April 29, 2009

The Bookstore of the Future

A very fine article by Claude Lalumière in the latest issue of Quill & Quire (Nothing online yet for the issue, but their editor just passed away recently, so I imagine they'll be a little behind for a while).

You might be thinking that the future of bookstores is a little off the beaten track for me, but there are a couple of reasons why I'm pointing this article out.

First of all, the way the author envisages the intersection between technology and physical space in the bookstore of the future is very relevant for academic libraries. Second of all, Claude's been a good friend for something like 20 years (!) and when he mentioned that he was about to publish an article on the future of bookstores when I saw him at Ad Astra a few weeks ago I just knew that it was something I wanted to highlight. (Plus Claude has a new short story collection coming out.)

I wish there was a full text version of the article I could point you to, but there isn't. So, I'll just have to give a few longish quotes:

Some customers browse on computer terminals, while others tap away at their laptops at cafe-styled tables. Some are sitting on couches, having animated conversations about the books in their hands. People thumb through demo copies of selected books, displayed on the few bookshelves and promotional tables to be seen. Staffers circulate, answering questions. Somewhere in the back, a machine hums -- it's printing books on the spot, which will then be brought out to the counter and handed to paying customers.

This is the bookshop of the future.


To be competitive, the bookstore of the future will need to offer access to any title within minutes, in order to provide faster and more reliable service than online retailers, instantly satisfying book buyers' fickle interests. At the same time, it must keep offering the kind of personal, social experience that no online venue can match. To achieve this, our vision of how a bookshop operates must step out of the 20th century. But bookshops cannot march into the future by themselves: publishers, too, need to invest in new infrastructure.


The bookshop can and should be more exciting than ever. If reinvented with sufficient passion, imagination, and co-operation, it will become the preferred venue for readers to navigate our information-rich world, and for authors and publishers to reach their audiences.

Almost word for word, many of these same points apply just as much to academic libraries -- in our desire to remake ourselves as social and informational hubs for our communities, places where learning can take place in a variety of contexts and settings.

Will we concentrate on delivering monographs via print-on-demand technology rather than online to reading devices? Probably not, but we're not trying to sell artifacts at a profit.

I think the point claude is mostly trying to make is that to survive, bookshops need to somehow find a way to resonate with the life of their communities and to leverage than into a revenue stream. Similarly, libraries need to resonate with the life of their communities and to leverage than into continued growth and support within their institutions.

(Unfortunately, Q&Q doesn't seem to be online anywhere so if you want to read the whole article you'll have to either find it at your library or local bookshop. Oh, the irony.)

April 24, 2009

Friday Fun: Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era

McSweeney's strikes again!

Check out their syllabus for ENG 371WR: Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era:

As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade...


Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t!

Read the whole thing. It's very funny. And perhaps a little too close to true sometimes...

(Via Dan Cohen.)

April 23, 2009

Yet more reports & books on the future of academic libraries

Yes, yes, I'm still completely obsessed with this futuristic prognostication business (consider that a bit of foreshadowing). I will continue to try and make the laundry lists a little shorter and more digestible.


  • The Future of Management by Bill Breen & Gary Hamel

  • Redefining Literacy 2.0 by David Franklin Warlick

  • Slow Reading by John Miedema

  • Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing is Changing the Way We Do Business & Market Online by Warren Whitlock & Deborah Micek

  • YouTube for Business: Online Video Marketing for Any Business by Michael Miller

  • Secrets of Social Media Marketing: How to Use Online Conversations and Customer Communities to Turbo-Charge Your Business! by Paul Gillin

  • Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World by Matthew Fraser & Soumitra Dutta

  • Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business by Larry Weber

  • Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day by Dave Evans

  • Designing for the Social Web by Joshua Porter

  • Electronic Tribes: The Virtual Worlds of Geeks, Gamers, Shamans, and Scammers edited by Tyrone L. Adams & Stephen A. Smith

  • First Person: New Media as Story, Performance, and Game edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin & Pat Harrigan

  • Networked Publics by Kazys Varnelis

  • Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age by Duncan J. Watts

  • Small Worlds: The Dynamics of Networks between Order and Randomness by Duncan J. Watts

  • The Social Atom: Why the Rich Get Richer, Cheaters Get Caught, and Your Neighbor Usually Looks Like You by Mark Buchanan

As usual, I'm happy to take suggestions for other books, reports, blogs, etc. about the future of academic libraries here in the comments, on Friendfeed or via email (jdupuis at yorku dot ca).

(Apologies for all the social media marketing books. Believe, it's just a small sample of what's out there. Frankly, it's probably not worth taking more than a quick glance at one or two of them.)

(A bunch of the books are from The Social Software Primer: 13 Books You Must Read)

April 22, 2009

Conferences vs. journals in computing research

Such is the title of Moshe Y. Vardi Editor's Letter in the most recent Communications of the ACM (v52i5).

I'll excerpt it a bit:

What I'm referring to is the way we go about publishing our research results. As far as I know, we are the only scientific community that considers conference publication as the primary means of publishing our research results. In contrast, the prevailing academic standard of "publish" is "publish in archival journals." Why are we the only discipline driving on the conference side of the "publication road?"

Conference publication has had a dominant presence in computing research since the early 1980s. Still, during the 1980s and 1990s, there was ambivalence in the community, partly due to pressure from promotion and tenure committees about conference vs. journal publication. Then, in 1999, the Computing Research Association published a Best Practices Memo, titled "Evaluating Computer Scientists and Engineers for Promotion and Tenure," that legitimized conference publication as the primary means of publication in computer research. Since then, the dominance of conference publication over journals has increased, though the ambivalence has not completely disappeared. (In fact, ACM publishes 36 technical journals.)


My concern is our system has compromised one of the cornerstones of scientific publication—peer review. Some call computing-research conferences "refereed conferences," but we all know this is just an attempt to mollify promotion and tenure committees. The reviewing process performed by program committees is done under extreme time and workload pressures, and it does not rise to the level of careful refereeing. There is some expectation that conference papers will be followed up by journal papers, where careful refereeing will ultimately take place. In truth, only a small fraction of conference papers are followed up by journal papers.

Years ago, I was told that the rationale behind conference publication is that it ensures fast dissemination, but physicists ensure fast dissemination by depositing preprints at www.arxiv.org and by having a very fast review cycle. For example, a submission to Science, a premier scientific journal, typically reaches an editorial decision in two months. This is faster than our conference publication cycle!

So, I want to raise the question whether "we are driving on the wrong side of the publication road." I believe that our community must have a broad and frank conversation on this topic. This discussion began in earnest in a workshop at the 2008 Snowbird Conference on "Paper and Proposal Reviews: Is the Process Flawed?" (see http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1462571.1462581).

Interesting. I'm curious about all this and I wonder if any of the computing people out there who are reading this share Yardi's ambivalence. It's always seemed to me that the computing community's tendency to self archive on their own web space has been a great strength, probably leading to a somewhat lower probability of an arxiv-like system coming in and taking over like with physics. From what I've seen, probably 80-90% or more of most conference proceedings are available via authors' web pages.

April 21, 2009

Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services

I've always thought that Morgan & Claypool's Synthesis product is one of the best, most forward-looking products out there. They give quality, targeted, born-digital content of the kind that I can push out to faculty & grad students. And most of all, content that's worth paying for. They're also very receptive to the library community, welcoming input and feedback. And supporting our activities at conferences, etc.

Now they've even given back by starting a series of basically Information Science lectures on Synthesis!

Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval, and Services is edited by Gary Marchionini of the University of North Carolina. The series will publish 50- to 100-page publications on topics pertaining to information science and applications of technology to information discovery, production, distribution, and management. The scope will largely follow the purview of premier information and computer science conferences, such as ASIST, ACM SIGIR, ACM/IEEE JCDL, and ACM CIKM. Potential topics include, but not are limited to: data models, indexing theory and algorithms, classification, information architecture, information economics, privacy and identity, scholarly communication, bibliometrics and webometrics, personal information management , human information behavior, digital libraries, archives and preservation, cultural informatics, information retrieval evaluation, data fusion, relevance feedback, recommendation systems, question answering, natural language processing for retrieval, text summarization, multimedia retrieval, multilingual retrieval, and exploratory search.

