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 Kids don’t shlep to the library to use an out of date encyclopedia to do a report on FDR.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: