Submitted by StephenK on Sun, 06/29/2008 - 01:09
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I am posting this early although it is a draft script and quite subject to revision prior to airing on the next episode of LISTen.

As this is recorded, ALA Annual 2008 is underway. I will admit upfront that I am not a member of the American Library Association and never have been. I simply cannot afford it while I can afford Christian College Librarians which is headquartered at Harding University in Arkansas. I can manage annual dues of twenty dollars far more easily than what is asked by ALA.

While following Twitter and lurking on Blip-Dot-T-V, I have noticed some things. While librarians are supposed to be masters of information, we cannot present it all that well. Although we like the new vistas opened to us by today's great Web 2.0 tools, we are somewhat lacking in understanding how to use them effectively to serve those we are supposed to serve.

When I see a technology thought leader post a video running only seven minutes but with a file size in excess of three hundred megabytes I cringe. When I see Twitter used for things it was never meant to support I cringe. I wouldn't be surprised if such was why Twitter would not even give me a "fail whale" for a good chunk of Friday as ALA Annual began with I presume plenty of tweeting librarians.

Just as much as there are style guides for students who write papers, there are also guides for production. We try to follow a blend of TV and radio pacing in the production of LISTen where our "ads" are used basically as transitions between segments. There are styles of presentation that exist and can be chosen among. When we produce for video we follow prevailing standards for how things are done in that form. We rarely release things in video with dimensions beyond 720 by 480 pixels because that is equivalent to analog broadcast television in North America already. While we could provide more resolution the problem is a lack of viewers who can use such. Sticking to a web standard of 320 by 240 pixels in MPEG4 format allows us to post video that is the most portable whether watching it on-screen, on an iPod, or eventually on a device like an iPhone. For other cell phone types, 3GP is the encoding standard used to knock things down to a format accessible over current networks even though it is somewhat degraded through fairly severe compression.

While I see "disruptive technology" applauded, I can say it is perhaps a mis-appropriation of a phrase. Librarians have championed disruptive technology advances in the past. The engineering feat that was the shared academic catalog now known as WorldCat is one of them that continues today to impact the world around us. My biggest fear, though, is that we use that turn of phrase as an excuse for creating things with tools we don't know fully how to utilize and to accept such produced items regardless of their quality.

I am sometimes outright horrified at what I do see by way of Twitter in terms of what is being said at ALA Annual as to tech. While we fancy ourselves as being quite adept at tech, it should be noted that systems administration abilities to keep an integrated library system running do not translate well into handling Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro let alone Audacity. We do not teach showmanship in library school and assume that students pick such up during their undergraduate studies. In a world where we are expected to perform for an amorphous, faceless audience, librarians are ill-equipped to handle things. Just as much as we can "write" with Word we cannot have something accepted if style conventions are not followed. Why is it any different from the tech tools we have like YouTube and social networks?

We must avoid the cloister. Librarianship is turning upon itself to be a monastery that keeps to its seemingly pious works while feeling it does good for a world it is increasingly not connected to. I can only hope that we are at a precipice now rather than having already taken a leap off it.