Geeks Bearing Gifts: Unwrapping New Technology
by Christina Stoll, MLS
As part of its Continuing Education programming, MLS offers a quarterly workshop that focuses on emerging technology trends. Geeks Bearing Gifts: Unwrapping New Technology Trends was the topic for the July 19 workshop, presented by BrYan S. Vogh, Technology Coordinator at the University of Chicago’s National Network of Libraries of Medicine, Greater Midwest Region. (http://nnlm.gov/)
BrYan spoke about some of today’s hottest technology trends and their impact on library service, such as Web 2.0 technologies, open source software, going wireless, and RSS feeds. The full presentation can be found at http://nnlm.gov/training/geekgifts/index.html.
With the web as a platform, Web 2.0 facilitates the end user to do other things. Web 2.0 is today’s pen and paper, yet offers many new and exciting technological possibilities:
- Blogs, wikis, and other social networking tools harness collective intelligence, allowing individuals either desks apart or half-way around the world to share ideas and solve problems.
- Data can be manipulated in many more ways and more easily by the end user. A blog or website becomes the shell in which dynamic content is viewed, yet pulled from external sources. A blog is merely a giant database, yet to your patrons it can be a world of information.
- Open source technologies available on the web support a constant environment of beta. The end of costly and timely upgrading of newer software versions is in sight.
- Web 2.0 frees users from the limitations of information exchange by way of emails back and forth. Through free online software applications such as http://www.zoho.com, users can increase their productivity and collaboration.
As more users become connected more often, Web 2.0 technologies need to provide a richer user experience. As the web grows larger and there’s more information, getting just the content we want is critical.
- http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes is an interactive data aggregator and manipulator that lets the user mashup their favorite online data sources.
- http://www.feedrinse.com, a spam filter for your RSS subscription, lets you automatically filter out content that you aren't interested in.
Flickr is another popular technology that libraries are utilizing. Thomas Ford Memorial Library has used pictures to promote programs and services through their Flickr account at http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasfordmemoriallibrary. Other forms of Web 2.0 to consider for your library include making your library’s website a blog or adding a comment feature to your library’s catalog, as the Ann Arbor Public Library has done (http://www.aadl.org/sopac/viewrev/?bnum=1284044).
RSS Feeds and Aggregators
Short for Really Simple Syndication, RSS uses xml format language and is most often connected with blogs, newsfeeds, and podcasts. An RSS feed contains either a summary of content from an associated website or the full text. Aggregators are programs that allow users to subscribe to RSS feeds and read the content updates, sent to the user’s aggregator, instead of having to visit the main site. Examples of popular aggregators include:
Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites for updates, creating a unique information space or "personal newspaper." Imagine your patrons reading about updates on your library’s website through their RSS reader. Software for making RSS feeds can be found at http://www.feedforall.com/feedforall.htm.
Utilizing WiFi at your library allows devices such as laptops, PDAs, cell phones, and even standard computers to connect without wires, providing more flexibility and opportunities.
- Internet connection can be deployed without hard wiring, often reducing costs.
- Offers flexibility in use of space for internet connection, such as outside or in older buildings, where rewiring costs may be expensive.
- Roaming features allow users to roam with their laptops either within a building or even from location to location.
- Interface from other devices or the materials in a building can still cause users to experience slow connections or none at all in some locations.
- Security is still a concern, with regard to user’s information being broadcasted on an unsecure channel.
- The devices require a lot of power thus often still requiring a hardware connection to a battery source.
- How far is your wireless network outside your library? Take a walk and see how far you can go.
- After library hours, consider if you want user to be able to access your network. Add a timer to your network or explore using special blocking paint on your walls to block outside access to your network.
- Often the most common form of security for a wireless network is a WEP encryption, however experienced hackers have figured out how to break in. The newer Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) and (WPA2) encryption standards are more secure.
- Change your passwords, often!
Future Emerging Technology Workshops
If you have a suggestion for a technology you’d like MLS to bring to a future workshop, contact the Consultants at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next Emerging Technology Quarterly workshop is Wednesday, October 24 from 1:30 – 4:30 p.m. in the MLS Chicago office. Librarians Rick Roche (Thomas Ford Memorial Library), Jack Schultz and Toby Greenwalt (Westmont Public Library) will share how they use Flickr at their libraries and give you ideas for doing the same. Register on the MLS Calendar at http://www.mls.lib.il.us/calendar/CalendarManage.cfm?ID=2647&etype=1&State=16&LangID=1&group=0.
Published August 8, 2007 in vol. 1, iss. 14 [View]