Libraries are dead. Long live the Librarian!

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I love it when coin­cid­ence and syn­ergy lead to a blog post, this post in fact.

In a post earli­er this week, Seth God­in lead us through the his­tory of the Lib­rary and the Lib­rar­i­an. In his post, he even­tu­ally settled on the some­what alarm­ing concept that the Lib­rary was basic­ally dead:

Wiki­pe­dia and the huge databanks of inform­a­tion have basic­ally elim­in­ated the lib­rary as the best resource for any­one doing ama­teur research (grade school, middle school, even under­grad). Is there any doubt that online resources will get bet­ter and cheap­er as the years go by? Kids don’t shlep to the lib­rary to use an out of date encyc­lo­pe­dia to do a report on FDR. You might want them to, but they won’t unless coerced.

They need a lib­rar­i­an more than ever (to fig­ure out cre­at­ive ways to find and use data). They need a lib­rary not at all.

Book ware­house?
Giv­en the migra­tion of inform­a­tion from paper to digit­al forms, the lib­rary will per­haps, out­live its role as a ware­house for books. Rather, it’ll become a place where some cool tech and some very well informed people meet and do great things with inform­a­tion (and here’s where the next part of the coin­cid­ence hap­pens)  — such as Bib­li­on: The Bound­less Lib­rary, a cool new iPad app from the New York Pub­lic Lib­rary:

… go on an exclus­ive jour­ney deep into the Library’s legendary stacks. This app is designed to open up hid­den parts of the col­lec­tions and the myri­ad storylines they hold and preserve…through a unique immers­ive exper­i­ence. In this free iPad app you will hold doc­u­ments, images, films, audio, and essays — dir­ectly from the col­lec­tions in your own hands.

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Also earli­er this week, the New York Pub­lic Lib­rary launched the redesigned and updated Bib­li­on app. In this case, Bib­li­on is a themed approach to explor­ing the lib­rary. The first release digs into the huge archives relat­ing to the 1939–1940 Worlds Fair in New York. Down­load the free app and you’ll:

  • read ori­gin­al essays from such prom­in­ent writers as Kar­en Abbott, Wil­li­am Grimes, Henry Jen­kins, Elli­ott Kalan, James Mauro, and oth­ers
  • view Gen­er­al Motors’ fam­ous Futurama ride, in full col­or, from the ori­gin­al carou­sel!
  • explore the devel­op­ment of the Fair’s designs, uni­forms, build­ings, and exhib­its, includ­ing Sal­vador Dalí’s then-shock­ing Dream of Venus extra­vag­anza
  • rel­ish the out­rageous res­taur­ant ideas that nev­er made the cut
  • learn about the fate of the Czechoslov­akia Pavil­ion after the coun­try was invaded by Hitler
  • dis­cov­er what was bur­ied inside the West­ing­house Time Cap­sule … which won’t be opened until the year 6939!
  • fly from story to story, chart­ing your own jour­ney through the stacks…

It’s made of lib­rar­i­ans!
Cool apps like this don’t  just magic­ally appear out of thin air. Developers need to cre­ate the code, and con­tent man­agers need to pull all the inter­est­ing con­tent togeth­er in a way that makes sense to you and me, the view­er. In this case, the con­tent man­agers are Lib­rar­i­ans, and it’s excit­ing to see them cre­at­ing these mashups of lib­rary sci­ence and tech­no­logy.

What about the books?
As much as I enjoy read­ing a good book (the ink and paper type) I think their days are numbered. Except for sig­ni­fic­ant works of a his­tor­ic­al nature, many books more eas­ily stored, searched and ref­er­enced digit­ally. Which means the book ware­houses (lib­rar­ies) can evolve into their next phase. I’m not sure what that would be, but I bet we’re going to love it :smileyhappy:

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How-To: Streaming stuff around your house

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In this increas­ingly wire­less world, it seems odd that it’s actu­ally kinda dif­fi­cult to get music or oth­er media from one device to anoth­er.

In my case, I have pho­tos, movies and music all stored on a cent­ral stor­age device on my net­work — a Net­work Attached Stor­age device, or NAS.

