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The Last Mile: A Chance to Get Started

This Friday I’m giving a talk at the Ontario Library Association Superconference , and months ago, I wrote a wide-open program description. I said I would “describe the outer limits of digital libraries,” share “radical and contrarian views,” and offer “mind-bending predictions.” I really wrote that? And I really said, oh sure, I can prepare it all offline, don’t spend all that money to wire the room?

O.k., o.k. Deep breaths.

1. I’ll “predict” the resurgence of the ebook and talk about why it will succeed this time. (Any libraries with Overdrive want to give me access for a week?)

2. I’ll show a few blogs, particularly FRL’s thread about Top Tech Trends prior to the Midwinter conference, but also, in the “let a thousands flowers bloom” department, Justinland. (Btw, the blog thread on FRL was to me far more interesting than our talking-heads panel of “experts,” and it frustrates me that the post-TTT discussion is happening on a small list, not out here in the biblioblogosphere. I’m now pushing LITA to start a blog for Top Tech Trends.)

3. I’ll demo podcasting using some of the fresh content from the Public Radio Exchange and perhaps a file I create.

4. I’ll discuss the Last Mile issues. And that will be the beginning of my ownership of this issue. Once I start to know it, I’ll have my topic. Once I have a topic, I can write something worth publishing. If the only place it goes is here, that’s fine, but I want it to be a piece that reaches others.

For example, today we hear that Mink, LA just got telephone service. Seems to me the first message I have to share–and it may strike a chord in Canada–is that the Last Mile is always with us, and is often longer than we realize. I’m going to try to talk to someone in Louisiana about getting connected to the Internet.

5. I’ll discuss some what if’s, as in what if your library catalog allowed users to rank and discuss books, the way Amazon does? What if libraries established public wi-fi WANs stretching across the entire North America continent? What if became the leading edge of technology, not the trailing edge?

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  1. Walt Crawford wrote:

    Re #2: That’s the third time now (twice here, once on LITA-L) that you’ve touted the superiority of your commenters to the “talking heads” who were there in Boston (six of the seven staying for the full session).

    Maybe you’re right.

    In which case, since you’re on the LITA board, you’re in a position to take action: Not just to start a TTT list/blog/wiki/whatever–but to shut down the clearly-inferior group of trendspotters, all of whom were asked to serve, none of whom gets paid a cent, several of whom have gotten up early Sunday for this session for five or six years now. I think we used to get continental breakfast, but that’s gone by the wayside.

    When only seven of 19 invitees (roughly 40% of whom are female, btw–but the committee doesn’t seem able to force them to show up) show up, there’s a raised stand and linear table instead of circle of tables, and there are 10+ times as many observers as participants, the Midwinter session is no longer what it started out to be–a freewheeling discussion–anyway. Maybe the time for trendspotters has come and gone.

    Fine with me. I never claimed to be an “expert” anyway.

    Hell, I’ll even offer to resign to get the ball rolling.

    Monday, January 31, 2005 at 1:58 pm | Permalink
  2. kgs wrote:

    Walt, you have got your shorts in a bunch. They must be wrapped around your head, because you definitely aren’t listening to what I’ve saying.

    I’m not disrespecting the contributions the trendspotters make, though clearly you read it that way. It’s great that we have trendsetters. It’s great that LITA added one more currently active female member of ALA to the panel (the roster isn’t very up-to-date). I’m sorry that it was me, because, as I have explained in other venues, as I warned the panel about months in advance, I have a responsibility to ALA governance duties, and as long as the panel and ALA Council conflict, I can’t be there the entire time. (If you recall, I offered to resign. Feel free to resign with me if it makes you feel better.)

    But as I have observed, not without waiting for the arrows to fly (and at least you say things to my face), TTT “happened” for me far more fully in the third plural person conversations on this site, as well as the private discussions I had mano a mano with respondents. I also found the post-TTT discussion frustrating because it happened on what is essentially a closed list.

    That doesn’t mean the trendspotters (who get up no earlier than their audience) don’t have interesting, fun, valuable things to say about technology. Nor does it mean that the panel is unimportant. But I will stand by my observation that for me it was interesting, and powerful, to watch a sliver of the same discussion turn into a conversation. If that observation makes me a rude ingrate, so be it.

    Monday, January 31, 2005 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  3. library.lisle wrote:

    I hope that neither Karen nor Walt resign from TTT. I attended TTT in Boston. I also read Karen’s post on FRL, and commented on it. I first attended TTT many years ago, in the 90s, I think. It was very different from what it was this year in Boston. There was little give-and-take between the commentators. Maybe it needs to be “rethunk”. But I still wanted to hear what the panelists had to say. There is value to having more that one method of information delivery. I subscribe to C&I. I am still fighting battles over technology in my library, even if now I get to complain over a T3 line. I like to think that if I listen to Walt, and Karen, and Clifford Lynch, and many others, I can’t be completely clueless.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2005 at 1:09 pm | Permalink
  4. A good deal of us LITA-folk (and just tech folk) look to the TTT to help guide our technology plans for the upcoming year. We need it, sometimes even to justify to our administrations that a particular technology of project is worth investing in. Kind of a “if LITA says so, then it must be so” rhetoric. I do think that having the TTT panel, always a quality bunch, drive the trends is a good system. But perhaps it shouldn’t only be in-person. I know I can’t attend midwinter–no library budget to support that. An online forum, in the form of a blog or wiki or even an old-fashioned e-mail listserv, would allow ongoing interactive collaboration among the TTT panel, as well as allowing those of us not on the panel to comment and even participate in the choosing of the trends. I’m starting to see a lot of what used to be “in-person only” fall to the wayside. Even within Northern California we’re starting to do more teleconferences, webconferences, and online interaction instead of in-person meetings. Whether that’s for better or for worse, I don’t know. But it is. And I think LITA would benefit from taking that direction as well.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2005 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

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  1. Canuck Librarian on Monday, January 31, 2005 at 5:01 pm

    OLA is on the way

    Just a couple days before the OLA the Free Range Librarian discusses what she may include in her session.

    Unfortunately, she doesn’t mention what day she is presenting, and I’ve lost my Superconference booklet, so I’ll have to go rummaging through…

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