Take a look at the first four:

Great stuff -- I think this is going to end up being a terrific resource. You can see some of the lectures they have under development here:
  • Digital Libraries by Ed Fox

  • Faceted Search by Daniel Tunkelang, Endeca

  • Grid-Based Repositories by Reagan Moore, Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI)

  • Information Architecture by Wei Ding and Xia Lin

  • Information Concepts by Gary Marchioninil

  • Information-Seeking Behavior by Raya Fidel

  • Personal Information Management by William Jones

  • Personalization in Information Retrieval by Javed Mostafa

  • Reading and Writing the Electronic Book by Catherine C. Marshall

  • Research and Analysis of Online Social Networks by Fred Stutzman

  • Web Analytics by Bernard J. Jansen

April 17, 2009

SciBarCamp 2009: Registration is open!

Registration is open for this year's edition of SciBarCamp Toronto. Last year was a blast.

This year, it's in collaboration with the Science Rendezvous series of events in and around Toronto.

So what's SciBarCamp?

SciBarCamp is a gathering of scientists, artists, and technologists for a day of talks and discussions. The second SciBarCamp event will take place at Hart House at the University of Toronto on May 9th, 2009, with an opening reception on the evening of May 8th. The goal is to create connections between science, entrepreneurs and local businesses, and arts and culture.

One of the topics we will be exploring this year is "Open Science", but we welcome any suggestions from participants. After all, in the tradition of BarCamps (see BarCamp.org for more information), the program is decided by the participants at the beginning of the meeting, in the opening reception on May 8th. SciBarCamp will require active participation; while not everybody will present or lead a discussion, everybody will be expected to contribute substantially - this will help make it a really creative event.

The participant list is already up and growing and there is some preliminary information on the program. If there's a topic you're interested in, add it here.

One of the organizers, Eva Amsen, has more on her blog. There is also, of course, a Friendfeed room and a Twitter hashtag.

April 14, 2009

York University Libraries 2.0

My colleague Bill Denton and I whipped up a little article for the Libraries' spring faculty newsletter on some of the stuff we've been trying out recently.

We called it YUL 2.0.

Over the last few years the World Wide Web has changed from a place where we passively consume information to one where everyone can carve out their own little place to participate and contribute. The set of Internet technologies that encourage interactivity and user contributions—blogs, wikis, social networks and social bookmarking sites—are called Web 2.0.

Over the last year the library has embraced many of these Web 2.0 technologies, venturing out in the wilds of the interactive web and looking for involvement with our students, faculty, and anyone else around the world.

Here are some of the projects we have up right now, and one or two that are still just experimental glimmers in our eyes.

April 13, 2009

The kids are alright

Or at least Hana is.

She's one of York's official student bloggers and her entries on the student blog YUBlog are always worth reading.

First of all, I really like her response, Are we really that stupid, to the Toronto Star's article Profs blast lazy first-year students.

The Star article is fairly typical "kids today are all lazy and dumb" overstatement. That's not to say that it doesn't make some pretty good points about problems in high school education or the cult of self esteem that pervades a lot of educational theory. It does. But similar problems have always plagued us as a society. Undergrads have always been lazy and unmotivated, overconfident and looking for shortcuts. New technologies haven't changed that, only given birth to new ways for those tendencies to manifest.

Enough of me, here's Hana:

Now I’m not sure what to make of all this - it seems like every generation of teachers says that this young generation is truly hopeless and clueless, since the beginning of time. But there is something to be said about how easy it is to slack off with the help of a laptop and Wikipedia, and there is also something to be said about parents who are too nice to enforce some discipline during high school.


Unprepared or not, there are resources on campus for students who want to use them. Study workshops, writing centres, extensive disability services, one-on-one academic counselling, library research classes, and professors themselves are there for you. If you put in the effort and are in a program you’re passionate about, there’s no need to worry.

Hey, Hana, thanks for the shout-out to the Libraries!

And speaking of books, I also like her Best 10 things I’ve read in university:
3. Maus I and II - Art Spiegelman

Maus is an amazing, amazing graphic novel about a Jewish family’s experiences during World War Two. All the characters are presented as humans in animal masks - the Jewish characters are mice, the German characters are cats, the French are frogs, the British are fish, the Russians are bears, the Americans are dogs, you get the idea. It’s really disorienting and almost makes you forget you’re reading a children’s story instead of nonfiction. Maus took thirteen years to complete, and is based on the stories told to Art Spiegelman by his father, Vladek Spiegelman. It’s a really wrenching read, something that you come back to compulsively between meals and sleeps.

And another shout-out to the library for item 9!

In any case, I do think it's too bad that she was able to get through four years of Creative Writing without reading any science or technology books that really grabbed her, but what can you do. I'd be interested to hear which Natural Science course she took. If you're reading this Hana, drop me a line for some good suggestions to take out from Steacie!

April 9, 2009

The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians

What with all the fuss and bother about the Taiga Provocative Statements, I thought I'd take a break from doom and gloom and highlight a more recent set of statement that certainly provide a more optimistic, almost kumbaya, view of the profession.

Of course, I mean The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians which were written by John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor.

One of the great things about the CC-BY license that the statements are released under is that I can share the full text of the statements with you all below.

For the most part, I really like the statements. They are optimistic and forward thinking, envisioning the best that libraries and librarians can be. There represent something to aspire to.

Not surprisingly, however, I do have some small quibbles.

  • I'm never too pleased to see rhetoric like, "Hire the best people and let them do their job; remove staff who cannot or will not," especially just after they say, "Identify and implement the most humane and efficient methods, tools, standards and practices." This kind of corporate, Wal-Mart, race-to-the-bottom approach to HR is the wrong approach for public or non-profit institutions.

  • Frankly, some of the statements are a bit over-stated, almost veering into the sentimental and mawkish. For example, "The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization" or "The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change." I would have a hard time reciting those in front of a group of faculty and keeping a straight face. While ducking tomatoes.

  • I feel that the statements aren't really aimed at academic libraries so much as public or even national libraries. I'm sure many in institutional or special libraries would feel the same way. This isn't a big deal, of course, but it would have been nice to see something a bit more explicit about Information Literacy, for example. As I mentioned above, the current incarnation probably wouldn't go over that well among faculty or academic administrators, who would tend to see themselves as the guardians of civilization. It might make an interesting exercise to remix the statements to be more applicable to the academic environment.

But like I said, these are just quibbles.

(BTW, the Annoyed Librarian takes a stab at fisking the Darien Statements. She/he/it/they mostly miss the mark, but do make a few good points.)

So, here they are, the full text of The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians (word version):
The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians
Written and endorsed by John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor

The Purpose of the Library

The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization.

The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change.

The Library is infinite in its capacity to contain, connect and disseminate knowledge; librarians are human and ephemeral, therefore we must work together to ensure the Library’s permanence.

Individual libraries serve the mission of their parent institution or governing body, but the purpose of the Library overrides that mission when the two come into conflict.

Why we do things will not change, but how we do them will.

A clear understanding of the Library’s purpose, its role, and the role of librarians is essential to the preservation of the Library.

The Role of the Library

The Library:
  • Provides the opportunity for personal enlightenment.

  • Encourages the love of learning.

  • Empowers people to fulfill their civic duty.

  • Facilitates human connections.

  • Preserves and provides materials.

  • Expands capacity for creative expression.

  • Inspires and perpetuates hope.

The Role of Librarians

  • Are stewards of the Library.

  • Connect people with accurate information.

  • Assist people in the creation of their human and information networks.

  • Select, organize and facilitate creation of content.

  • Protect access to content and preserve freedom of information and expression.

  • Anticipate, identify and meet the needs of the Library’s community.

The Preservation of the Library

Our methods need to rapidly change to address the profound impact of information technology on the nature of human connection and the transmission and consumption of knowledge.

If the Library is to fulfill its purpose in the future, librarians must commit to a culture of continuous operational change, accept risk and uncertainty as key properties of the profession, and uphold service to the user as our most valuable directive.

As librarians, we must:
  • Promote openness, kindness, and transparency among libraries and users.

  • Eliminate barriers to cooperation between the Library and any person, institution, or entity within or outside the Library.

  • Choose wisely what to stop doing.

  • Preserve and foster the connections between users and the Library.

  • Harness distributed expertise to serve the needs of the local and global community.

  • Help individuals to learn and to use new tools to create a more robust path to knowledge.

  • Engage in activism on behalf of the Library if its integrity is externally threatened.

  • Endorse procedures only if they guide librarians or users to excellence.

