Honda has put out a series of short videos (videos are Flash) about “dreaming the impossible.” The videos cover some interesting topics including failure (which I’ve posted on), dreams, robots, and mobility.
“Technology is part of the evolution of the human race. It’s neither divine nor diabolical. It’s up to us how we use it.” -Deepak Chopra
This quote was about robots, but it could be just as applicable in libraries. Often people get hung up on technology. They think the newest thing will be a “game changer” or will revolutionize the way things are done. Or they vilify it as something ruining culture or as just another fad. Chopra points out that technology is not good or evil, but that we should be thoughtful in how it is used and applied.
I’d recommend watching a couple of these 7-8 minute videos. They’re inspirational and they bring up a number of fascinating ideas. The videos got me thinking about how libraries can start dreaming the impossible. Instead of making statements like “we don’t do it that way” or “that can’t be done,” we should be asking questions like “how can I make this vision a reality” and “why not?”
Our library recently got several iPads. I’ve been playing with one for two weeks now and there are a number of reasons why tablet computers could have a significant impact on libraries:
It’s easy to read long texts – I enjoy reading text on the iPad. I downloaded A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain and am flying through it like I would any other book. There are several ways to get books including through iBook, the Kindle app, and the Barnes & Noble app. Also any books in the open EPUB format work in Apple’s iBook app. A great app for books like these is Lexcyle Stanza which has tons of free titles, including many from Project Gutenburg. A grad student even told me that he purchased all his books for the summer semester on his iPad and is reading them on that single device. I thought to myself, “this is the future.”
It’s great for consuming information – This is one of the most fun devices to consume content on. I love sitting with it in my hands like a book, reading something (as opposed to a laptop or netbook that needs to be on a desk or your lap). I love laying on the couch watching a TED talk, lazily holding it at the perfect angle. It is a device perfect for consumption.
You can give it to someone – This is one of the ways I see it being very useful for libraries. On regular PCs or laptops you can show people a book record or a database search. On a tablet, you can physically hand them the record or the search and allow them to view it, interact with it, and make it their own. The physical act of handing someone information should not be discounted. Tablets are much more intimate and bring information down to a very personal level.
It’s another tool to organize information – We all organize our information. We have piles on our desks. We have notebooks filled with ideas, lists, and things to remember. We have folders (physical and virtual) whose titles makes sense, at least to us. The iPad and tablets in general are another type of device that allows us to organize this information. How well it works for you depends on your personality and preferences. I still like actual notebooks, but I am using Evernote a lot more since getting this device.
There are things I dislike too. I wish it was easier to create content, though the keyboard is getting easier to use. I still don’t like Apple’s censorship, lack of Flash support, and closed environment. Tablets are going to be big and I’m looking forward to the upcoming rounds of devices, including one’s running Android or Windows.
Libraries come down to two key concepts: learning and fun (in the context of information). We’ve known this for years. An example is our collection of both scholarly works and more leisurely reading.
These two concepts are the reason why we collect content in varied forms. They are the reasons we host events for our users. They are the reason we provide access to the web. They’re the reason why there are librarians working at the library. Libraries are all about learning and fun.
We have books and ebooks so people can gain new ideas or enjoy a tale of adventure or suspense. We have videos and games so users can be entertained or educated. Events hosted by the library allow people to have fun as a community or arouse their curiosity together. People go to the library so they can interact with other folks who are learning and having fun, or they’re going to find a quiet place to learn or have fun by themselves. Use of the internet allows users to access a vast array of resources that can contribute to both fun and learning.
Moreover, fun and learning must not be too out of balance. If we became places that only had first person shooter games and romance novels, we’d quickly become obsolete. Humans need intellectual fulfillment. Conversely if we only have scholarly tomes and documentaries, users will quickly become bored.
Libraries improve people’s lives through free access to information that contributes to their fun and learning. Keeping these two concepts in mind when delivering or improving services is key. “Did I help this patron learn or have fun?” “How does this new initiative contribute to patron fun or learning?”