books, audio-visual tapes and other resources. In addition, many libraries have traditionally offered programs or services such as art and craft sessions, where we encouraged users to be creative and produce creative works.

As such, I believe that the current interest in creating maker-spaces can only enhance what we have traditionally done. Now, we have the potential to combine the how to knowledge (books and other media, including YouTube videos on the Internet) with technology hardware and other tools as well as library space and programming (workshops and other events) to get people or users to make "stuff". 

Consequently, my first suggestion or idea for libraries considering maker spaces is to get locals to make physical "media" for display in the library, namely self-made or custom-made:
  • printed  books 
  • board games

My main idea is that libraries can use 3-D printers to support local board game developers. This can be done primarily by printing game pieces. For example, my departmental library at the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (University of Western Ontario) 3-D printed a miniature Starship Enterprise among other things. What better way to support indie game board developers by helping them design and print their own game pieces? And don't just stop there! What better way to celebrate local, organic and homegrown independent authors of board games than by showcasing their works and creations in the library along with displays that inform others about their games. We could even permit users to play the games in the library and provide feedback for board game developers on their prototypes.

What I recently learned about OCLC

For many of you who might not know me, I have an ongoing interest in entrepreneurship. However, I am awakening to the fact that a for-profit entity is but one of the varied options of entrepreneurship that someone can pursue. Alternate to the profit-driven enterprise, is the social enterprise (or socially-conscious entrepreneurship) as well as the non-profit entity. In this blog post, I want to share what I learned about the financial model of one of the largest non-profit entity in the library field, the OCLC.

If you are the library field, chances are, you have come across the name OCLC. If not, you may wish to read more about it on its website's About page. In short, OCLC is a large globally-spanning non-profit library cooperative (like a union of libraries) that has as its mission to share and organize library resources.Well, in summer 2014, I blogged about a conversation I had with technology vendors that got me to question the financial model of OCLC as a non-profit as opposed to a social entrepreneurial venture.  From that conversation, I realised that I had a gap in my understanding of the difference between a social entrepreneurial venture versus a non-profit entity. Hence, on Friday, December 12, 2014, I accessed the newly released OCLC annual and financial report to discover for myself the answers to two questions.

Question 1: 
My first question was that OCLC refers to itself as a non-profit, yet charges for services. My question was what does OCLC do with the fees it charges?

According to the financial report, the OCLC
is a nonprofit, library cooperative. We operate in a business-like manner and are driven by our public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs—providing shared services, research and advocacy programs to deliver on these purposes.
Also, if I am interpreting the report correctly, the OCLC reinvests its "profits" (fees, earnings or incomes) into research and development so that it can develop new products and services that meet the needs of libraries and their clients or users. According to the report, OCLC's:

operations and research initiatives are funded by revenues generated by services provided to participating libraries. Unlike alternative library services organizations, OCLC invests resources into new services and programs rather than distributing funds to shareholders. OCLC also maintains an investment portfolio, or Sustainability Fund, that is managed in a manner similar to an endowment.
Question 2: 
My second question was how does OCLC make money? The above quotation to a great extent answers that question. In short, the report indicates that OCLC makes money from:

- fees or "revenues generated from services provided to participating libraries" and
- capital investments that are managed "similar to an endowment"

Currently, the report indicates that OCLC is operating at a loss from fees charged to libraries, but is earning from its capital investments. Further, OCLC points out that it did not increase the prices for its products and services for X number of years. As the report states:

OCLC has historically operated at break-even, with revenues that approximate the costs to deliver services and programs. However, for the past four years, OCLC has consciously operated at a loss. This loss is attributed to: [t]he decision to support the membership during a challenging economy with three years (2010–2012) of no price increases in the Americas and only modest price increases outside the Americas. In FY14, we increased prices by a modest 3% on average following a 2.75% increase in FY13....

So, with these questions answered, my next question is what is the social entrepreneurial model and how does it differ from OCLC's non-profit financial model?


OCLC. (2014). About OCLC: Our story. Retrieved from

OCLC. (2014). Annual report. Retrieved from

OCLC. (2014). Financial report. Retrieved from

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Narrative information sources for medicinal care and the implications for LIS

For those who have been following up on my blog for some time, you might already be aware that I am interested in narrative research. Well recently, my university staged a lecture where an author, Dr. Vincent Lam, presented on the topic "Narrative in Medicine – Why We Need Stories in an Age of Evidence". The event was held in the University Hospital | Auditorium A, Room B3-246.

So I attended the lecture by Dr. Vincent Lam staged at my university's hospital. Unfortunately, due to my mix up with the time, I arrived when the lecture was already in progress. Nevertheless, I was still able to get what I needed to hear and even got the opportunity ask Dr. Lam a question. In the next few paragraphs, I outline some of my take away points from Dr. Lam's talk. 

Before outlining what I got from the talk, it is important to indicate my particular interest in the narrative turn in patient care and medicine. I particularly see this new emphasis on narrative based information sources as being important to libraries and information science. This narrative turn in the medical sciences has implications for librarianship, especially in terms of how we go about serving health related information sources. I also see the importance in this for those working as hospital librarians, as they too need to consider supplying biographical or narrative sources to health care providers. (Now back to Dr. Lam's talk.)

Dr Lam indicated that during the encounter between a patient and a health practitioner, the patient brings a story. Usually, the story is "something happened to me". Lam suggests that the health practitioner is then expected to hear and listen carefully to the client's story, and then to use his or her special knowledge and tools to explain the story. Lam also suggests that the health provider is also expected to tell the patient "what will happen next". As such, Lam suggests that doctors and health practitioners have a role to play as story interpreters as well as storytellers. In his words, "doctors are story interpreters" and "third party storytellers", offering story interpretations and storytelling to patients like the shamans and spiritual doctors of the age before modern medicine.

Dr. Lam also argued that health care providers can also benefit from being educated in the literary arts. He cited a study that indicates that reading literary fiction promoted empathy. In general, Lam stated that reading tough, difficult and challenging books was good for medical professionals as it would enable them to become more empathetic. This is needed as medical professionals tend to rely a lot on statistics and hard scientific numerical facts that make them less empathetic and understanding of their clients' needs. 

He said that sometimes doctors need to put down their scientific spectacles in treating patients, and see the world through a different set of eyes. Lam suggests that it is really "easy to miss something about your tools because that is what you work with". It is always good to get outsider perspectives. And narrative information from patients who experience illness are as important as the scholarly or evidence based medical literature for this.

Lam also makes the point that patients rarely present information about what is happening to them in an easy form for doctors to use to make a diagnosis. Patients often do not use the medical terms and jargon when presenting their health problem. Instead, doctors have to collect, interpret and put the fragments of information presented by the patient together into a medical narrative, in order to make sense of it and to arrive at a diagnosis. Hence, in this regard, doctors also need the skill of understanding patient narratives and being able to convert such narratives into a medical narrative.

At the end of his talk, I asked him about his position on doctors reading autobiographies,watching YouTube videos and reading blogs of those who experience illness. His response was "very valuable" and that doctors should read these to supplement their scholarly readings.

My question was motivated from my recent discovery of a Masters thesis in the University of Western Ontario's institutional repository entitled:
Women's Stories of Breast Cancer: Sharing Information Through YouTube Video Blogs  - Jenna Kressler, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, MSc
This interesting thesis title seems to suggest that a blog is not a medium,but a way of presenting information (genre). Hence YouTube Video blogs! (Or vlogs). The article also touches on the storytelling idea for sharing health-related information. The author also used narrative analysis to conduct her research, similar to the type of analysis that I am doing for my research on blogs and tweets. Finally, she conducted her analysis on the personal narratives of women victims and/or survivors of breast cancer.

The narrative turn in medicine could spell hope for the value of the humanities in academia, Medicine is realizing and awakening to the idea that narrative and storytelling skills are important to its practice. Further, librarians have a role to play in serving medical practitioners with not just scholarly and scientific literature, but also biographies and other personal narratives of the persons that experience illness. Finally, librarians also have a role in not just providing the published sources of narratives, but also considering social media sources such as blogs and YouTube videos. Curating these may also be valuable to medical practitioners who need to supplement their professional understanding of illness with a deeper understanding of the patient's side of the story.

Blogging dilemma for an academic

One of the challenges that I have discovered about blogging about my research or research interests as an academic is the potential problem of compromising the peer review process of academia. While I not sure if it happens in practice, I suspect it is quite possible that academics or practitioners who review papers that I submit to journals are able to discover that I am the author if they:

  1. have been following up on my blog or status  updates on social networks 
  2. are curious enough to Google search or snoop on the Web to discover the possible author of the paper they are reviewing or come across the information by accident while googling the topic.

Any of these will compromise the blind peer review process as it will remove anonymity about the author of the paper. As such, this raises a dilemma for me as an academic passionate about blogging and sharing my research with my online social and electronic networks. This reduces what I can blog about. I have to avoid blogging about my research until after it has been published, which can take some time. Hence, I can not post weekly or even monthly updates on my ongoing research findings or even any part of the research process.

This leaves me to consider what else can an academic safely blog about?

While I currently see some of my Jamaican academic colleagues blogging commentaries about current events in Jamaica, to me this seems quite risky as an untenured faculty. Unless one is providing scholarly analysis, one risks alienating university administration, politicians and potential donors to the university and to one's research. In this era of academic capitalism and the corporate university, it seems that an untenured faculty  member needs to remain publicly neutral on issues, as an employee of an institution that seeks capital investment from various sources. In this new era, everyone in society is a stakeholder or potential stakeholder for the university.  This includes:

  • Politicians (who may or may not be in power)
  • Students and alumni from all religions, political affiliations, sexual orientations, ethnic groups, race, etc. who are both customers and potential donors (or contributors to the university's endowment fund)
  • various non-profit entities and corporations who have funding, donations or other investment to contribute to the university's development or research.

Consequently, the university, just like the secular state, must be inclusive, while at the same time, upholding traditional academic principles. Principles such as free speech, intellectual freedom, and diversity of thought, opinions and perspectives must coexist with an environment where all stakeholders feel that the university is serving their varied interests.

As such, it seems safer for academics to blog about pedagogy (how to teach their subject). But even blogging about pedagogy publicly is challenging, because we have to preserve the privacy of our students and what goes on in the classroom from the public.

Perhaps it is safer to blog one's reaction to information disseminated. This includes news, news articles, research papers or events such as video or conference presentations. Yet, it seems that academics may still need to be careful in selecting which issue published to react to, avoiding controversial topics. Blogging about hobbies seems safest. However, many times, our hobbies are not connected to our research.

As such, I wonder if in an era where blogging can land one in trouble with the law, do blogs give academics (especially the untenured ones) any voice? We are the university employees of  a new era. An era where tenure is no longer guaranteed. An era where the university is adjusting to a new institutional status as an institution that seeks to attract capital investment from all stakeholders in society in order to maintain its survival.

Second, our own peers can victimize us during the blind peer review process if we blog about our research, depending on whether or not they like us. Even if they do not victimize us (especially in cases where they like us), blogging about our research potentially compromises the blind peer review process. This it does by making it easier to identify the author of a manuscript submitted for publication. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My experiences using e-book/audio book platforms and subscription services

I took some time over the summer to experiment and explore a number of online e-book and audio subscription services. In addition, at the time I began my exploration, an article emailed to me from my network entitled "What’s better than Kindle Unlimited for $120 a year? This free alternative" (see Randall, 2014) also inspired me to think more about my experiment. The result is this preliminary report on my experiences using three e-book/audio book platforms or subscription services: Reading Rainbow, OverDrive and Audible. The limitation, I have only attempted to use these platforms on one device, the iPad.
  • Reading Rainbow app for iOS - free version
  • OverDrive - free through my public library
  • Amazon's Audible - 30-day trial version

I begin with the Reading Rainbow App downloaded from the App Store. Reading Rainbow was a television program when I was a kid, and now that I am a parent with girls that like to read, I decided to check out this app. Rather than being an app that talk about books and featured children performing reading, the app was essentially a "Library of Children's Books, Kids Videos & Educational Games" (See the i-Tunes review). After the long introductory video, the app visually organizes books by islands of interest (located in the sky) with interesting titles such as "the Animal Kingdom", "Genius Academy" and "Action Adventure & Magical Tales". The child can then navigate to an island of interest and access books and educational videos in that genre or topical island. In addition, the readers in the free version can check out up to five e-books into their virtual backpack. The reading experience is not only one where narration is provided, but to some extent, limited interactivity is built into the picture books, where readers can touch the page and experience certain (motion and sound) effects.

While Reading Rainbow was a hit with my first born who wanted me to subscribe so that she could access more books and return the books she had already read, I could not bring myself to do so, knowing that I had a free public library 15 minutes away from where I lived. Yet, considering that we had limited time to spend at the library each week borrowing books and that my first born devoured the books borrowed within 2 days, it seemed that access to e-books would perhaps be a better option for such a voracious reader. This brings me to the free library alternative, OverDrive.

In 2012, I blogged about my first experience using OverDrive (See that blog post here). However, at that time, I used OverDrive, I did so using the laptop. This time however, I used OverDrive with the iPad, and I must say, OverDrive is better used with iPad than a laptop. Just the portability alone and the fact that you can curl up into a chair without something warm or hot (especially in the summer) in your lap makes the iPad or tablet computer a better option for reading e-books or listening to audio books versus the laptop.

That said, to get started, you have to download the app and get your library card in hand. (Setting-up can be quite a daunting process compared to Reading Rainbow's app). Once you are set up and learn your way around the app and the library's website, you are good to go. OverDrive is definitely not as intuitive and easy as ReadingRainbow, where you can just navigate to islands of interest. Rather, navigation here requires browsing images of book covers or tapping on hyperlinks organized by genre. However, the plus side is that you can search for what you want (whereas Reading Rainbow forces you to just explore what they have available). While OverDrive was great for downloading both e-books and audio books, I do not think it sparked the enthusiasm of my firstborn as much as Reading Rainbow. Nonetheless, my firstborn enjoyed listening to the audio books and hopefully learned some new words and how they are pronounced or sound, compared to just reading the text by herself.

