"It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generation."

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"It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generation."

Post by Zaune » 2013-05-06 12:45pm

The Wall St Journal
HUGO, Minn.—In this suburb of St. Paul, the new library branch has no librarians, no card catalog and no comfortable chairs in which to curl up and read.

Instead, the Library Express is a stack of metal lockers outside city hall. When patrons want a book or DVD, they order it online and pick it up from a digitally locked, glove-compartment- sized cubby a few days later. It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generation.

Faced with layoffs and budget cuts, or simply looking for ways to expand their reach, libraries around the country are replacing traditional, full-service institutions with devices and approaches that may be redefining what it means to have a library.

Later this year Mesa, Ariz., plans to open a new "express" library in a strip-mall, open three days a week, with outdoor kiosks to dispense books and DVDs at all hours of the day. Palm Harbor, Fla., meanwhile, has offset the impact of reduced hours by installing glass-front vending machines that dispense DVDs and popular books.

The wave of innovation is aided by companies that have created new machines designed to help libraries save on labor. For instance, Evanced Solutions, an Indianapolis company that makes library software, this month is starting test trials of a new vending machine it plans to start selling early next year.

"It's real, and the book lockers are great," said Audra Caplan, president of the Public Library Association. "Many of us are having to reduce hours as government budgets get cut, and this enables people to get to us after hours."

Long before there were iPads and Kindles changing communication as we know it, there were other disruptive technologies and breakout information delivery systems. Like the printing press. And the Guttenberg Bible. WSJ's Marshall Crook offers a brief history of the book.

Some library directors worry that such machines are the first step toward a future in which the physical library—along with its reference staffs and children's programs—fades from existence. James Lund, director of the Red Wing Public Library in Red Wing, Minn., recently wrote skeptically about the "vending library" in Library Journal, a trade publication.

"The basis of the vending machine is to reduce the library to a public-book locker," Mr. Lund said in an interview. "Our real mission is public education and public education can't be done from a vending machine. It takes educators, it takes people, it takes interaction."

Public libraries are an American creation. The first was introduced by Benjamin Franklin, who created a co-operative library funded by people who used it. The first tax-supported library was founded in Peterborough, N.H., in 1833, according to Larry Nix, a retired librarian and library historian. Today there are about 16,700 public library buildings in the country.

Robo-libraries are still a relatively rare sight. Public Information Kiosk Inc., a company in Germantown, Md. that sells kiosks and vending machines to libraries, has had 25 orders for a book-and-DVD-dispensing machine that the company introduced last year. Fred Goodman, the company's chief executive, estimated that, overall, there are no more than a few dozen vending machines now in operation. Still, he expects to sell at least twice as many units in 2011.

Hugo is a town of 13,700 people on the northern fringes of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area that has seen its population double in the last decade. But surrounding Washington County is struggling to build the infrastructure to support the newcomers: Over the past year, the county's nine-branch library system has cut the equivalent of two full-time workers to trim costs.

And yet, the system is popular: Visits last year rose 10% compared to 2007.

The combination of greater demand and leaner resources is visible in the wait list for some popular books. The system has 32 copies of "Freedom," the new Jonathan Franzen novel set in nearby St. Paul, but 321 people on the waiting list—a 10 to 1 ratio. In flusher times, the wait-list ratio was usually closer to 5 to 1 for popular titles.

The 20 lockers of Library Express won't solve that problem, but they have made the library more convenient. The county is adding 20 more lockers next month.

Melody Baker, 47, recently used the lockers to check out the best seller "Eat, Pray, Love,"—"I had to see what the fuss was about," she said.

The library's main branch is five miles from her house, but Ms. Baker, who is a personal care attendant for an autistic child, says it's hard to get there during business hours when the library is open. "It's difficult for me to get up there," she said of the library's main branch. "This makes it much easier to get library material."
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Spoonist » 2013-05-06 01:10pm

Zaune wrote:The Wall St Journal
Public libraries are an American creation. The first was introduced by Benjamin Franklin, who created a co-operative library funded by people who used it. The first tax-supported library was founded in Peterborough, N.H., in 1833, according to Larry Nix, a retired librarian and library historian. Today there are about 16,700 public library buildings in the country.
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How can something that predates the US be an american creation?
Example:
http://www.chethams.org.uk/
there are even older in other parts of the world...

found one in mexico:
http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communicat ... lafoxiana/

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Simon_Jester » 2013-05-06 01:18pm

One of my great concerns for the next few decades is that the Internet generation knows how to look for things, but (as a whole) not how to interpret or synthesize the information they find. Reducing a library to "order the book online and it appears in your locker" is very much in keeping with that. A lot of people today want the ability to get what they desire, but not someone standing there to help them figure out what they need.

Speculatively, I wonder if that has to do with the relative lack of youth organization we've seen over the past few years. The people born after 1980 or so include plenty of people who can find all sorts of fascinating ways to get what they want... as long as they know what they want and have a clear starting picture of how to get it. Filling in the map between a vaguely dissatisfied starting point and a victorious endpoint is more difficult than that.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Stark » 2013-05-06 04:18pm

How many people (or what proportion of people) ever knew how to actually critically analyse information or synthesise ideas? Going by the existence of advertising, not a whole lot. :V Information is just far more accessible now; anyone can find out anything, instead of the vast majority of people having little or know access to most information (or being simply unable to use the dewey system lol). I guess you could say that the proportion of people who know xyz thing and have any real understanding of it has gone down, because most of them have just learned it from youtube or wikipedia.

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Simon_Jester » 2013-05-07 05:43pm

Put this way. You are correct, the number of people who are totally ignorant has probably gone down. But there are two catches.

One is that lots of people are now in a state of quasi-informed ignorance. What they think they know is nowhere near enough, because they got it all online and stopped far short of what an educated person would call reputable sourcing. These people now tend to choke out discussion on controversial topics, and poison the well of wiki-type information repositories.

The other is that as a society, we are in some danger if we come to view this sort of quasi-informed ignorance as an acceptable, low-cost substitute for knowledge. It's much cheaper and easier for all researchers to stop by checking Wikipedia, and to only pick the books that get good online reviews (you know what online reviews can be worth). But that has negative consequences- you lose the advantage of having a (relatively) large class of people who DO know things in depth, and make it their business to do so, and actively encourage others to do so.

It would be nice if our information-distribution technology were good enough that we could make individual informed decisions on what information to seek out and what to reject- but we're not there yet.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Stark » 2013-05-07 06:38pm

Right, but thats a separate issue. The idea that many people either don't value expertise, or consider themselves 'experts' when they are not, isn't really related to critical thinking skills. Its a specific cultural shift towards the idea that by reading a website or watching a video you can gain a full understanding of a complex issue.

It's pretty obvious that the devaluing of knowledge/education/expertise/skills is a concern. But if the internet existed as it did now, and everyone magically appreciated formal learning and real understanding, I think the availability of quick-fix stuff would quickly erode that appreciation because of the perception that it is unnecesasry.

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by thejester » 2013-05-07 07:53pm

My experience is the complete opposite TBH. The 'internet generation' (in Australia at least) is so conditioned to the idea that analysis/critical thinking is what's important that they totally ignore actual data and find it totally bewildering when they're assessed on their knowledge of facts. That their analysis is often fundamentally flawed because of this comes as a total surprise. I just finished marking a tranche of essays in which most students displayed a decent grasp of the strategic problems of the American Revolutionary War and American Civil War. But because they didn't actually know much about the war (and fuck finding out) beyond the broad strokes of strategy outlined in the course literature, they'd come out with statements like 'the Confederacy adopted an offensive-defensive strategy in which they took the strategic defensive but the tactical offensive' - which is true to a point, but completely ignores Lee's two offensives into the North in 1862 and 1863.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Adam Reynolds » 2013-05-31 12:56am

