Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bridging Worlds 2008 Conference, Part 6: Sidsel Bech-Peterson - The Mashup Library

[From Part 5]

Sidsel Bech-Peterson, from The Main Library, Aarhus, Denmark.
Sidsel Bech-Peterson

Sidsel spoke about Aarhus Public Library's efforts in mashing up digital and physical spaces, and people.

People?

Yeah, I heard her right.

They have conceived the term "mash-up"to be about "Co-creation", and user involvement in service prototyping.

Sidsel showed several videos. Check them out:

I was impressed with this service called the "Info-Column" (see Transformation Lab video at the 4:10 min mark), where item information can be bluetoothed to the patron's mobile device.
Bluetooth transmit lib

Another cool idea --an "User Suggestion" website (like Dell's Idea Storm)-- where library users can submit suggestions, comment and vote on what others have suggested.
Library "Idea Storm" website

You might think "Oh, nothing special... just a site for users to submit ideas". But it's more complicated than that and I'm sure it took some amount of institutional courage to implement it.

For instance, I can think of these issues to be addressed:
  • Would setting up such a site lead to expectations that all ideas have to be implemented?
  • How do you handle a point where there's a "diminished returns" of ideas?
  • How much time/ opportunity costs are we prepared to spend, in responding to submissions? (because surely most responses deserve some acknowledgment, if not direct feedback)
But those issues are not insurmountable. When planned ahead, they can be managed in several different ways.

Example -- the library can explain what's their "response policy" -- whether you are able to respond to all comments? Or publish some broad guidelines on how the library would evaluate suggestions and choose those for implementation. Maybe even a cut-off for the life of the website, i.e. Migrate it to part of regular customer contact/ feedback process rather than a specific "Idea Storm" website.

Here are some off-the-cuff Twitter posts as I listened to Sidsel:
  • 12:08 PM Oct 16th - "impressed with tech tools in danish library presentation. I wonder if the digital tools drive users towards use/ borrowing of physical bk"

  • 12:11 PM Oct 16th - "wonder how much the danish library pays in electrical bills to power all those huge digital screens. CBA? Darn I sound like beancounter!"

  • 12:19 PM Oct 16th - "sidsel bech-peterson: focus on relations, more than transactions (uncanny - I wrote the same thing in my paper. Wow"

  • 12:27 PM Oct 16th - "@shifted - glad there r libraries like aarhus to show the rest of us abt possibilities being implemented."
Admittedly I have some doubts how much these technological devices would directly make users use library materials.

But upon hindsight, I guess I need to un-learn.

Traditional performance measures for libraries have to change. And librarians have to try to convince the powers-that-be why they should be changed.

As I mentioned in my response to Jenny's twitter, I'm glad there are libraries like Aarhus who play the advocacy role in transforming libraries.

And more important, by putting ideas to practice, they allow us to imagine and visualise possibilities.

[Next: Part 7]

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