Another thing about OverDrive is that the collection is limited. For one reason or the other, the selection of books was particularly limiting for my peculiar interest in Judeo-Christian theology. I found few books (7 from four authors) discussing Jesus. On the other hand, I could not access the Word of Promise audio Bible that I had previously borrowed in CD-form from the same public library and had to settle for a less dramatic King James version. As such, I conclude that OverDrive perhaps may not be a platform to go for a specific hobby-related interest, but more what is the popular interest. Another down side to this, is that you only get 14 days to listen to or read the books borrowed. In addition, some books that you may be interested in may have to be placed on hold as someone else is currently reading or using the file. So you might have a queue waiting for an e-book or audio book to become available.

That brings me to Audible. Audible requires setting up an account with Amazon or signing into your existing account with Amazon. That said, I was offered a 30 day trial version of the service, enabling me to download the app and experience it. It is from this app that I was able to access the Word of Promise audio Bible, which I downloaded and was able to listen to even without Internet Access. The strange thing about this was that my CD player and radio died 2 days after I downloaded the app (must have been jealous).

Compared to OverDrive, Audible seemingly offers a greater variety of books for one's peculiar hobby-related interest. Further, you do not have to wait in a queue for a popular book. You can essentially get any book that you want for either a monthly or annual fee. Randal (2014) mentions that Kindle Unlimited charges $9.99 a month, but the fee for subscription to Audible is 14.95 per month. With this price, I will just stick it out at OverDrive and perhaps just buy the e-book that I really want that the library does not provide access to.

Now listening to audio books is like listening to the radio. When I was a child, there used to be radio dramas. And listening to audio books, (especially fictional ones) or those that employ dramaturgical or theatrical elements, reminded me of those days when I'd listen to radio dramas. Yet, I am a more visual person, and eventually tune out audio as background noise (apart from the interesting fiction books like the ones my firstborn were listening to). Further, I can only listen to one book at a time and could not fathom downloading a new audio book daily, weekly or monthly. What this means is that I would have to download books that I'd want to hear for a year, and then listen to each book until it is completed, before going on to the next book. As such, I don't think paying $14.95 per month is justified for listening to audio books, just the same way that I am unaccustomed for paying to listen to radio stations with their annoying ads.

That said, I end my report on my experiences here. Up next (in the future) is my report on the experience using Google Play as a platform for accessing e-books.


Randall, T. (2014, July 31). What’s better than Kindle Unlimited for $120 a year? This free alternative. Bloomberg Retrieved from

Monday, August 4, 2014

What the iPad and Tablets are good at?

So if you haven't gotten a tablet device as yet, I guess this post may be useful in helping you decide whether or not the device is a good fit for you and your lifestyle. Here in bullet points, I summarize what the iPad in particular and tablets in general are good at. While I conclude that the iPad is bad for typing, tablets in general are good for media consumption, and for some types of media generation. Here is my list of what the iPad is good for:

With tablet technologies you can:
  • read e-books
  • listen to audio-books
  • surf the web (with quality of web surfing limited to those sites that provide a mobile website)
  • check email (with quality of email access dependent on the email provider providing a mobile email app)
  • play games 
  • watch video
  • take or capture photographs or video

However, you can't use the iPad to replace a laptop or PC. In fact, the iPad is best functional when synchronised with other devices (such as an iPhone, PC or laptop). This especially because not all Websites and Web services are fully functional when viewed by a tablet. Secondly, there are certain things better down on a laptop or PC with a large screen and a keyboard that is large enough for you to type 60 to 120 words per minute.

Mobile apps coexisting with the printed book?

I had the opportunity this summer to explore mobile apps on the iPad. In addition to experimenting with the tablet and mostly free mobile apps, I also completed my online course on "the future of storytelling". In this course, one of the final segments was on transmedia storytelling, which mentioned how the narrative of a traditionally published novel was extended through the use of mobile apps. Through this particular segment, I learned about MirrorWorld and Mirada. In this blog post or entry, I briefly introduce both MirrorWorld and Mirada, with some discussion of how these represent a new trend of convergence between traditional book publishing and mobile app development.

To begin, MirrorWorld is one of the works of Mirada in modern storytelling that mixes both traditional and technological techniques to expand on a story world first told by a novel. According to Mirada's About page,  Mirada is "a studio designed for storytellers" (Mirada 2014, "About"). They specialise in "synthesizing archetypal oral tradition with modern technique" (Mirada 2014, "About", para. 2). Mirada further dubs Mirror World as the "World’s First Living Storybook" (Mirada 2014, "Cornelia"). In my understanding of Mirror World, Mirada built a mobile app that functioned as a story engine or database that permits users to explore the story world and be immersed into an interactive experience while exploring the story. For more information on this (or if you want to check out the app for yourself), explore the following websites:

However, I just wanted to opine here that after seeing Mirror World and learning about the development of the app to expand on the novel, I think the future of traditional book publishing will persist. Hence, future books being published will have accompanying apps. These accompanying apps will expand the story world of the traditionally published book visually and otherwise. What this means in my opinion is that the printed book is not yet dead, but will co-exist in the future with apps that expands upon the narrative that the book tells.


Mirada (2014). About. Retrieved from

---(2014). Cornelia Funke’s mirror world: Crafting the World’s First Living Storybook.
Retrieved from

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Can graduates consult fresh out of library school? A few thoughts

For June, I have been putting together my thoughts and research on consulting and consultants in domains outside of library and information science (LIS). I have also been informally talking with independent information professionals and formulating ideas about my dissertation project, including possible conclusions and recommendations that I might want to contribute to the field. In this blog post, I want to share some of my thoughts (that I may not necessarily include in my final project). These thoughts are basically centered around providing answers to the question:
Can graduates consult fresh out of library school?

In a recent conversation with a library student about my research, I mentioned that I am studying  library consulting as a phenomenon. The conversation lead to her asking me several questions about library consultants and library consulting. One such question was whether or not library consultants need to have experience working in the field before doing consulting. Currently, it is the dominant paradigm that library consultants cannot be students "fresh out of library school". This view is not only held by MLIS students, but also practitioners and professionals. It is also embedded in the literature that basically defines a consultant as an "outside expert" that provides problem solving advice. Yet, my view is why does it have to be seen this way?

When I look at MBA graduates, they leave business schools and immediately join management consulting firms, with little or no experience working in actual businesses. When I consider this, my argument is that how we teach MLIS students could also prepare them for consulting without actually working in libraries. In my radical proposal, a consultant does not necessarily need work experience, but could tentatively have two other criteria:
  1. an outsider perspective and
  2. a specialty

When I look at MBA education and even management consulting literature, students are prepared for consulting. They learn methods and processes to do consulting through books such as

Another thing about MBA education (I know these things partially because my wife did an MBA), is that they work a lot with real life cases or case studies. So while MBA students do not have work experience, they use these cases and case studies to practice their consulting methods and principles. Sometimes, MBA courses actually insist that students actually engage real companies and organizations and prepare their own cases and proposals for solving the problems in those cases. Considering this, I wonder if library schools could borrow some of these practices in library education in order to prepare library school graduates for consulting.

Then when I look at law education, I see law students as studying mainly cases. Is it possible that library school graduates could substitute work experience by being exposed to studies of various "library cases"?

I also look at the fact that sometimes consultants are engaged in organizations for their specialty. Sometimes, this involves their knowledge of a particular software, collection, or of a particular subset of users (say for instance LGBT users, or African-Americans, or Muslims, etc.) or because of their specialty in a particular language. In other words, there are cases in which work experience is unnecessary to consulting, particularly in cases where MLIS graduates already come with a bachelors degree in a previous area of studies. In other cases, MLIS graduates may have a niche hobby that enables them to be an expert or specialist in a particular area, such as Comic books, Graphic Novels, Star Trek or some game specialty.

Finally, I look at my own experience as a MLIS student, where I actually performed information brokerage, information consulting and library consulting before graduating from library school without knowing that what I was doing had formal names and procedures. In some of those instances, the outcomes were not as successful as I would have wanted them to be. However, now that I have researched consulting and have come across principles, process models and methods for consulting, I felt that I could have been more effective in my library and information brokerage and consulting roles early on in my career. Had I been taught how to be an effective consultant in library school, I feel that I would have gotten better results in all those early freelance projects that I did as a student before graduating from library school.


It is therefore my opinion that while the dominant perspective in my discipline is that library school graduates cannot enter into consulting directly after exiting library school, that this is not a function of them lacking work experience, but a function of the library curriculum not preparing them for such roles. My main support for this argument is that MBA graduates consult without work experience, and this is because they are provided with adequate curriculum and informational support. Secondly, I have argued that consultants are not only important because of their work experience, but sometimes because of their knowledge derived from their hobbies or personal experiences. Library students doing their Masters, with a degree in another subject, are highly likely to possess some niche area or subject that they are quite conversant if not an expert on. Finally, I feel that my own personal experience could have been enriched by a course that would prepare me for effective consulting. (Coincidentally, I am aware of recent grads that are also doing consulting and am sure that they too would benefit from such a course). So I say, let's think more about this.


Kurian, G. T. (2013). Consultant. The AMA dictionary of business and management. New York: Amacom.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Talking with the vendors of InMagic Presto & MinISIS

Day 3 SLA 2014 conference June 10: Talking with the vendors

I had four unofficial priorities for this conference 
1. Network with library and information consultants
2. listen to talks presented by library and information consultants
3. informally talk about my research ideas with library and information consultants
4. experience SLA for the first time

However, on attending I found that I just went with the flow (giving up my own agenda) and sought to make the most of the experience. This included:
talking and networking with employed librarians, which enabled me to receive valuable career advice and counselling
formally joining AIIP (paying the student membership fee)
purchasing Mary Ellen Bates' book on Building & Running a Successful Research Business
learning whatever I could from each presentation at the conference (especially those relating to social media or my other research interests)
and finally, talking with vendors to get updates on their products and what’s going on with databases today

It is the latter official goal that I want to discuss some more in this blog entry.

I spent the time listening to presentations from and chatting with the vendors of library systems and technological solutions. In total, I counted 4 vendors that I actively or passively engaged to learn from:
1. Intellixir LCC,
2. Elsevier – Scopus
3. Minisis
4. InMagic 

In addition, I sat in a session where librarians shared their stories about how they made the best of SharePoint for their Intranet and library services, which deserves its own blog post.

However, in this particular blog post, I want to discuss the 2 vendors that I spoke with who actually had clients in the English-speaking Caribbean: Minisis and InMagic. In fact, because I was aware that my colleagues from the region used these vendors, I took the time to learn about their updates and upgrades.

InMagic Presto for DB/TextWorks

I spoke to Jason Buggy from Lucidea and had him demo the new Web-based interface upgrade for InMagic dubbed Presto and was impressed. New features include being able to incorporate blog entries and other social media such as discussion fora into the catalogue results. That’s right folks; the industry is ahead of academia, as they are already providing features for including blog entries and discussion forums in a library’s catalogue. Of course, the entries are based on what the librarian collects and vets. 

In addition, a new feature that I also saw was that Presto enabled one to include the profiles of experts (picture, contact information and blurbs of experience/knowledge) into the catalogue or OPAC results. That’s right; the inclusion of people information in the OPAC results as well, so that one can showcase the knowledge experts or knowledgeable people sources 

You can check out a brochure on Inmagic’s Presto here:

With news that the National Library of Jamaica is moving beyond WINISIS and on to OCLC’s WorldCat, I was a bit curious as to what’s happening with MinISIS, which is a related platform. So I had a chat with Christopher Burcsik. While for this software, I did not get a demo of the features, I got some background information about the company and MinISIS. For instance, I learned that MinISIS was Canadian. In fact, the brochure that I accessed states that "MINISIS Inc. is a multinational corporation headquartered in Vancouver, BC, with regional offices in Ontario, Tunisia, and Trinidad and Tobago" (p.2).

While MinISIS was once free and based on UNESCO’s open-sourced WINISIS, its development was later funded and sponsored by the Canadian Government (personal interview). Eventually, the Canadian Government cut the funding to the software, forcing MinISIS to change its model from a publicly funded free software development to one where it had to charge fees to be viable. According to the brochure, MinISIS is a social entrepreneurial venture. While they charge fees for the software, they continue to support the development of the software to support the needs of libraries, archives and museums across the world that still depend on and possess databases based on WinISIS records. 

I also got some insights from Burcsik, who argued that open source development of library software is not sustainable [especially for developing countries I would add]. He pointed out that there would be need for constant evolution and update, including creating new patches to prevent against viruses and hacking, for which librarians would not be experts in  [The whole time he was talking this, I was thinking about University of Prince Edward Island library’s Islandora open source project and wondering if Mark Leggott would strongly disagree]. Burcsik also made the point that WinISIS basically could not survive beyond the efforts of the founder. As such, he suggests that only commercially drive software by companies driven by profits can continue to develop sustainable products for libraries (personal interview).

When I raised the issues of OCLC, it was suggested that OCLC, though claiming to be a non-profit entity, was actually between a non-profit and profit-making entity. It was also suggested that OCLC perhaps makes far more profit than MinISIS. This may be something that I might need to look into further. 


Minisis Inc. (N.d.). Minisis Inc: Celebrating over 40 years of innovation in database technology [Computer file/Brochure]. N.p.: Author.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Social media insights from Zena Applebaum @ the SLA 2014 conference

Day 2 of SLA social media insights

Day 2 of my first Special Libraries Association (SLA) conference and I'm thinking to myself, "this is where I belong". Here I am, attending several presentations where information consultants have similar assumptions regarding using social media tools to find information as I do. Mining blogs, Twitter and other social media platforms for insights seem to be the norm in the information consulting industry. To information consultants, social media presents a very important and free information source in addition to paid commercial databases.

Zena Applebaum, Director of Competitive Intelligence at Bennett Jones LLP, was one such presenter that gave a talk on this subject. Two things fascinated me from her presentation entitled "Social media-Turning noise into action":
1.     The assumption that social media can be information sources from which information should be collected 
2.     That one can develop a social media collection and acquisition policy (or procedures) to make decisions about what social media data or information one could collect.
It is these points that I want to briefly review and talk about here in this blog entry.

First and foremost, Applebaum argues that social media sits between the spectrum of primary research and secondary research. She further argues that social media provides access to people essentially talking about themselves and others without the researcher eliciting those responses. She further suggests that on social media, there are both individuals and institutions that provide information. Her questions are not so much whether or not such information can be trusted or what's the value of such information, but how do we get at that information. This is in contrast to my discussions with some academics and in academia (including a few librarians), who are suspicious of social media information and ask can the data be trusted and how can we know whether or not the social media information is authentic or meaningful. Further, I've found that from informal discussions within limited academic circles, that there are doubts about collecting and storing such information, as social media information is deemed to be either too trivial, ephemeral or lacking the authority of traditionally published/secondary sources and primary sources.  

The second thing that impressed me about Applebaum's talk was that she laid out what seemed to be guidelines for getting or acquiring social media data. In her presentation, she discussed the need for competitive intelligence specialists to have a framework for monitoring and collecting relevant information from social media. This begins by determining what she refers to as "key intelligence topics". According to Applebaum (2014)

Key Intelligence Topic - (KITs) are those topics identified as being of greatest significance to an organization’s senior executives, and which provide purpose and direction for Competitive intelligence operations. 
How do we determine these topics? Applebaum suggests that we conduct a series of interviews of a representative group of users from which we ascertain the relevant topics to monitor media and social media for. Then we are to grouped these topics into appropriate categories and get our stakeholders (the senior organizational executives/users) to allocate a priority to the same. Hence to begin the process, Applebaum recommends that we analyse who are our stakeholders (or users) and what decisions do they make. In addition, we must also ask:
•What knowledge do the users need?
•What intelligence can we provide?

The second step in the process is to define what she terms the "collection plan" (Using my collection development training, I would call it the collection development/acquisitions policy/procedures. However, her term may indicate less formality in the process). This involves determining the producers of the information that one needs and how to locate them. In Applebaum's presentation, this analysis of the sources that need to be monitored involves asking:

•Who has the information you need?
•Who is their audience?
•What social media will they use?
•How do you search those platforms?

In my own experience as a librarian, the first two steps are similar to the process that I go about when identifying and determining which publishers (and vendors of commercial databases) to contact for what materials are needed for my library. The last point relates to how do I find those publishers (or vendors) in order to make those purchases (nowadays, we just deal with agents rather than contacting the publishers directly. Unless we are collecting rare books or items)

So when I examine this, I conclude that the skills of collection development are as relevant to social media information as they are to books and other items collected by libraries. In basic collection development policy we decide the purpose of our collection, its scope (and or limitations) and the types of decisions that we will make as to what sources to acquire or omit from the collection. Further, while we may not write it into our policy, we may implicitly establish procedures or a process to go about acquiring items for our collection. All this reinforces the idea to me that librarians can apply their skill sets (acquired from experience with traditional media and library sources) to new media and information sources/resources. The issue is whether or not we deem social media to be sources that we must collect, store, preserve and provide for our users to access.


Applebaum, Z. (2014). Social media – Turning noise into action. Presented at Special Libraries Association 2014 Conference, June 8-10, Vancouver, BC. Retrieved from

Monday, June 9, 2014

Social media sites are essentially "databases"

I once read that Facebook was a database (Arthur, 2009). I have even read that blogs were databases (Miles, 2005). And now I've heard that LinkedIn is a database. My new conclusion is that all social media are databases!

My conclusion came after reflecting on some tips on LinkedIn and other social media use from Sean Campbell, CEO of Cascade Insights. In his presentation at SLA, Sean discussed the subject of how to get a hold of people to talk to using social media (Campbell, 2014). His basic premise is that people talk about their work life story online using social media. If one wants to know about an industry, one can use social media tools to find those who talk about this industry. He argues that social media [specifically LinkedIn] are databases from which we can mine and extract individuals, groups and communities that talk about subjects relevant to providing insight for industries. As Sean puts it, the ordinary LinkedIn User does not see their profile as a database, but to LinkenIn employees, a person's profile is but one record in a large database of people information. 

The same can be said for Facebook. According to Garde-Hansen (2009), Facebook is a "database of users and for users" and each user's page is "a database of their life" (p. 141). Garde-Hansen (2009) therefore argues that while users experience Facebook as a place where they upload "non-textual content (their profile image, the profile images of their friends, shared photographs, functional icons, gift images and application icons)", this hides the "visibility of Facebook as a pre-programmed set of pathways to a database" (p. 140-141).

This truth also applies to Twitter and Google (and basically all social media sites). In a 2013 Wired magazine article, it is mentioned that Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google "teamed up to create what they call WebScaleSQL, a custom version of MySQL designed just for large scale web companies" that operate large databases (Finley, 2013). Further, blogs and blog content management systems, according to Miles (2005), also draw upon and store content of text, images, data and media objects from a database, and chronologically arrange or displays the content through templates accessible through a Web browser. So the truth is, that while we experience a clean, customised and personalised screen when uploading our user-generate content and viewing the stories told by our friends and others, we are essentially viewing records of a database that we update and input data for. In this regard, if we join any social media site, we essentially become data entry personnel. 


Campbell, S. (2014). Sourcing with social media – For competitive intelligence and market research teams. Presentation at the Special Libraries Association 2014 Conference, June 8-10, Vancouver, BC. Retrieved from

Finley, K. (2013, Mar. 27) Google and Facebook team up to modernize old-school databases
Wired Retrieved from

Garde-Hansen, J. (2009). MyMemories?: Personal digital archive fever and Facebook. In Garde-Hansen, J., Hoskins, A., & Reading, A. (p. 135-50). Save as… digital memories. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Miles, A. (2005, May). Media rich versus rich media (or why video in a blog is not the same as a video blog). Hypertext paper presented at Blogtalk Downunder, Sydney, Australia. Retrieved from [Last Accessed 23 August 2012].

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Information consulting today: Some insights from Marcy Phelps @ SLA 2014

So I arrived at my first session of my first SLA meeting with the stress of:

  1. having lost my cellular phone between Toronto and London
  2. Coming straight to the conference convention centre with my luggage to discover that there was no bag or suit check available, which meant that I had to lug with suitcase and suit carrier to all the sessions,
Nonetheless, my travel stress could not take away from my gaining some insights from Marcy Phelps, the principal  or founder of Phelps Research. According to her website:

Marcy M. Phelps, founder of Phelps Research, provides professional research, analysis, and research training services that help clients make better business decisions. She founded the company in 2000 after obtaining a master’s degree in library and information services from the University of Denver. (Phelps Research, 2013)
The session that I attended from which Marcy Phelps presented was entitled “Data Visualization” (Phelps, 2014). However, the session yielded more than just insights into Data Visualization. In addition to the information on data visualization, Phelps provided insights into the modern trends and shifts from information brokerage to information consultancy (a topic already discussed in this previous blog post).

Marcy Phelps provided a very interesting context to her presentation on data visualization that highlights the shift in information work of locating sources for clients and providing value added services to the information retrieved. Drawing on her experience as an information broker and consultant for a number of clients including marketing agents, Marcy Phelps suggests that in the past information brokerage was about librarians being in business to help clients find more and better information. She however suggests that today, the clients no longer want more or better information, but actually want more value added to the information. In fact, her argument is that clients are drowning in information, and do not have the time to deal with the large quantities of information. She further opined that clients don’t have the time to sort through a while lot of information and as such want information professionals to provide them with information that is “decision ready” (meaning information that they can use immediately to make decisions). Now they want to know what does the information mean? They do not want to search for the story but want information professionals to supply the meaning of the information to them.

Phelps went on to discuss the steps and process to be undertaken in creating or adding this value to information for clients, by using and creating visual analysis and presentations for information. (This discussion itself warrants its own blog entry). However, another key insight that Phelps stressed was that librarians need to use their reference interview skills in the process to get at what clients really want from the data or information that is to be supplied. She mentions that this is key, in order for the information professional to deliver the value-added result that clients demand. She went on to suggest, that sometimes clients have a hunch or theory and wants the information professional to conduct the research  to prove their theory. Our research as information professionals in this regard is to provide the message from the data that clients need to know and use to make their decisions. 

A question was asked of Phelps as to whether or not she has to provide clients with information for which she did not agree with the decisions that they intend to make. Phelps in response stated that this is why she always includes an executive summary or a cover letter contextualising the information being supplied as well as presenting the limitations of the data.

These few insights into the work of information consulting are indeed valuable for the troubles and expenses associated with my conference attendance. It is further insightful for me to be in such conferences to be part of the community of practice surrounding information consulting work. And hopefully, all these insights will transfer into helping me better understand my thesis research. And there's more to come. :)


Phelps, M. (2014). More than pretty pictures: A guide to data visualization for info pros. Presentation at the Special Libraries Association 2014 Conference, June 8-10, Vancouver, B.C. Retrieved from

Phelps Research (2013). About Phelps Research and Marcy Phelps. Retrieved from

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Gearing up to attend SLA 2014 conference and more

This week I gear up to attend the Special Libraries Association (SLA) conference, my first librarian & information professional practitioner based conference in several years. Since beginning my studies, I have focused primarily on networking and presenting at academic conferences. However, next week will see me not presenting, but rather just attending presentations and networking with the practitioners, some of whom are library consultants, the population that I am interested in studying.


As I spent the day planning and scheduling the sessions to attend, I realised that at least one of those sessions or presentations was targeted at consultants. Cindy Shamel from Shamel Info Svcs & Ulla de Stricker from de Stricker Associates will present on Saturday June 7, 2014 at 8:00 am - 12:00 pm the presentation entitled "Maximizing Consultant-Client Partnerships: Key Success Factors" This I will miss, as I fly in on the next day.

I decided to look up any other sessions on consultants and some how discovered this "Consulting: Managing the Expectations" As I was adding it to my schedule, I realised (mournfully) that this session was presented at last year's (2013) SLA conference.

Apart from the plans to attend SLA, I want to also report this week on a number of finds pertaining to the subject of library consultants. Firstly, I found an additional article discussing the work of a library consultant from a report based on personal experience (Holt, 1984).

Secondly, I wish to report that after conducting a search on Linked in I discovered:
  • 1,154 results for "library consultant" (within quotation marks)
  • and a further 6,901 results for library consultant without the quotation marks.
The latter search revealed that some of my friends or persons within my LinkedIn network qualified as library consultants or at least did some library consulting in the past. From these findings, it seems to me that library consultants and library consulting is far more prevalent than what is documented.

All this comes in stark contrast to Service Canada statistics that documents that 0.0% of the Occupational group 5111 (which also includes the term "library consultant") are self-employed. (See This data again raises puzzling questions. Are those who are library consultants under-reported in self-employment statistics? Is it that those who report themselves as library consultants are not necessarily self-employed? Or are library consultant jobs considered a full-time contractual employment opportunity? These issues and more I grapple with as I prepare for my committee meeting which coincidentally will be after I return from SLA. 


Holt, R. M. (1984). Library consultant: Career or dead-end job? Library Trends, 32(3), 261-277.

Blogs as social technological spaces

I have been searching for ethnographic studies of blogs in lieu of locating sources to inform my methodology for my own doctoral research. To keep you up to speed on my research ideas, I have narrowed down my research to doing an ethnographic analysis of blogs and tweets for the narratives they present on the identity, work and profile of library consultants and library consulting. My new direction has therefore sparked my interest in ethnographic methodologies on online social worlds. As a result, in this blog post, I wish to share on one of the readings about this methodology as it relates to the environments of blogs. This reading I want to report on is Amanda Lenhart's (2005) Masters thesis.

Since my comprehensive examination I have been following some of the work of Lenhart, whose name I am acquainted with from Pew Internet Research Centre. Lenhart is one of the authors of Pew Internet Research's reports around blogging (See Lenhart & Fox, 2006).

Apart from her literature review defines blogs identifying blogs as having headers, side bars and posts among other technical features, in the methods section, Lenhart articulates that blogs are both technology and spaces that both reflects culture and around which culture is built. It is this concept that I feel is very important, that blogs are not only technology with specific features, but also social technology around which culture develops.

A second important idea that I derived from Lenhart's thesis is the idea that institutions are encroaching on this once personal and individual technological and social space. In the introductory chapter of her Masters thesis, Lenhart mentions that institutions are co-opting blogs and in their attempt to 'engage with the universe of blogs, their instinct is to regulate and to control, to bring blogs in line with the values embodied within the institution' (p. 4). She continues:

Still, bloggers themselves relish their location outside of institutions—free of
gatekeepers deciding what is important or meaningful enough to publish, but also free
of people and organizations whose livelihoods are based on the accuracy and
compelling nature of the information they present. In the next few years it will be
interesting to see how blogging and institutions negotiate with each other. Will blogs
become an institution of their own, complete with codes and ethics of their own
creations? Will they be subsumed into another institution? Or will blogs fragment and
be absorbed by all types of institutions based on content, gathered as a tool to forward
and foster certain public goals of any given institution? Or will blogs successfully
remain completely outside of institutions? Or all of these things at the same time?
Later, Lenhart (2005) stated that blogs allow "those who are traditionally silenced by institutions to have their voices...heard..." (p. 156). This jibes with an earlier popular post that I published on how institutions have been entering the blogosphere in order to curtail individual's freedom of expression in these spaces (See Threats to the freedom to blog).


Lenhart, A. B. (2005). Unstable texts: An ethnographic look at how bloggers and their audience negotiate self-presentation, authenticity and norm formation(Doctoral dissertation, Georgetown University).

Lenhart, A., & Fox, S. (2006). Bloggers: A portrait of the internet’s new storytellers. pew internet & American life project. ( No. 2012). Retrieved from

Friday, May 16, 2014

Conceptualizing library and information consulting

As I continue with my research (or sense-making), I want to report on my evolving and ongoing conceptualization of library consultants. So far, it has been a scavenger hunt to find literature that clearly conceptualize library consultants and library consulting.

Currently, I rely mainly on De Stricker's (2008) as the most recent book to discuss library and information consulting. From her perspective, library and information consultants are not narrowly confined to those formally educated as librarians. She argues that while some library and information consultants are formally educated in librarianship, others possess informal education from experience or expertise in working within library settings, from which they offer library-related expertise and services. De Stricker also defines library and information consulting as consisting of both librarians offering “skills to a variety of clients (not necessarily libraries)” and of “other types of professionals (e.g. architects, staff training experts)”. She provides a nice little quadrant or diagram to show the scope of library and information consulting from which I could use to have a clear picture of the activities that fall under library and information consulting.

However, from my reading of blogs and tweets on the subject and further published library literature, I have come up with a diagram to model what a library consultant looks like conceptually (You can click on the image to make it larger).

In theory, a library consultant can be a qualified librarian or some other professional without library school credentials that brings about either:

a) a change or transformation in a library system, library or library staff
b) creates or establishes a library system or library where there was none.

Technically, information consultants are not necessarily library consultants (even if they have an MLIS or library-related credentials). Information consultants can only be classified as engaging in library consulting when they:

  1. offer information consulting services to librarians (which may lead to transfer of skills or knowledge to librarians) or 
  2. when their information consultancy involves transforming a library system or a library, as in the case of an information consultant providing advice about a library's collection development.

Currently, this is the understanding that I have derived from my varied sources about library consultants. But I'm open to receiving comments that will help me accurately understand the nature of job or occupational identity of library consultant. (Unfortunately or fortunately, the librarian's mind is to put concepts into discreet categories or neat little boxes).


Broughton, D., Blackburn, L., & Vickers, L. (1991). Information brokers and information consultants. Library management, 12(6), 4-16.

De Stricker, U. (2008). Is consulting for you? A primer for information professionals. Chicago: American Library Association.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Library consultants and the implications for library education

In this post, I continue discussing the need for a changing library education paradigm that will not just prepare our graduates to work within libraries, but also prepare them to work as library consultants. I have duly noted a speech delivered by one of my former professors, Fay Durrant, at a meeting of the library association of Trinidad and Tobago. As I read it, I came across some words of interest, which I quote below:
"As most of you know, the Department of Library and Information Studies has a mission to educate librarians from the CARICOM region. We have always been interested in understanding the future of libraries in the Caribbean, as this is of necessity related to the dimensions and focus of our teaching and research. With faster change in the information sector there is even more interest in determining future directions in relation to the areas of focus for our programme. We therefore seek to identify, on an ongoing basis, the current and anticipated trends and future activities in the information sector.

Today I would therefore like to discuss with you some of the changes in our environment, and some of the responses which are being developed by libraries in the Caribbean and globally.

The Department offers education in library and information studies, and produces graduates who now work mainly in government and academic institutions in the region....I expect that more opportunities will arise for\ our graduates to work as consultants, and as information brokers for organizations in the public or private sector."

Durrant's (2006) words capture so well my views and what I want to say. Library schools have traditionally prepared students and graduates to work in libraries. However, LIS curricula, with the changes in society have evolved to address broader information environments in addition to library specific operations (Rubin, 2010). Despite this evolution in curricula to prepare graduates to work outside of traditional settings of academic, public and school libraries (and even special libraries), library curricula is yet to address the issue of preparing students to become entrepreneurs and to use their LIS related skills as independent knowledge workers or professionals not employed to a specific institution. LIS curricula in this regard is geared towards providing a workforce for institutional employers.

Yet, while librarians are employed in a variety of setting, there seems to be a growing number of qualified librarians who are self-employed. This seems to be evident in the ASCLA Library Consultants Interest Group's (LCIG) latest report where membership is reported as growing from 32 to 63 members within the space of a year (Smithee, 2013). Yet, it is perhaps necessary to scrutinize this phenomenon some more with the empiricism of scientific methods. If I could only get my thoughts together into a coherent and logical research proposal.


Durrant, F. (2006). The future of libraries and implications for the Caribbean. Address to the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Ordinary General Meeting. Held at National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), November 1, 2006. Retrieved from

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

Smithee, J. (2013). Report from the Library Consultants Interest Group. Interface (02706717), 35(3), 1. Retrieved from

The invisibility of library consultants in the academic literature

It has been a rough 3rd year as I continue to work on my research proposal. As I put almost all of my focus and energies into solving the problems with my research proposal, I've neglected the medium of blogging. However, I break this spell of silence to discuss the issue of the invisibility of library consultants in the academic literature.

Currently, I'm considering or reconsidering the viability of studying library consultants/consulting as a topic. It has been difficult to find gaps in the literature to investigate as there are so many gaps in what is known about the topic. All I have to work with  is the tension between who can be defined as a library consultant and several forecasts about what library consulting will look like, all of these from two dissertations, two encyclopedia articles, and 7 monographs about the topic.

The result is that I've concluded that the library consultant is for the most part absent from academic discourse. This is interesting considering that some LIS academics are also library and information consultants. For example,Tague-Sutcliffe, a former dean of University of Western Ontario's Faculty of Information Media Studies, is named in the directory of Canadian library and information consultants (Rogers, 1994). Not only are academics a part of library and information consulting, but heads of library schools and other library educators are also acknowledging consulting as a legitimate path in which LIS graduates may venture.In the English-speaking Caribbean for instance, in 2006, the head of the University of the West Indies Department of Library and Information Studies forecasted growing opportunities for library school graduates to work as consultants for public/private sector organizations (Durrant, 2006). Yet, despite this interest, the academic literature studying library consultants and their work is sparse.

Mark you, there are definitely books on the topic of library consultants. But many of these sources are dated prior to 2000. In general, there is a lack of in-depth monograph sources studying library consultants and the work of library consulting. I personally examined seven monograph length publications on library and information consultancy. Of these seven, three are directories: one focusing on US library and information consultants (Berry, 1969), another on UK based library and information consultants (Smith, 1987) and the third based on Canadian ones (Rogers, 1994). From these directories, you can usually find a dedicated introductory page defining library consultants. In Berry (1969), Blasingame’ informative overview provides a profile of library consultants. Rogers (1994) introduction on the other hand combines both library consultants and information consultants. The remaining four monograph length publications that are not directories, are written for practitioners. In other words, these sources reflect little in the way of systematic research design and data gathering. Rather than attempting to provide an academic understanding of library consultants and their work, these works discuss how practitioners can work with or as library consultants. Two works address library administrators: Rawles and Wessells (1984) discuss working with library consultants, while Garten (1992) discusses using consultants in libraries. These books are seemingly written to provide guidance to librarians for engaging with library consultants. The final two books are aimed at library consultants themselves, with a book on case studies in international library consultancy by Parker (1988) and a book on consulting for information professionals by De Stricker (2008). Yet, these works on library consulting seem primarily based on anecdotal data gathered from experience.

Despite the few outdated books on the subject, those who practice library consulting are both seemingly  increasing and sharing their knowledge on the subject. I recently read that the ASCLA Library Consultants Interest Group (LCIG) saw their membership increase as they added 31 members growing from 32 to 63 members (Smithee, 2013). In addition, the group also announced the hosting of an event with Nancy Bolt and Liz Bishoff offering a preconference entitled “Assembling a Consulting Toolkit: What You Need to Know to be a Successful Library Consultant” (Smithee, 2013). It therefore seems to me that the topic of library consultants is a viable area for future academic inquiry.Yet formulating the research problem around this gap has been extremely challenging, as the scope of the work seem more extensive than what I want to study.


De Stricker, U. (2008). Is consulting for you?: A primer for information professionals. Chicago: American Library Association.

Durrant, F. (2006). The future of libraries and implications for the Caribbean. Address to the Library Association of Trinidad and Tobago (LATT) Ordinary General Meeting. Held at National Library and Information System Authority (NALIS), November 1, 2006. Retrieved from

Garten, E. (1992). Using consultants in libraries and information centers: A management handbook. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Parker, J. S. (1988). Asking the right questions: Case studies in library development consultancy. London ;; New York: Mansell Pub.

Rawles, B. A., & Wessells, M. B. (1984). Working with library consultants. Hamden, CT: Library Professional Publications.

Rogers, H., & Canadian Library Association. (1994). Directory of Canadian library & information science consultants. Ottawa: Canadian Library Association.

Smithee, J. (2013). Report from the Library Consultants Interest Group. Interface (02706717), 35(3), 1. Retrieved from

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What I learned from Windows 8 about cloud computing?

I have written about cloud computing before in an attempt to make sense of its potential impact on libraries (Scale, 2009; Scale, 2010). Well, recently, I had the privilege of helping a friend to set up a Skype account on a laptop using Windows 8. The experience made me realize that cloud computing is a total change from my assumptions and what I learned in the era of stand-alone computing. Here are some of what I surmise about the reality of cloud computing.

  1. Software programs will no longer be installed on machines, but rather, we have to access them as "apps" that are delivered to our computer or computing device (tablet, laptop or smart phone) over the Internet.
  2. Clicking a save button to save changes to our documents will be redundant. Documents will automatically be saved as we work on them.
  3. No more interruption from automatic downloads and service updates. At least, not when we are working on documents.


Scale, M-S. E. (2009). Cloud computing and collaboration. Library Hi Tech News, 26(9), 10-13.
Scale, M-S. E. (2010). Assessing the impact of cloud computing and web collaboration on the work of distance library services. Journal of Library Administration, 50(7-8), 933-950.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Libraries as ideological institutions?

While I've been absent from the blogosphere, I've been thinking deeply about the library as an institution. I have attended a talk at my faculty, been reading a critical perspective author and have read recent articles in the news mentioning perspectives of what the library has become today. In this blog post, I want to discuss these ideas that I have been grappling with and raise certain questions at the end.

To begin, I must mention that I attended a talk by John Buschman  entitled "Neoliberalism in democratic-educative institutions". This talk was put on by Faculty of Information and Media Studies. University of Western Ontario through the funding of Jean Tague-Sutcliffe for a visiting scholar to present a lecture at the faculty. While this lecture is deserving of its own blog post, for the purposes of this blog post, I just want to mention that the main idea that Buschman communicated to me in this lecture was that neoliberalism has infiltrated the institution of libraries. Buscham also called for librarians to resist neoliberal ideology from changing how the institutions of libraries operate (personal communication, March 12, 2014).

Buschman's conclusion is also echoed by Dilevko (2009). Dilveko also calls for librarianship to become progressive and reject the neoliberal project for the library as an institution. Yet, Dilevko (2009) does acknowledge that the library does have a neoliberal heritage. This is mainly due to the contributions of industrialist and entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie. In Dilveko (2009), one can read how Carnegie set up a non-profit foundation to not only fund the establishment of public libraries, but also to fund library education. However, both Buschman and Dilevko's conclusions seem ironic, as in my interpretation, Carnegie could very well, through his interest, be playing the capitalist role of funding an institution that would conceal class tensions and relations. Isn't it a capitalist strategy to justify inequalities by making it seem that anyone who accesses and uses information rightly can become successful in the capitalist meritocratic society?

This brings me to my final analysis of trends in libraries today, where they are moving to become "community centres". Take for instance Wilkins (2014) words 'foolish me for still thinking that public libraries were establishments where silence always reigned supreme'. He continues:

In the last decade or so, I have been a regular user of Concordia’s downtown Webster Library. There, I have had the opportunity to see that the bad habits developed in high school are finding a second life in the university. “Silence” signs have been replaced with the more gentle “in this part of the library students can expect” notices. Indeed, many libraries, including the Webster, have been divided into various zones where library users “can expect” differing levels of noise.
In certain areas, cellphone use is not tolerated, at least in theory. The same can be said about food and drink. Then, of course, there is the socializing.
It seems that libraries, particularly the new “mega-libraries” like Montreal’s Grande Bibliothèque, Seattle’s Central Library and England’s Library of Birmingham, are becoming more community centres than anything else. In a recent BBC interview, Tony Durcan, director of culture in the Northumberland City of Newcastle, referred to the 21st-century library “as a quality public square, with a roof on top.”
As such, Wilkins makes observations that libraries are becoming community centres, with a de-emphasis on the individual consumption of information and media to a place where there are greater social and community interaction and consumption of technology, information and media. No longer are we emphasizing the library as an institution that supports an individual's quest or thirst for knowledge, but rather are redesigning our spaces to facilitate social learning and group interaction. (However, the irony is that some of these changes in libraries have come about in order to make libraries more "customer-friendly").

In another article, McCambridge (2014) discusses that library visits have increased. While librarians have pointed to several factors for the increased visits, including recession and technology, in her title, McCambridge suggests that this increase has been due mainly to libraries "madly innovating". And what are these innovations? 
Beyond redesigns of spaces designed to create more room for collaborative and creative intellectual activity, some augmentations to function have been added, making libraries more attractive and “sticky” community centers. For instance, the Chicago Public Library offers a free “Maker Lab” with access to 3-D printers, laser cutters, and milling machines. Washington State’s Lopez Island Library lets people borrow musical instruments. The Library Farm in Cicero, New York, even lets patrons interested in organic gardening borrow plots of land.
If you notice from both quotes, both Wilkins and McCambridge mention that libraries are playing the roles of community centres. Again, like Wilkins, McCambridge mentions the shifting emphasis from accessing information and media to a more social role of the institution of libraries, one where the is more provision of social services and programming. In one regard, libraries are beginning to look more like YMCAs, and are placing more emphasis on entertainment to attract users and visits. This is an interesting conundrum regarding the library as either a neoliberal ideological institution or as a progressive community-based/community-owned institution. In one sense, libraries in responding to neoliberal and public sector management pressures to quantify their value, are using neoliberal marketing strategies to attract higher numbers of users and visits. At the same time, libraries are acting as progressive and de-emphasizing the individual while giving more attention to the social and communal role of libraries.

So I end with several questions. Can the library as an institution be neutral? Can we balance two conflicting ideologies and contradictions? Can we both be a progressive social institution that seeks to eliminate "alienation" and bring about class solidarity, community and equality? Can we also be an institution that provides resources to launch new enterprises and entrepreneurs into success within the current neoliberal capitalist economy? Which ideology is in fact more dominating the institution of libraries today?


Dilevko, J. (2009). The politics of professionalism: A retro-progressive proposal for librarianship.  Duluth, MN : Library Juice Press.

McCambridge, R. (2014, March 10). Library usage soars as libraries get madly innovative. NPQ: Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from

Wilkins, R. N. (2014, February 25). Silence in libraries seems to be a thing of the past. Montreal Gazette. Retrieved from libraries seems thing past/9544828/story.html