Get­ting to that media eas­ily with oth­er devices means I have to have a some­thing run­ning and act­ing as a serv­er to man­age access to the media. In my case, it’s a small win­dows based com­puter that acts as the serv­er.

Or should I say ‘serv­ers’ because to get my media streamed around the house is a feat that requires more than just one piece of soft­ware.

ituneslogo.jpgLet’s start with iTunes
I have that run­ning  and shar­ing its lib­rary (which is poin­ted at the media on the NAS). iTunes allows any oth­er copy of iTunes run­ning on my net­work (and that I’ve enabled Home Shar­ing on) to see the shared lib­rary and use the media on it.

So now any com­puter run­ning iTunes can play music from my shared iTunes lib­rary. This means my Apple TV (2nd Gen) can see my media lib­rary too.

But mov­ing a com­puter from sound­sys­tem to sound­sys­tem is a little clunky, so read on, gentle read­er, read on.

iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
It’s fairly easy to plug your iDevices into most home sound sys­tem these days, so I won’t go into details on that, but that’s how I get the music to the room I want listen in.

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WiFi2HiFi

Now things get a bit more com­plex. Stream­ing media to these devices requires anoth­er piece of serv­er soft­ware run­ning on that serv­er box. And a match­ing applic­a­tion on the iOS device.

The iDevice is the receiv­er, and the Serv­er is, erm, the serv­er.

There are cur­rently three sol­id iOS receiv­er apps (and match­ing free serv­er soft­ware):

With all three, the basic prin­cip­al is the same:

1) Point the serv­er soft­ware (on the PC) at the dir­ect­or­ies you want to share with the iOS devices
2) Let the serv­er soft­ware build a cata­logue

Now things get a bit dif­fer­ent
With Air Video and Stream To Me, you just:
3) Point the app (on your iOS device) at your serv­er (usu­ally using an IP address).

If you’re using WiFi2HiFi, it’s easi­er — you just start the serv­er soft­ware, and it auto­mat­ic­ally detects your iOS device with the app run­ning and streams all your computer’s audio to it. So whatever you’re play­ing on your com­puter will be streamed to the iOS device.
4) With Stream-To-Me and Air Video, you have more con­trol. The match­ing serv­er soft­ware lets you view your media lib­rar­ies and select the media you’d like to stream.

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Stream-To-Me

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Air Video

As of this writ­ing, Air Video only streams video (with on the fly con­ver­sion or queued con­ver­sion), while Stream-To-Me sends most video and audio formats without con­ver­sion.

So depend­ing on your needs, you’ve got hard­ware and soft­ware options for get­ting your media to you using your exist­ing devices. Very cool, and con­veni­ent way to get your stuff to where you are.

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Checking out library books on your eReader?

sonylib.jpgGot a Sony eRead­er and use the Sony Read­er store? Well check out the little blue & white box in the right-hand side­bar on the page.

Yep, you read cor­rectly — you can check out books from the lib­rary and read them on your eRead­er.

In early Decem­ber, Sony (and tech­no­logy pro­viders Over­drive) will have hun­dreds of Cana­dian lib­rar­ies hooked up and ready to lend books; many lib­rar­ies are already set up and run­ning. As I under­stand it, only lib­rar­ies in Atlantic Canada will be missing…for now.

This Lib­rary search page will help you find a par­ti­cip­at­ing lib­rary in your region. For example, enter­ing Alberta in the search field turned up a large num­ber of par­ti­cip­at­ing lib­rar­ies in my province.

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The sys­tem requires you have an Adobe account to man­age the DRM and ‘return’ of the eBook you ‘bor­rowed’. Actu­ally the DRM just expires and you can’t read it after the lend­ing peri­od runs out. Which is anoth­er way of say­ing you don’t have to remem­ber to return bor­rowed eBooks back to the lib­rary.

Not every book at your lib­rary will be avail­able for loan, but as lib­rar­ies start to con­vert their cata­logues to digit­al, you’ll find more and more of the pop­u­lar reads on your library’s vir­tu­al shelves. Wel­come to the 21st cen­tury :smileyhappy: