Internet Librarian 2011: Keynote – Lee Raine (Pew Internet and American Life Project)
Raine started with a LOLcat (yep, he knows his crowd). Pew, pew, pew! Raine says that the Oxford English Dictionary needs to add a word: “Tweckle” – to abuse a speaker to Twitter followers in the audience while he/she is speaking.
5 questions for librarians as they ponder learning communities:
- What is the future of knowledge? How is it created and disseminated?
- What is the future of reference expertise? Literacy and search?
- What is the future of public technology Knowledge containers? Divides? Access/lending models?
- What is the future of learning spaces? Collaboration? Alliances? Ownership?
- What is the future of community anchor institutions? In a knowledge economy?
As of August, 78% of American adults use the internet, and 62% have broadband at home. Consequences for the learning ecosystem: stuff is coming at us faster, and there’s more stuff, and amateur experts are sharing their information with us easily.
65% of internet users are on social networking sites. This is the most popular way that people create content and add to the collective experience of the web. 55% share photos, 37% contribute rankings and ratings, 33% create content tags, 14% are bloggers, 13% use Twitter, and only 6% use location-based services like Foursquare.
Raine says “It’s impossible today to ask ‘Who’s a blog reader?’ because blogs look like high end media sites now. People don’t know they’re reading blogs.”
84% of American adults use mobile phones. It’s the fastest growing consumer technology in the history of our species. The # of mobile subscribers in America – 327.6 million phones, greater than the number of people who live in this country. It’s expected that everyone will now have a mobile phone and be connected.
59% of adults are mobile users (this counts both smart phones and mobile wi-fi use on things like laptops and tablets). This has changed the way people access information and media. 35% own smart phones.
56% of adults own laptops, 52% own DVRs, 44% own MP3 players, 42% own game consoles, 12% own eBook readers, 9% have tablets. And yet libraries are all uber-focused on eBook readers and tablets. Raine says “It’s an elite audience. I can’t overstate that it’s not everybody. It is not the majority experience that everyone is comfortable with these gadgets.”
We have to serve multiple audiences in multiple ways. Mobile connectivity means anywhere, anytime, on any device. It’s upgraded the experience of real time information in people’s lives. That real-time demand didn’t exist during the analog days. He recommends the book Alone Together.
Social networking – 50% of all adults (77% of teenagers) use social networking sites. People over age 65 are a fast growing group for adoption of social networking. Social media is more important in people’s lives as they learn.
The coping strategies they use to deal with the information flood come from their networks of people as filters. People are sentries of information. Rather than checking in with the TV or radio news first thing when they wake up, many people check in with Twitter or Facebook first as a way to see what’s happening. (Sarah’s note: I’ve been doing that with Twitter, and now Google+ too, for a couple of years). Social networks also provide evaluators – we turn to our networks and ask “what do you make of this?” Social networks are really important signal-senders about what’s true and what’s trustworthy. Librarians should think about ourselves as being nodes in people’s networks. We have been in this role forever, but with social networks we have a much easier way to intervene in these conversations and help. Social networks also serve as audiences. New media are the new neighborhood. We like to show off for our audiences, to increase our status, be helpful, build friendships and community. We act very consciously of the fact that there’s an audience out there, and that does inherently affect what we create.
In 1997 Shana Ratner wrote an article: “Emerging Issues in Learning Communities.” It looked at the old model (learning as transaction) compared to the new iteration (learning as process). In the old way of thinking, knowledge was objective and certain. In the new model, knowledge is subjective and provisional. And there is often disagreement about which new knowledge will supersede existing knowledge. In the old system learners received knowledge and in the new model learners help create knowledge. In the old model knowledge was organized in stable hierarchical structures that were treated independently of each other. Now knowledge is organized ecologically – disciplines are integrative and interactive. In the old model, we learned passively by listening and watching, and in the new model we learn actively and we manage our own learning processes. In the old model intelligence was based on our individual abilities. In the new model intelligence is based on our learning communities.
What’s the future of reference expertise? The embedded librarian model seems to Raine that this is a good idea. This is librarian as scout for relevant material (think about the Occupy movement librarians who are on the streets helping people find information and entertainment during the protests—awesome!). Librarians are good reviewers and synthesizers, organizers and taxonomy creators. There are ways that librarians think like nobody else to make sure that things are organized in a systematic way that will actually make sense to the users of the system. Librarians can also be the organizational steward of bonding capital—deepening relationships we already have. But maybe we can be steward of bridging capital too—taking individuals outside of their known environments, exposing them to things they didn’t know about but will care about knowing about. “Librarians are serendipity agents.”
Another model for modern reference—Knowledge concierge/valet in a learning community. Librarians should be teachers of social media as we’re often among the first people to adopt these technologies. (Sarah’s note: This was why I was teaching Google+ classes at our library while the service was still in beta—super popular class, btw). Librarians are fact checkers, transparency assessors, and relevance arbiters. He quoted Jeff Jarvis: “Do what you do best, and link to the rest.” Links are our friends and making sure people can connect to information that we didn’t create is just as important as connecting them with information we did create.
We need to model the behavior of perpetual learners, so that when new stuff comes into our world and their world we can help them navigate it.
What’s the future of public technology? When they asked experts what gadgets will be hot. 81% of the group said they didn’t have a clue and that what will be hot in 2020 will come out of the blue. Themes—experts never would have predicted iPhones 10 years earlier, the innovation ecosystem will change with bandwidth and processing growth. The era of data is upon us. Sensors will likely proliferate. Mobile connectivity and location-based services will grow. Screens will be bigger and thinner, and possibly 3D. We will have more consolidated all-purpose devices and apps.
What is the future of learning spaces? They’re going to be attuned to new kinds of learners. People are much more likely to be self-starters to gather information. They don’t think they have to be in a classroom to learn. In a world of ubiquitous search, they can be querying their friends, searching on their own, and learning. They also work now in communities to learn instead of making it a solitary experience. The value of amateur experts is rising – people are their own individual nodes of production. People themselves can be sharing their stories even if they don’t have the credentials that would have been demanded in the past.
“Remember the war between traditional journalists and bloggers? How 2003 is that?” There’s a new war now between credentialed scientists and citizen scientists. The Smithsonian is working with citizen scientists on programs and data now, and learning much more than they ever could through just traditional credentialed scientists. This is also true of peer health networks – tips about how to get through daily life, how to cope, care provider recommendations, etc.
What about libraries as anchor community institutions? ALA put out a guidebook in June about how to think about libraries as these types of institutions in our communities. Librarians have to wrestle with how much of our work is aimed at helping individuals and how much is aimed at helping the community at large. Are libraries places for solitary study or community-based study? Are you a collection library or are you a creation library? Are you a portal/pathway to information or are you an archive? ALL REALLY IMPORTANT QUESTIONS!!!
Raine talked a bit about the Pew/Gates Foundation study about libraries that’s coming up (I’m on the advisory group!) – a consumer typology of libraries that will look at the most die hard library users to people who don’t use libraries. Obviously libraries are in transition and would like some data to help us get through these pressing questions. Libraries have taken significant steps down the pathway toward change, however. The study will also look at how we map with other institutions in our communities (businesses, hospitals, etc.).