thejester wrote:My experience is the complete opposite TBH. The 'internet generation' (in Australia at least) is so conditioned to the idea that analysis/critical thinking is what's important that they totally ignore actual data and find it totally bewildering when they're assessed on their knowledge of facts. That their analysis is often fundamentally flawed because of this comes as a total surprise. I just finished marking a tranche of essays in which most students displayed a decent grasp of the strategic problems of the American Revolutionary War and American Civil War. But because they didn't actually know much about the war (and fuck finding out) beyond the broad strokes of strategy outlined in the course literature, they'd come out with statements like 'the Confederacy adopted an offensive-defensive strategy in which they took the strategic defensive but the tactical offensive' - which is true to a point, but completely ignores Lee's two offensives into the North in 1862 and 1863.
This is slightly off topic but how is it that they fail to realize that Gettysburg is in the North?

On the main topic the internet generation is merely a symptom of the deeper problem, that people aren't inherently rational except in a post hoc manner, they can rationalize their choices after the fact without actually having made a rational decision in the first place. The lack of critical thinking is another symptom of this.

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by PainRack » 2013-05-31 04:31am

How did this question about critical thinking and information pop up?

To me, this is a great idea. The use of book lockers, automation and IT to easily and conveniently dispense books outside working hours, which allow libraries to save resources and perhaps hold several more exhibitions a year and stuff.


The real problem is why this became necessary. The whole ugly business about library funding being cut and them being forced to adopt cost cutting ideas is...... odious.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Dr. Trainwreck » 2013-06-01 03:12pm

You know, the Internet is perhaps the biggest argument in favor of education reform. As late as twenty years ago, the school spoonfed you the facts because rote learning was the most cost-efficient way to ensure that large numbers of dumbasses knew at least the basics of what there is to know. Today, the Internet is the largest library in history, available to everyone... and without a shred of quality control. The aforementioned dumbasses now have every way to learn whatever they want; what they need from their school is no longer bites of knowledge, but the ability to do the quality control themselves and the work ethic to go out and search in the first place.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Formless » 2013-06-01 04:27pm

What about poor people with unreliable or no access to the internet?

That's still a thing, you know. Its why schools have computer labs and libraries have public access stations, because some students couldn't access that information at home. Its why there are still people on dial-up, because its cheaper, but much more limited.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Starglider » 2013-06-01 04:33pm

Formless wrote:What about poor people with unreliable or no access to the internet?
We've gone from needing a $2000 PC to access the Internet to a $100 tablet or $400 netbook. In another decade low-end Internet tablets will be at disposable prices, while the lowest tier of wireless data plans continue to get cheaper. The US already gives out free cellphones to low-income individuals; it will soon be cost effective to give out free Internet-connected tablets.

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Formless » 2013-06-01 04:40pm

And I should trust your predictions why, exactly? Edit: Those cell phones are bare bones functionality, for fucks sake. For some reason, certain people forget that every time it comes up.

Also, how is this relevant to the poor or the education system, when school work demands a laptop at minimum if only because their batteries last longer?

Do you know the first thing about being poor, Y/N?
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Guardsman Bass » 2013-06-02 01:07pm

If nobody in the neighborhood has internet access, then they just won't put one in - or they'll put a screen on it with buttons, like a normal kiosk. As the OP mentions, these things are a response to lay-off and budget cuts.

That said, I'd love to have them available at regular branches. You could then pick up your library books after hours. The library I go to already has an automated after-hours book drop.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Melchior » 2013-06-04 04:14pm

Formless wrote:when school work demands a laptop at minimum if only because their batteries last longer?
Sorry, what? Typical tablets have around ten hours of battery life, a laptop is lucky to have five, especially one costing under a thousand dollars. You should have said that the ergonomics of doing productive work on tablets are terrible to barely adequate.

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Zaune » 2013-06-05 05:48am

Melchior wrote:Sorry, what? Typical tablets have around ten hours of battery life, a laptop is lucky to have five, especially one costing under a thousand dollars. You should have said that the ergonomics of doing productive work on tablets are terrible to barely adequate.
Depends on the laptop; some newer ten-inch ones are good for at least eight as long as you're not doing anything power-intensive.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by AniThyng » 2013-06-05 06:30am

Zaune wrote:
Melchior wrote:Sorry, what? Typical tablets have around ten hours of battery life, a laptop is lucky to have five, especially one costing under a thousand dollars. You should have said that the ergonomics of doing productive work on tablets are terrible to barely adequate.
Depends on the laptop; some newer ten-inch ones are good for at least eight as long as you're not doing anything power-intensive.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Formless » 2013-06-05 12:52pm

Melchior wrote:
Formless wrote:when school work demands a laptop at minimum if only because their batteries last longer?
Sorry, what? Typical tablets have around ten hours of battery life, a laptop is lucky to have five, especially one costing under a thousand dollars. You should have said that the ergonomics of doing productive work on tablets are terrible to barely adequate.
Your battery life with a laptop is even longer than that because you can actually plug it in while using it. Doing so with a tablet is harder on their batteries and hastens their dissipation rate (or at least I have it on good authority from people who design electronics that this is the case).

Besides, that was just one basic problem. There are numerous others-- for instance, the lack of a proper word processor (and even if there was, like you say good fucking luck typing out a 500 word document on that dinky touchscreen). Or Powerpoint. Or any number of other crucial software tools that school requires. Hell, the math classes I've taken in the past all use custom software, mostly Java based, that I can't see using on a tablet even if it ran on one. Even though I am quite happy with the tablet I now own, it simply isn't up to the task of replacing my desktop for school work, and I find it hard to believe anyone who has spent time in a classroom in the past five years and has used a tablet since would think it is.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by fordlltwm » 2013-06-05 01:14pm

Formless wrote:
Melchior wrote:
Formless wrote:when school work demands a laptop at minimum if only because their batteries last longer?
Sorry, what? Typical tablets have around ten hours of battery life, a laptop is lucky to have five, especially one costing under a thousand dollars. You should have said that the ergonomics of doing productive work on tablets are terrible to barely adequate.
Your battery life with a laptop is even longer than that because you can actually plug it in while using it. Doing so with a tablet is harder on their batteries and hastens their dissipation rate (or at least I have it on good authority from people who design electronics that this is the case).

Besides, that was just one basic problem. There are numerous others-- for instance, the lack of a proper word processor (and even if there was, like you say good fucking luck typing out a 500 word document on that dinky touchscreen). Or Powerpoint. Or any number of other crucial software tools that school requires. Hell, the math classes I've taken in the past all use custom software, mostly Java based, that I can't see using on a tablet even if it ran on one. Even though I am quite happy with the tablet I now own, it simply isn't up to the task of replacing my desktop for school work, and I find it hard to believe anyone who has spent time in a classroom in the past five years and has used a tablet since would think it is.

I don't know what it's like in the states, but when I was in school, the hardest thing we had to do with PC's was fairly basic MS office stuff, and that was if you did IT as a subject, otherwise it was just typing out the odd assignment. Most if not all poor people I know have at least one PC / Laptop per household, those that don't have friends who let them use theirs, and school PC labs are avaible during breaks and after school if required. I can imagine that a tablet could be used for this sort of thing if you had the patience to use the touchpad keyboard / used a external keyboard for one, and found a compatible office suite.

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Formless » 2013-06-05 01:23pm

How many years ago was that? And are you talking college or just HS/Primary school?

But yes, even in High School we were asked to learn how to do power point presentations and do research with computers. They made a big deal out of the fact that they had computer labs available for everyone plus the library computers, because they recognized that not everyone had them at home and actually wanted a working solution to that problem. Wasn't a cheap investment, but definitely worthwhile. Because they did want to solve this issue, not ignore it.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by fordlltwm » 2013-06-05 01:55pm

5 years ish, but my sisters just finished at the same high school and it was much the same from what she said. School computers are not a major investment, haven't been for about 10 years or so since they tend to buy older spec machines in serious bulk quantities so get large discounts, then hang on to them for far too long. As far as I know my school is still using the machines they had when I started there circa 2003, they may have updated the library, but only within the last year.

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Jub » 2013-06-05 02:30pm

Formless wrote:How many years ago was that? And are you talking college or just HS/Primary school?

But yes, even in High School we were asked to learn how to do power point presentations and do research with computers. They made a big deal out of the fact that they had computer labs available for everyone plus the library computers, because they recognized that not everyone had them at home and actually wanted a working solution to that problem. Wasn't a cheap investment, but definitely worthwhile. Because they did want to solve this issue, not ignore it.
My college had laptop's you cold sign out from the library as well as computer labs, but most of the people in my program had a tablet, laptop, or both. Not that shocking for an IT course, but even the less computer oriented courses had a majority of the class with laptops out unless the professor had banned them. The only courses I didn't usually bring my laptop out for were math (I found note taking easier on a notepad) and networking where it was mainly diagrams anyway.

I think that the education system should assume access to a PC and internet as standard, and depending on the region laptops or tablets with keyboards as well. To continue expecting people not to have these things isn't helping anybody.

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Formless » 2013-06-05 04:08pm

And how does expecting that everyone does help anyone when this expectation is in fact false? :roll: You may not have met this those people, but that says more about you than the world. I was talking about high school, not college, which you probably can't afford if you are poor enough.

And just to be clear, its the assumption that people have experience with computers outside of school that bothers me.
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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by Jub » 2013-06-05 05:55pm

Formless wrote:And how does expecting that everyone does help anyone when this expectation is in fact false? :roll: You may not have met this those people, but that says more about you than the world. I was talking about high school, not college, which you probably can't afford if you are poor enough.

And just to be clear, its the assumption that people have experience with computers outside of school that bothers me.
I'm going to guess that every north american and western european school has computer labs, usually multiple labs and library PC's, with some districts doing a student laptop program. In addition most public libraries have public use lab if not two, and public lessons on computer basics. Add to this the fact that a cheapo desktop/laptop might run you $300 if cost is the limiter and internet fees are modest - if you can't use free wifi; and I don't see how we should assume people won't have access to a PC if they have any inclination towards using one.

You say the poor can't afford these, and I agree in the worst areas of the US that might be true. But I grew up with a single Mother who needed income assistance and by the time the early 2000's came around we had dial up and a modest PC and there were free PC's I could use in local youth centers, at school, at friend's houses, or the local library. I was poor and we managed because it was important that we kept up with the age.

So why should we design our education around what the least can afford at the expense of elevating it for even the low end median?

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Re: "It's a library as conceived by the Amazon.com generatio

Post by fordlltwm » 2013-06-05 08:27pm

Jub wrote:
Formless wrote:And how does expecting that everyone does help anyone when this expectation is in fact false? :roll: You may not have met this those people, but that says more about you than the world. I was talking about high school, not college, which you probably can't afford if you are poor enough.

And just to be clear, its the assumption that people have experience with computers outside of school that bothers me.
I'm going to guess that every north american and western european school has computer labs, usually multiple labs and library PC's, with some districts doing a student laptop program. In addition most public libraries have public use lab if not two, and public lessons on computer basics. Add to this the fact that a cheapo desktop/laptop might run you $300 if cost is the limiter and internet fees are modest - if you can't use free wifi; and I don't see how we should assume people won't have access to a PC if they have any inclination towards using one.

You say the poor can't afford these, and I agree in the worst areas of the US that might be true. But I grew up with a single Mother who needed income assistance and by the time the early 2000's came around we had dial up and a modest PC and there were free PC's I could use in local youth centers, at school, at friend's houses, or the local library. I was poor and we managed because it was important that we kept up with the age.

So why should we design our education around what the least can afford at the expense of elevating it for even the low end median?
A cheap second hand PC can be picked up for about £50 if you don't mind XP and a CRT monitor, I've been given various PC's by people upgrading which I've shifted on to those who had worse PC's, (or kept for myself and given mine away after a fresh install). I can't think of anyone I've met in our area which if memory serves is a "socio economically deprived zone" that doesn't have a PC due to financial reasons, a few older resident don't have them due to not wanting them, but they could easily afford a modest second hand one.

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