Saturday, 21 April 2012

#140cuse Conference

Syracuse is the first college campus to host a #140 conference on the 'state of now' and I must admit that I had no idea what to expect.  There were over 40 speakers with 10 minute slots and a lot of aspects, professions and experiences to cover.


I should add that I am not one of the over-excited advocates for social media - that does not mean that I am against it, I am just lingering on the edges and seeing where it is going and how it can fit into my profession before jumping in feet first.  I appreciate that it is an excellent way to build community and get the word out there but, with the library background I have, I also appreciate that it really depends on your audience.

#swag - not quite sure why the # was required

There was way too much to summarise everything here but I will pick a few talks that really hit home:

  • there were several discussions, including Tim Pool of the Occupy Wall Street movement, about using social media to rally round a cause, from taunting a footballer to supporting the 99%
  • Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, and several others discussed the 'flatness' of the internet and the role that each of us can play.  Every URL has the same power and this is a great leveller allowing the truly talented/interesting/relevant to go viral.  Tim Pool noted that social media is democratisation of information all over again
  • 'community' was a theme throughout the day and, I admit, I was a skeptic of how social media, where you are chained to devices, can make you more sociable than actually talking to people eg. why should you tweet Wegmans when you can just talk to one of their assistants?  I am, however, getting it (the penny dropped when having to explain the point of the conference to my housemate and then my Mum, who prefers to side with David Dimbleby and call it 'twittering').  It all depends on what you are putting out there, how you do it, to whom you do it and for what purpose

Discovery with fighter escort by paulandstorm, on Flickr
  • Beth Beck form NASA pointed out that you have to use social media to engage your audience - there is no point in just posting to Facebook that something or other is happening - you have to know your audience, what makes them tick, and use that to pull them in.  You might think that she has an easy job of it since all she has to do is get people interested in space travel - not hard you might think.  But, if you consider how few people actually get to go then you begin to see that it must be difficult to engage understanding and interest in humans in space.  NASA has to engage people's emotions and excitement, which I believe they did with the Discovery piggy back last week (indeed, my Mum was moved to tears at the gym - some sort of mission accomplished I am sure).
  • a vast number of other topics were covered from Twitter support groups for breast cancer sufferers and the privacy issues with shared images to conquering loneliness and attempting to control students' social media outpourings on a college campus

What struck me was the applicability of all of these social media issues to the library world.  The engagement of users, conjuring of community feeling and increased accessibility are all concepts that we need to embrace in this day and age, no matter what our institution.  Tailoring, and on occasion education, is obviously required to ensure relevance and uptake but there is a place for social media in all information services.

Otto the Orange, our college mascot, made a special appearance

I would also like to point out that this was a a rather different conference to any I experienced in the UK.  There was a much more relaxed air and the speakers were so much at ease with presenting that I was very impressed.  The confidence of presenters is something that I aspire to but I know that I am a long way off from standing in front of an audience at a conference, which was being streamed live on the internet, and act as if I was talking to an empty room.  Also, where in the UK would the college mascot make a special guest appearance?!

Tim Pool @Timcast
Alexis Ohanian @kn0thing
Beth Beck @bethbeck
David Dimbleby @daviddimble

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Libraries: an alternative to Super Bowl advertising

April 9th 2012 cover
The concept of corporate sponsoring for libraries and conservation projects has haunted me for the past week.  Firstly, I was very kindly given a copy of Time magazine to read on a flight from Fort Myers to La Guardia last week - to be honest, I have never read the publication before but didn't want to look uncultured to the businessman in the next seat, who was offering me his copy and was a Syracuse alum and way too knowledgeable about the University mascot for his own good.  I took it good humouredly and started flicking.  I have to admit that it is the only magazine I think I have ever read cover to cover (the 'Hello' Royal Wedding issue included).  Really riveting stuff from the future of oil to 'Draw Something' to India's e-bus company.

The article that caught my attention, however, was entitled 'A Bridge too Far?' and focused on the corporate sponsorship of conservation projects in Italy.  It has long been known that Italy has not been conserving its monuments sufficiently and now millions of euros are required to preserve them in their present state.  This amount of funding is obviously difficult to come by and so large corporations are wading in and using the opportunity to advertise their products.  They can do so by draping their business on the scaffolding or advertising on the tickets for attractions.  Some companies have gained permission exclusively to use images of the monuments on clothing and objects that they manufacture. It is also possible that monuments are on occasion put at the disposal of these corporations for events (thus increasing the damaging foot fall).

Repairs under way on the Bridge of Sighs in Venice

One main issue with this form of fundraising is the temporary nature of the support.  These monuments require permanent conservation and a steady stream of financial support, which corporations may not be able to provide and so longer-term funding solutions should be sought.

The second mention of this topic came in the Library Journal this month.  As I read on my way to work (I did get some funny looks but I put that down to my wearing sunglasses, a scarf and jacket) I came across a short article on the 'newsdesk' concerning Toronto Library's board's decision to sell advertising in the library.  You can read about the advertising policy and program here and see the Torontoist's views here.  The library proposes that advertising space be sold as long as it does not interfere with the delivery of library services or reflect negatively on the library.  The current plan is to allow the back of due-date slips to be sold for advertising opportunities and the first ads should be implemented by the end of 2012.

Toronto Public Library by rb3m, on Flickr
Toronto Public Library

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License  by  rb3m 

Thirdly, this week for my digital preservation class we are discussing the cost of digital programs and I was struck by the similarity between the digital preservation need for funding and physical object conservation need for funding.  It is really a very similar issue since long-term support is required and digital librarians are also considering to what extent they want their collections to be associated with certain donors.  Perhaps the digital librarians can learn from the experiences of physical libraries and the choices they have made regarding sponsorship and advertising.

What this has all taught me is that no matter what we are considering; ancient monuments, public libraries or digital libraries, the issues are always going to be the same.  So, even if the future is going to be book-light, the skills involved and challenges faced in developing, running and delivering information services will be very similar.  A heartening conclusion for a library student.