Thursday, 1 December 2011

Smart Phones and Libraries

So the topic this time is Smart Phones and Libraries.

I find this very co-incidental as I was recently involved on a debate about this very idea; during which people accused me of being negative towards Smart Phone technology.

I'm not. But as someone who doesn't have a Smartphone, and someone who can't really use a Smartphone, the increasing assumption that people have access to Smartphones and Data Plans. . . honestly, really -really- frustrates me.  

The technology is good.  I actually like the idea of being able to scan a QR code and hop right to a site on your phone, or being able to search a library catalog quickly and easily using a smartphone.  But it seems that there is a growing assumption that everyone has access to a Smartphone and a Data Plan  (and data plans are hideously expensive in Canada, in comparison to other parts of the world), which is beginning to block access for those people who do not have or cannot have a Smartphone.

So while I think that there is a lot of integration that can be done, and applications for Libraries should be most definitely ported over to Smartphones, I have to stress that assumption.  Not everyone has a Smartphone.  Don't assume that your patrons do. 

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Open-Source Software

So this week's discussion is on open-source software.

I think the first thing that has to be clarified is 'what is open source software', since a lot of people assume that's 'anything I can legally download for free from the internet.'  

Not true.  Open source software (OSS), is where the source code and programing is shared, so that users can a) contribute to the production process
b) easily make their own alterations to the program.

OSS is almost always free.  This means that OSS tends to be very popular, because it's free or very low cost.   The drawback there is the variability of quality.  There is some OSS I've used myself (OpenOffice, a OSS word processing program), and GIMP (an OSS image editing suite), that are just as good as their commercial counterparts.  And then there's some OSS that's absolutely terrible.

The good side of OSS is the adaptability and flexibility of the software, as well as the cost. Since the software is easily alterable, it can be altered to do many things without the need for buying a different version.  It can also be altered so it works better with other software.  And there are a good many OSS programs out there that are just as good as their commercial counterparts, sometimes better.

However, there are some downsides.

The first is that OSS software, having visible and shareable source code, can be hacked/infected more easily -- if someone makes the attempt.  Most systems do not use OSS software that is easily infectable, so attempts are few and far between, but they are there.
The second is the variable quality.  Some OSS is wonderful.  Some OSS is terrible. 
The third can be in the fine print.  While a lot of OSS programs stay away from the lengthy, legally-worded ELUA (the agreement you have to accept to use/install software), some do not allow comercial use, and there are usually restrictions on resale.  But depending on the mind of the creator, there can be esoteric restrictions as well.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Enriched Content in a ILS

Prompted by this week's course discussion, I got to thinking about the implimentation of enriched content in an ILS, and realized that I personally don't like it. 

Now, maybe I'm just a technological luddite who remembers using a card catalog, but I often find that additional content often obscures the information I am looking for.  I don't want a scanned picture of the cover art, I want the subject keywords.   Or maybe it's just a case of too much information in one spot.

Many libraries have yet to use extensive enriched content. And I have to wonder if it's truly needed.  I can see the benefits; most definitely, especially on material such as user-reviews, images, and excerpts.  For digital media, or when you are browsing a catalog for an inter-library loan, enriched content may help you decide if that is the media you want.But at times it seems that those are emphasized -over- the basic bibliographic material of the item, which, at least for me, distracts me from the basic information I am looking for. 

Thursday, 29 September 2011

My thoughts -- Week Three

My thoughts this week revolve around access to information; and a major downside:  Privacy.  For all the wonders of social media, the number of times I hear someone regret putting something on a blog, Facebook, or any other social media, well, I've lost count.

There is a saying that 'the internet never forgets.' And I've found that to be very true.  Even if you delete a post, the internet still archives it.  Links might still reference it.  And whatever you posted slowly percolates onto the internet as a whole.  How far it goes depends on how many people find it interesting and in what fashion. But even if your post doesn't go 'viral', it will still be out there in some form.

What's the implication of this?  Well, even if we're not talking about personally identifiable information, it could be as simple as a post you make in anger on facebook that you later delete.  Since it's never really gone, someone viewing that could end up with a very negative image of you.    More specifically, for libraries, it means something like an embarrassing typo, a mis-typed date, time or location, can spread, even if you correct the original post.   It also means that library staff and patrons can accidentally find themselves embarrassed or worse, by something that was never really supposed to be public.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Experiences with my First Blog -- Week Two

As someone who usually didn't care about blogs and doesn't really follow any, being asked to create one was a huge jump for me, and more then a little intimidating.

First, it took me a bit to figure out how to set up new posts, and I know I still haven't experimented with most of what this site can do -- which is somewhat of a pity, considering there's a lot of functionality that I'm not using and/or cannot find.  I'm still playing with the basic functions.

I will say that finding the basic RSS feed was a lot more difficult then I expected.  I use RSS myself and usually the RSS links are clearer.  Maybe it's just how I think, but it took me quite a while to find it.

Also, I'd like to alter the design to something a bit more generally accessible -- I'm very aware of accessible web design due to my previous work and interest, which is something that if this site can do, I can't figure it out.

This to me is a serious problem, because someone who doesn't think about accessibility wouldn't even consider it, and then all the information posted to a blog would be unavailable to some people.  As someone in Library Studies, I dislike the idea of information being unavailable because of technological barriers. 

It does also mean on a personal level, that there are several friends who will be unable to access this.  So much for sharing my new shiny find with my friends, and that's also discouraging.

That's about it for week two, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Quick Introduction!

Hello everyone, my name is Sarah Adams, and I've been asked to keep this blog as part of a course requirement for my Library Studies Certificate program.

I have an interest specifically in Library Technology, with a focus on Disability, Accessible Hardware/Software and Access to Information, and the interactions surrounding those fields.

I hope that this blog will prove interesting and informative; and I welcome any questions people might have.