This Week in LIS - 20 June 2008

Weekly news and updates from Luther College Library and Information Services. To receive email updates, please sign up here.

Upcoming Dates

  • June 23 (Monday) Windows Vista Demo – 11:00 am
  • June 25 (Wednesday) Windows Vista Training – 10:45 am
  • June 26 (Thursday) KATIE Moodle Open Workshop – 9:00 am
  • June 30 (Monday) Norse Apps Training Demo – 11:00 am
  • More information on upcoming training opportunities: http://lis.luther.edu/learn

Headline of the Week: The Internet: When Will the Disruption End? (Part 1)

Over the past week or so, a couple notable articles have appeared online contributing to the growing body of literature defining the significant, and ongoing effects of the Internet and digital information. Being in the information business, we need to take note. The rules of our professions are changing all around us, and while there are probably a few folks who thrive on the pace of change we have, for many others things are probably progressing a little too quickly.

In The Atlantic, Nicholas Carr proposes the questions Is Google Making Us Stupid? He discusses how the Internet and its focus on immediate delivery of small pieces of information is affecting how he thinks and processes information generally. Carr writes:

As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought. And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.

I agree with Carr’s argument, and see the same effects in my own life and how I use and relate to information. I read far fewer books and longer essays than I have previously. I spend time as my own news editor online casting both wide and very targeted nets for information of interest. That information is regularly updated for me and available at any time of day or night. It is very easy to quickly gloss through hundreds of pieces of information gaining a broad overview of events, without delving very deeply into any of them. Taking the time to reflect, research, and build original and complicated argument seems a luxury that our new network-based workflows won’t accommodate. Carr also writes:

The idea that our minds should operate as high-speed data-processing machines is not only built into the workings of the Internet, it is the network’s reigning business model as well. The faster we surf across the Web—the more links we click and pages we view—the more opportunities Google and other companies gain to collect information about us and to feed us advertisements. Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link—the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their economic interest to drive us to distraction.

Identifying and understanding this change, and fully exploring how college undergraduates relate to their Facebook, IM, and texting world filled with micronuggets of questionably-useful information is a critical priority for information professionals to pursue. It is becoming clearer and clearer that our faculty and students approach information in fundamentally different ways. We need to build ourselves as a bridge, recognizing that we cannot change the course of river, but we can help navigate it for those less comfortable with the swimming we all need to do.

The deeper revelation for us to come to terms with however is this: Librarians and other information professionals have expressed concern over the changing relevance of physical collections in a growing digital world. With more and more monographs available online, how do we continue to acquire and curate these collections when their use patterns are clearly in flux? The real question put forward by Carr is in the future Internet world, will anyone have the patience and mental stamina to read a monographic work of analysis? Many undoubtedly will and I’m not ready to send the monograph as a medium down the river, but for colleges and universities who are training students to research, analyze, synthesize, and write, it seems we will need to add a new emphasis to our information literacy training programs. We’re going to need to explain monographic works, why they are important and how they differ from the sea of information nuggets we live in each day. The transition and disruption we are experiencing now is much deeper than just a switch from print to electronic. It is reshaping how we value information, thought, depth, and analysis. The assumption of the value of monographic analysis can no longer be held as an assumption and must be argued and defended. In a sea of overabundant information, every form must justify its place, and the denser or more difficult the information is to access and digest, the greater the threat to its usefulness in the future.

So perhaps the Kindle and other ebook readers aren’t the only threat to the book as we have known it for hundreds of years; maybe our own evolving reading habits pose an even greater threat to the future of the book than we realize.

[Part 2 next week will look at the future of the library catalog]

LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

LIS Website Changes

  • The Training & Instruction site received a significant upgrade this week with the introduction of an online event scheduling and reservation system integrated into our Drupal installation. The URL for the new site remains the same: http://lis.luther.edu/learn. The course listing continues to include clickable event information, but now allows for individuals to register for courses online. Instructors can also contact all registrants via email, and the system will automatically send event reminders. iCal feeds are available for the full training calendar from the event URL: http://lis.luther.edu/event. That page also allows for filtering of events by a number of different criteria.

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council reviewed the LIS project queue (http://lis.luther.edu/projects – available for LIS staff), and reviewed planning work for our upcoming User Services recruitment.

NITLE Opportunities

As a member of NITLE (National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education), Luther has the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of developmental and training programs intended for faculty, librarians, and information technologists. Events listed at the link below are currently open for registration by Luther participants. LIS Staff who are interested in participating in an event should speak with Christopher Barth. Faculty who are interested in participating should speak with Lori Stanley. Participation is contingent upon available funding and program acceptance.

Complete List of NITLE Opportunities

New from NITLE …

We have scheduled the IT Leaders Conference and the Summit back-to-back and in close proximity in the Philadelphia area. We hope that these arrangements will provide a rich opportunity to participants interested in participating in both events in addition to reducing the inconvenience and cost of travel away from campus. Participants who register for both events may do so for 10 program units, 2 program units less than the combined costs of these events. Participants interested in only one of these events are, of course, also welcome!

In response to community interest, NITLE is piloting a professional development program for system administrators, system integrators, or application developers at participating institutions who are interested in campus-based development of cloud-computing projects on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). The multi-part program will open with an initial session on September 29 (listed here); participants in the first session will also be brought together for two follow-up sessions.

  • NEW: Online Event: Cloud Computing and Amazon EC2. Program Date & Time: September 29, 2008, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m. Eastern. Two follow-up sessions will be scheduled. Delivered online via MIV. 1 program unit (including two follow-up sessions).

Other new events include:

Notable Internet Resource of the Week: Zoomii

In keeping with our reading theme, this week a new site named Zoomii was launched to bring something of the bookstore browsing experience to the king of online booksellers, Amazon.com. Zoomii provides a graphical, shelf-like interface to thousands of books divided by subjects (just like a real brick-and-mortar store). You can click on books to launch a viewer with more information, scroll and drag around the store, jump around by subject, keyword search, save to your Amazon wishlists, or add items directly to your Amazon shopping cart. Purchases are made through Amazon.

This is an innovative and different way to shop online. The biggest drawback is the number of titles browsable (something just under 20,000 by the site’s statistics). That would put it in the realm of a Waldenbooks store from the 1980s (remember those …). Today’s Border’s and Barnes & Noble stores generally will carry 50,000-150,000 titles depending on the size of the store. The books selected for the Zoomii store are taken from the top 25,000 best sellers on Amazon, so it really isn’t designed for the long tail shopper.

On the web at http://www.zoomii.com/

Around the Web

Here are a few links to interesting developments over the past week: