Everything, Anywhere, All the Time

Yesterday, the Kansas City Public Library held the first ever Kansas City SirsiDynix Users Group Conference at our Plaza Branch. Representatives from several KC-area library systems and from SirsiDynix met and discussed what the future could hold for ILS systems and library technology.

Web-based services, cloud services, APIs, fully integrated discovery layers, social media integration, the role of mobile apps, patron-driven acquisitions, one-click downloads, the relationship of the library OPAC to the library website…

We’re brainstorming the nature and structure of libraries in the Digital Age.

I came out of the conference with three major take-aways:
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The True Scope of History, Part II

Homo sapiens is unique on this planet in that we’re the only genus with only one species. It’s not normal to be the only species within a genus! All other animals exist in a world in which there are others very like themselves, but not them.

Humans, by contrast, take it for granted that there are no other species in the world like us.

It didn’t used to be that way, though. We used to share this planet with other people who weren’t us.
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The Purpose of Human Imagination

The Internet Librarian International 2012 conference wrapped up yesterday. Perhaps the most widely circulated tweet from the conference came from Airport Librarian (@airprtlibrarian):

We have libraries because people need a place to dream. The collection is not the main goal. #ili2012

— Airport librarian(@airprtlibrarian) October 30, 2012

“People need a place to dream.” Yes!

[Edit: At the request of Airport Librarian, I’d like to credit David Lankes as the original source of the quote, from his keynote speech.]

The human ability to dream and to imagine is one that has fascinated me from a very early age. The scientist in me wonders: Why do we dream? What necessary function is served by our imagination?

Why do people need a place to dream?

I had an experience during my freshman year of college that informed my understanding of the purpose of imagination more than any other…
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User Centered Design: The New Card Catalog for the Digital Information Age

The Kansas City Public Library just posted a new position: User Centered Design Specialist

I love that we’re doing this! I know that it’s become something of a cliché to talk about UX, but the simple fact of the matter is that user experience and interaction design are only going to become more important as we proceed in our Digital Information Age.

The landscape of information access is undergoing radical evolution. We have a wider variety of information accessing technology than ever before: desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, gaming systems – with different operating systems and coding platforms for each. More importantly, these technologies have created a near-infinite variety in points of access – wherever we can carry our devices (and still have signal) we can access information at will.
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Misquoted Darwin

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”—Charles Darwin

A friend of mine recently posted this quotation on Facebook. I commented that this is one thing that too many people get wrong about Darwin’s theory—too many people assume that survival of the fittest means survival of the strongest. But that’s not necessarily the case.

I was all set to write a blog about all the other commonly held misunderstandings that people have about the Theory of Evolution. First, though, I wanted to verify the quotation my friend had posted.

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Copyright & Fair Use

This article from Kevin L. Smith, published online by Library Journal on October 18, 2012, presents a truly excellent argument in favor of Fair Use:

Why Are Some Publishers So Wrong About Fair Use?

It also serves to crystallize many of my thoughts regarding the changing nature of copyright law in this country.
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The True Scope of History

Human anatomical modernity began approximately 200,000 years ago.

Human behavioral modernity began approximately 50,000 years ago.

The entirety of humanity’s known written record dates back approximately 5,000 years.

Consider what this means: Our brains have been as complex as they are now – we’ve possessed the same curiosity, drive, wanderlust, intelligence, and creativity – for at least 50,000 years. We’ve been exploring, experimenting, testing, learning, and figuring things out this whole time. It may be that we’ve been this curious and intelligent for the full 200,000 years of our existence.

If we take the 50,000 year mark – this means we only know, at most, 10% of everything we’ve done in that time. 90% of our own history is unknown to ourselves, except through some cave paintings and fossils.

If we take the 200,000 year mark – that percentage drops to 2.5%, leaving 97%-98% of our own history completely in the dark.

Humbling, ain’t it?