  • Identify and implement the most humane and efficient methods, tools, standards and practices.

  • Adopt technology that keeps data open and free, abandon technology that does not.

  • Be willing and have the expertise to make frequent radical changes.

  • Hire the best people and let them do their job; remove staff who cannot or will not.

  • Trust each other and trust the users.

We have faith that the citizens of our communities will continue to fulfill their civic responsibility by preserving the Library.

April 6, 2009

Recently in the IEEE

Some selections from recently published journal issues.

IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, v31i1, special issue on Asian Language Processing: History and Perspectives

IEEE Engineering Management Review, v37i1

IT Professional, v11i2. Special issue on Cloud Computing

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, v28i1

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, v52i1.

IEEE Transactions on Education, v52i1.

IEEE Security & Privacy, v7i1

April 4, 2009

Book Reviews: Cory Doctorow and Mafiaboy

Calce, Michael with Craig Silverman. Mafiaboy: How I cracked the Internet and why it's still broken. Toronto: Viking Canada, 2008. 277pp.

Doctorow, Cory. Content: Selected essays on technology, creativity, copyright and the future of the future. San Francisco: Tachyon, 2008. 213pp.

I'm reviewing these two books together for two reasons. First of all, I don't feel the need to go on at great length about either of them. Secondly, I think that they're related -- they both touch on the free, open and ungoverned (ungovernable?) nature of the Internet. One is a white hat treatment and the other, black hat. Or perhaps, many will think of both of these books representing a black hat perspective, that perhaps both these books represent the worst that the Internet has brought to modern society. The Web promotes openness and freedom. Generally, we consider both of those qualities to be positive. Certainly, Cory Doctorow would be a prime advocate of openness on the Web. On the other hand, the freedom that the Internet provides can also be cover for those that would exploit weakness and take advantage of others. Certainly, the story of Mafiaboy epitomizes the dark side of hacker culture.

Cory Doctorow's Content is a colletction of Doctorow's various essays on copyright and open content. collected from a bunch of different places, this is a stimulating and thought-provoking collection. Of course, every single essay is available for free on the net. An interesting conundrum, of course, is that if it's all available for free on the Web then why did I buy it? Most of all, I really like the idea of sending a little cash to the artists and thinkers whose work moves and inspires me. So, yes, I still buy books and CDs and pay to see movies in the theatre.

Never mind what you should pay for this book, who should read it? Well, if you're a copyright minimalist it's preaching to the choir. You'll agree that information wants to be free and that you the best business model for artists is to give stuff away that's easily copied and sell stuff that isn't. In other words, in a world where bits can be easily copied for virtually no cost, you have to be able to actually sell something other than pure content to make a living -- like experience. If you're a copyright maximalist, well, Doctorow is the anti-christ and you probably won't really appreciate the book. If, like most, you're in the middle, then this book is for you. Doctorow really makes a very strong and very persuasive case for his point of view, that . It's compelling and hard to ignore. You might not end up agreeing with everything (I certainly don't), but he will definitely win you over on a lot of points.

If there's one thing that detracts from Doctorow's ability to make his case, it's his attitude. Sometimes he's just too cocky, too arrogant, too sure that he's right and you're dead wrong. There's no agree-to-disagree is his world, it's my-way-or-the-highway. Take his opinion of opera:

The idea of a 60-minute album is as weird in the Internet era as the idea of sitting through 15 hours of Der Ring des Nibelungen was 20 years ago. There are some anachronisms who love their long-form opera, but the real action is in the more fluid stuff that can slither around on hot wax — and now the superfluid droplets of MP3s and samples. Opera survives, but it is a tiny sliver of a much bigger, looser music market. The future composts the past: old operas get mounted for living anachronisms; Andrew Lloyd Webber picks up the rest of the business.
My only reaction is that Doctorow is completely wrong in this. In fact, he really contradicts the main point of the long tail that Internet gurus are so adamant about. The new media landscape doesn't make 60 minute operas less interesting and relevant. It makes them more so -- finally able to find their niche in the long tail of human artistic expression. People that like opera can enjoy and obsess over it. People that don't, well, can listen to whatever they like. The point isn't Doctorow's rather juvenile assertion that some particular type of artistic expression is somehow not worthy, the point is that the Internet enables every kind of artistic expression is a way that was not possible before.

In any case, that was one of the few false notes (all the same kind of thing) in an otherwise excellent book. Read it and disagree, engage and enrage. But it's too important to ignore. I would recommend this book to any academic or public library as well as to anyone interested in the future of content in a fragmented and radically shifting online landscape.

And let's take a look at Michael Calce and Craig Silverman's account of Calce's life as Internet hacker Mafiaboy. Its a fascinating story of a Montreal-area teen and how he got involved in the world of hacking and ended up launching a couple of big denial of service attacks on some prominent web sites like Yahoo! and CNN. Calce tells the story of how he got involved in the hacking underworld as well as how he was caught, the jail time he served as well as how he's reformed and is using his obvious computing gifts for good instead of evil.

A couple of interesting points, though. Especially in his tell of the early part of the story, Calce comes off as a bit arrogant and clueless about the seriousness of his actions, not really showing much empathy. I find this interesting because while the later chapters make it pretty clear that he's grown up and left those feelings mostly behind, there are still glimpses and insights into the teenager that caused the havoc. We see the macho reputation building, the bragging and the power trips but not really from the point an introspective point of view. I guess it's hard to expect anyone to write that kind of book.

A great story, well told, well worth reading and thinking about. I would recommend it to any academic or public library interested in the way the Internet is shaping our society.

April 1, 2009

Some provocative statements

A little while back the Taiga Forum: A Community of AULs and ADs released their TAIGA 2009 Provocative Statements. There's been a fair bit of commentary around the web, most not that impressed.

A bit late to the party as usual, I've decided to add a bit to the not-so-impressed pile.

For the most part, their statements seem meant almost not to be taken seriously. They are pokes-in-the-eye. Unsupported and unsupportable....and yet, I've done a lot of the same things in my own ten years series, I've even said some of the same things (of course, a few years earlier). So the idea that you can be provocative and a little far out shouldn't bother me, right?

What bothers me is the tone. It's destructive and negative rather than cautionary or even visionary. It's "look at me, look at what a guru I am" In fact it's part of a strain we see these days of people trying to out "apocalyptic guru" each other. One person says, "newspapers and old media are dead" and the next says, "I think newspapers and old media are deader than you think they are!" "No, I think they're deader!" "No, I do!" And so on.

So, "Libraries must change!" and "No, I think libraries must change more than you do!" The Chicken Little impulse is natural, but not constructive.

Frankly, it's not hard to picture them all sitting around a table in dark sunglasses, black berets and smoking Gitanes, discussing Don Tapscott or Chris Anderson instead of Sartre or Camus.

So, in the same spirit of making ridiculous, unsupportable, poke-in-the-eye provocative statements, I feel the need to make some about them too:

  1. I have trouble remembering their name. I always think targa or parka.

  2. The document is in PDF format only. This seems oddly old fashioned.

  3. What's with all the ellipses? Really, you didn't need them and it makes the document look funny.

  4. The web site is so 2001. It looks like it was cobbled together in a weekend using FrontPage.

  5. There's no blog or online forum to promote discussion, not even a page that allows comments. This is very web 1.0, not what you'd expect of provocative visionaries.

  6. Not even Twitter. How can you be provocative without Twitter?

  7. "faciliate" is just funny. How are you going to get librarians to take you seriously if you can't spell.
    "An online social network is maintained by the Taiga Forum to faciliate continuing discussion of pertinent issues throughout the year. Membership in the online social network is open to all AULs and ADs who wish to participate. To receive an invitation to join the network, please fill out the contact form on this web page."

  8. The whole top-down, non-crowdsourced, walled-garden approach is kind of old-fashioned (see text of previous item).

  9. They changed their minds on their best point.

  10. The provocative statements are actually the Provocateurs preferred future.

In the complementary spirit of unsupported and unsupportable commentary, let's take a look at the individual statements.

1. ... all librarians will be expected to take personal responsibility for their own professional development; each of us will evolve or die. Budget pressures will force administrators to confront the "psychological shadow" cast by tenure and pseudo-tenure that has inhibited them from performing meaningful evaluations and taking necessary personnel actions. Librarians who do not produce will be reassigned or fired.
This is definitely provocative.

However, in my opinion, any organization that refuses to play any role in supporting the professional and career development of it's staff is a bad organization. Any organization, especially one with an academic mission, that behaves like this isn't "provocative." It's dysfunctional. Why so confrontational? Should we expect better? Shouldn't anyone who works in a knowledge industry expect better? Who do these people take their management lessons from? Donald Trump?

Yes, libraries have personnel issues, tenure can be a problem, transitioning people to new skill sets and career paths is a challenge. Yes, it's called leadership.

Yes, yes, I know that the Provocateurs aren't actually advocating running libraries this way, that it's all only a thought experiment. But it's all so gleeful and gosh-wow that it's hard not to extrapolate that this would be their current preference.

2. ... collection development as we now know it will cease to exist as selection of library materials will be entirely patron-initiated. Ownership of materials will be limited to what is actively used. The only collection development activities involving librarians will be competition over special collections and archives.
Just-in-time collection development versus just-in-case. Haven't we been discussing this for years?

In a nearly 100% online collection environment, it's entirely possible that we won't actually own anything, but will only access things on a pay-per-use basis, especially for new e-only monographs. On the other hand, it's hard to imagine all the commercial journal publishers disappearing in five years and that a pay-per-use model for all that content makes any sense for us or them.

On the third hand, as we see progress towards an Open Access paradigm, it's hard to see how this point is relevant to that material at all, or that they even considered libraries' role in curating, organizing and managing those scholarly resources at all. And I guess they've completely written off IRs.

The dig at the end about gladiator-like competition makes a lot of sense in the human resources model the Provocateurs seem to favour in #1.

3. ... Google will meet virtually all information needs for both students and researchers. Publishers will use Google as a portal to an increasing array of content and services that disintermediate libraries. All bibliographic data, excepting what libraries create for local special collections, will be produced and consumed at the network level.
In the PDF version of the document, this provocative statement is actually crossed out, as if they changed their minds and no longer thought this was a provocative statement.

Oddly, I actually think this provocative statement is the best of the lot. It implies a very large question: What do we think is worth paying for?

The dominance of discovery at the network level will put A&I database vendors under the gun, forcing them to innovate like crazy or die, something we're already seeing. The opportunity for us to to be able to use the money from cancelled A&I services to fund other aspects of the transformation we need to survive, particularly to our physical spaces.

Provocative? Sure. Hardly a new idea. I wrote about it two years ago and I'm sure others before me.

4. ... knowledge management will be identified as a critical need on campus and will be defined much more broadly than libraries have defined it. The front door for all information inquiries will be at the university level. Libraries will have a small information service role.
Frankly, I can never get myself to finish reading a sentence that has the term "knowledge management" in it.

I'm not sure what's provocative about this one. Are there any libraries that are currently the knowledge management hub of their campuses, meeting all possible information needs? Is this a role that makes sense in the future. Maybe if I had a clearer idea of what they meant by this statement.

5. ... libraries will have given up on the "outreach librarian" model after faculty persistently show no interest in it. Successful libraries will have identified shared goals with teaching faculty and adapted themselves to work at the intersection of librarianship, information technology and instructional technology.
I sort of understand this one. The point seems to be that faculty are no where near as interested in us as we are in them. This always has been and always will be true.

"Outreach Librarian model" is used oddly here. I would think that part of reaching out to the campus community is identifying shared goals with teaching faculty. I'm not sure that the role of outreach librarian is generally so narrowly defined as to exclude what the statement is implying we will embrace.

If faculty show no interest in "outreach", what makes them think that faculty will show any interest in identifying "shared goals" and working with us at the "intersection of librarianship, information technology and instructional technology."

But is it provocative to suggest that the best way to engage faculty is by getting involved in their educational activities? The best way to do outreach is via curriculum integration. A kind of broader form of integrating into the curriculum via educational technology is exactly what this statement is suggesting.

6. ... libraries will provide no in-person services. All services (reference, circulation, instruction, etc.) will be unmediated and supported by technology.
Yes, this one is genuinely provocative.

It's interesting that this sort of assumes that libraries will have no role on campus in providing study, collaborative or casual spaces. And that all the successful Learning Commons projects will just fold up and disappear and no new ones will be initiated.

If students are in our physical spaces, they may actually want to talk to somebody about something at some point. I can kind of see myself (after all, I'll only be 51 in five years), running away from students in the library so that I'm not tempted to perform some service for them unmediated by technology.

It also assumes that pretty well all aspects higher education will be mediated by technology. Which is possible but hardly likely in five years.

And I assume that Information Literacy will also disappear, as I will begin running away from profs and ignoring their emails just in case they want me to do some unmediated instruction or consultation with their students.

7. ... libraries will have abandoned the hybrid model to focus exclusively on electronic collections, with limited investments in managing shared print archives. Local unique collections will be funded only by donor contributions.
I'm not sure that anyone would think of this as particularly provocative anymore. The idea that libraries will abandon print completely one day has been around for awhile, particularly in the science library community. Will most or all libraries completely abandon print as soon as five years? Probably not. Probably not even ten years, although by then we might only be spending one percent or less of our budgets on print.

However, the idea that local unique collections would only be funded by donour contributions is absurd, destructive and actually kind of misses the point. If newspapers can find part of their survival strategy in aligning themselves to their communities with an intensely local focus, then so should academic libraries. It seems to me that local unique collections can provide something that Google can't and that intensely local focus might be something that we do think is actually worth spending money on. And yes, I'm sure we'll digitize our intensely local print collections.

8. ... library buildings will no longer house collections and will become campus community centers that function as part of the student services sector. Campus business offices will manage license and acquisition of digital content. These changes will lead campus administrators to align libraries with the administrative rather than the academic side of the organization.
Ah, now I understand #6.

But isn't playing video games with students and serving them coffee a service that's unmediated by technology? Oh, sorry, can't play Wii games with them, only MMORPGs.

I would suggest that what they're talking about is also no longer a library, so I guess I'm not working there anymore anyways. Which leads to understanding #s 1, 2, 5 and 7. Wal-Martization is the term we're looking for, the race to the bottom hollowing out the mission of all of higher education.

In fact, I think it's possible to see this as the uber-provocative statement, the one from which all the others follow. The loss of the academic library's academic mission leads to treating our staff like Wal-Mart treats theirs and to viewing our licensed and purchased content like Wal-Mart views the products they stock.

Which makes it odd to put at #8. It probably should have been #1.

And I surely can't imagine that this would be anyone's preferred outcome.

9. ... the library community will insist on a better return on investment for membership organizations (e.g., CRL, DLF, CNI, SPARC, ARL, ALA). All collaboration of significance will be centered around either individual entrepreneurial libraries (e.g., HathiTrust, OLE), or regional consortia.
This one's fine, although I'm not sure why they would have considered it even mildly controversial rather than full-blown provocative. Using the word "all" rather than "most" or "much of" does seem rather strong, but again not provocative.

10. ... 20% of the ARL library directors will have retired. University administrators will see that librarians do not have the skills they need and will hire leaders from other parts of the academy, leading both to a realignment of the library within the university and to the decline of the library profession.
Since these statements are coming from AULs & ADs, I find it odd that they don't seem to think that they are qualified to make the next step and become directors. Or that anyone on their campuses will think that they are. Although the skills that librarians do have are probably not best suited for running what's left of the library the in the student centre model anyways, so maybe it's just as well.

It's interesting. The sum total of the provocative statements seems to be that we'll all be spending our time serving coffee to students in the next five years as pretty well every other library function will either completely disappear or be taken over by someone else. It seems that they're despairing that we'll lose virtually any sort of genuine, meaningful, professional role that libraries or librarians can have in the academic mission of the university.

Now, what they provocatively suggest may come true. The Provocateurs may even think it's inevitable or desirable, although I hope not. I do think that it would have been possible to have worded most of their statements differently, in a way that suggests a way forward. I don't think it's useful to approach the future from such a defeatist perspective, that some of their provocative statements could actually show some, you know, that thing we expect of library leaders like AULs and ADs. Oh yeah, leadership.

I also find it interesting how much contempt and disdain for their fellow library workers oozes out of the various "provocative statements."

(I like to think that the Future of Academic Libraries presentation I did in 2008 is nicely sprinkled with provocative statements. Take a look.)

(BTW, just to reiterate, this whole screed is intended in the spirit of provocativity. No harm, no foul. Right?)

(Also, it may very well be no coincidence that it's published on April 1.)