SJSU’s 2011 SLIS lecture: Stephen Abram

Although I am an alum of SJSU’s SLIS program, I mostly filter out the plethora of on-going emails I still receive from the school about courses, talks, and student groups, but one message caught my eye –

[slisadmin] 2011 SLIS Lecture Webcast: Stephen Abram on the Future of Social Libraries & Learning (aka The Future: Frankenbooks, Social Libraries and Learning)

Abram, a rather prolific figure in the library world, had popped up across my research and news radar several times but I’ve lacked the follow through to consistently read his blog, New Stephen’s Lighthouse. However, watching his recorded talk was truly one of the most interesting and engaging presentations I’ve seen on libraries (all types) in very possibly forever (so far).  Abram presents great content, applicable situations, and sassy humor to illustrate some of our profession’s foibles and areas for improvement.  If you don’t want to spend an hour watching the talk, here are my main takeaways:

  • Geotagging (changing the answers based on the space/audience) – why aren’t we doing this?  His example – public consumer health data.  Do teens need the same information as senior citizens about HIV/AIDS? No, so why do we keep helping them in the same, uniform way?
  • We need to inform our users that they are being manipulated by geotagging, search engine optimization, and content farms like AOL
  • Our future for reference service is in providing transformational (learning) interactions, not transactional (end-product search results list only) interactions
  • The value of reading – do we really need to be persnickety about how people read? Nah.  Instead, focus on the fact that they are reading at all.  Plus, learn about some other eReading apps:  24symbols and Bookish
  • So that manipulation factor?  It’s not just search engine results.  In short, Apple seems to take a very narrow view of the Protection for Private Blocking and Screening of Offensive Material US legal code 230.c.2.A.  The Apple iStore’s iPhone Developer Program License Agreement allows Apple to determine what is or isn’t acceptable for you to buy with your own money.  This isn’t just an issue of obscene or pornographic materials, but things interpreted as defamous.  For example,  Mark Fiore, Pulitzer-prize winning satirist, had his NewsToons political cartoon app rejected since it was “making fun of the Balloon Boy hoax and the pair that famously crashed a White House party.”
  •  Things we can do to get back in touch with our community’s needs, not our own navel gazing.
    • Act Like a User Day (ex: ADA sort of way).  Can people use a wheelchair through the library well?  Do the websites we design actually make sense when used with a screen reader?  In my one-armed state, I’ve become acutely aware of the limitations to do things like use pump soap dispensers, cut food with fork and knife, or get a fair score on xBox Kinect games (penalties for missing arm are bogus).
    • Digital Download day – a petting zone of different technologies+showing users how to download their content to any device (pushes staff training+comfort).

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