libraries and technology

Attention: Fahrenheit 451 becomes a reality (sort of)

Today, there is an article in the Boston Globe that is implicitly about the general state of libraries. I am not sure if it appears in the newspaper itself, but here is the link to it online: The fact that this article is titled, apparently with no sense of apocalyptic irony, “Headmaster says eliminating books in library is working fine” is both frightening and hilarious. Basically, this private high school in central Massachusetts is trying to digitize the entire library. Several of the quotes from the headmaster of this school are just appalling (even more so considering they didn’t ask for a single librarian’s opinion). Here are two questions to start with: if all library collections are digitized, is there a point to having a building that people go to? And can this digital approach even be called a library anymore? Everybody watch out, because this might be knocking on Northeastern’s door as we speak. a-Twitter about Second Life? Or something?

So I recently returned from a conference called Computers in Libraries 2008. It was way more interesting than it sounds! 🙂 Lots of librarians around the country (and the world) are talking about finding ways to use so-called Web 2.0 technologies in their libraries. There were sessions about Facebook, blogging, wikis, etc. I went to a couple of particularly interesting sessions — interesting in that they dealt with technologies that I personally haven’t used very much, but that are growing in popularity. These include the sites Twitter (which I’ve never tried) and (which I have), and the virtual world of Second Life (never been there either). In case anyone is not familiar with one or more of these, let me briefly explain them. Twitter lets you post very brief responses to “what are you doing now?” and follow other people’s responses to the same question. It’s been referred to as “micro-blogging.” is a social bookmarking site — you can save websites you like, tag them with descriptions, access them from anywhere (unlike bookmarks in your web browser) and share them with others. And Second Life is a virtual world in which you can create an avatar and simulate real-world activities, such as shopping, building things, attending concerts or lectures, and meeting people from around the world. The conference session on Twitter and failed to convince me about the former, but had some good ideas for using the latter in the library, especially in reference and instruction. The session on Second Life showed a few interesting examples but mainly served to point out that there’s not a huge demand for library services in Second Life because not that many people use Second Life itself, at least not yet. So, I’m curious about others’ usage of these three items. The only one I’ve tried at all, as I said, is Do you use it, and for what? How about Twitter? What’s so great about it? How about Second Life? Can you see a role for any of these in the library, or for educational purposes in general? I’d be very interested to know about others’ experiences with these technologies.