Hello Code4Lib folks,
I was having a conversation with my father, who is an enterprise architect,
a while ago when I was working on a presentation. I thought it was
interesting enough that I wanted to toss out some of the ideas and see if
anybody was using them in their libraries. We were discussing innovation,
and he was telling me about the areas of innovation his field was looking
into. He was saying how the business IT realm was seeing four main areas
for innovation: mobile computing, social computing, business
intelligence/analytics, and cloud computing. While these are four
different areas he was noting how they all relate to making content active,
having all this information do something either for the user or the
He provided an example of making content active through the area of big
data. For those not familiar with big data Wikipedia describes it as “a
collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to
process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data
processing applications”. An example he mentioned of how this was useful
was with Amazon.com’s search logs as they have quite a bit of information
about their users and their searches. These logs and the customer
information can be analyzed using big data solutions to see who was
searching, what they were they searching for, the terms they used, and what
worked. This information then can be taken and compared to others who have
similar backgrounds or have done similar searches and provide them with
suggestions for items others have found useful, as well as search results
slightly more tailored to them. It also lets Amazon adjust their
controlled vocabulary so all customers have better search results. All of
which makes the content active.
Over the course of this conversation I was thinking on how some of this
could be applied to the library realm. Mobile computing is an area we as a
profession are getting better at, but by no means are we there yet. I have
seen some really good mobile sites for libraries, but other tools we have
like CONTENTdm or DSpace are not mobile friendly. I am not trying to pick
on them, they are very good toolsets, but if you have ever tried using
either on a smartphone they are clunky and hard to work with. Still on the
whole libraries are making progress with mobile computing.
I also see the social aspect of this shining through quite well too. Many
libraries have taken well to social media and have come up with some
ingenious ways to utilize it to their advantage. As well the push for
collaborative space in the physical building plays well into this, though I
wonder if there is anything else that can be done to open up this
collaborative space in the digital realm. I know many of the toolsets are
providing some good social options. I was aware of some of the
collaborative abilities of institutional repository software, and I just
recently was introduced to Primo and really liked their shelf options and
the potential for collaboration it gives. Obviously it depends on the
institution, but I do wonder if there anymore things that can be done in
the digital social realm to provide for the patrons.
As for business intelligence and analytics I figured those do not
necessarily apply in quite the same way as business IT, but there is still
some cross over. Libraries and archives both take a bucket loads of
statistics so there might be some interesting ways to look at those
statistics that have yet to be considered? This is not an area I have much
experience with but I am sure others have some interesting ideas about it.
I do see ways that the big data analytics I mentioned before potentially
can be useful in making the library catalog and discovery more responsive.
I can see using it to examine the search terms that the patrons use to
search, what they are trying to find, what worked, and what did not work to
improve our thesauri so that relevant items can appear on even sub-par
searches. It could also potentially be used if the system has a login to
suggest materials to the user that could be relevant given their past
searches. These might be a terrible ideas but I would be curious to see if
big data analytics might be able to improve discovery.
As for cloud computing I am rather unsure of how that can be applied to the
libraries. Possibly it can be used as part of the collaborative space?
Possibly it can be utilized for file redundancy in digital archives to
help with preservation of born digital records? I simply am not sure but
it is an area of IT innovation so it would be neat to hear people’s ideas.
For those who made it this far then thank you for reading through my
rambling. I know it was a long posting, but I thought it was an
interesting conversation that I wanted to share it because a lot of ideas
on innovation from the business IT world libraries can pick up and run with
in their own unique way. I am sure some of this has been considered and
discussed but I would love to hear thoughts people have or what people have
done in regards to these areas of innovation.