ODX13 was a fantastic open data conference

Last Saturday, I attended the Open Data Exchange 2013 mini-conference, organized by Naomi Kincler and Ted Strauss. After the International Open Data Day, in February, where I was a volunteer, this was my second conference on open data and it was great to see again many familiar faces.

While the Sauvé House proved to be a bit tight for us, the panel format of the presentations was an excellent choice.

In the past, I participated at many tech conferences where a person would talk for an hour, than another one for another hour and so on. Unless they were outstanding public speakers, the presentations become really fast boring and often frustrating to the point that I would just leave early.

This time I stayed till the last minute and a bit after.

Watching a panel was really enjoyable, we had four people that had 5 minutes to talk and than the questions came. It was a great opportunity to get different views on a subjects, not just from the panel but from the audience too.

The cherry on the top of the cake came at the end of the conference, where more than 10 lightning talks made sure we go home filled with ideas and enthusiasm.

While hackatons are great events to get together people with different backgrounds, interested in open data, they are all organized around data sets, applications and other techie stuff that might scare away certain people. At ODX13, even those that had no programming or data analyst background, could fully enjoy and benefit from the event.

I’m sure, bringing together this many outstanding speakers, some of whom came from distant cities, was not an easy task for the organizers. Thanks a lot for this fantastic Saturday!

Screenshots of the website

A website and a logo for Pearl Dental Clinic

Screenshots of the website

The Responsive theme is adapting to different screen sizes.

I just launched the website I designed for Pearl Dental Clinic.

The website is powered by WordPress and the theme is based on Responsive Theme, that makes the website adapt to different screen sizes.

The website is rich in information about dentistry and I really hope it’ll get many visitors and will bring new clients to the clinic.

If you’re looking for an excellent dentist with lot of patience and kindness, int he West-Island of Montreal, than you should go to dr. Shafiei.

Search results for Canada in the Image Atlas

Image Atlas, the art of filter bubble

Search results for Canada in the Image Atlas

Search results for Canada in the Image Atlas.

Image Atlas is an art project created by New York artist Teryn Simon and the late Aaron Schwartz. Here is a paragraph from the About page:

Image Atlas investigates cultural differences and similarities by indexing top image results for given search terms across local engines throughout the world. Visitors can refine or expand their comparisons from the 57 countries currently available, and sort by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or alphabetical order.

I searched for Canada, and it’s quite interesting to see how it is perceived around the world. Of course, the Toronto skyline and the Rocky Mountains are everywhere, and God knows that Canada is way more than that. It’s fascinating to find a mosque in Egypt or an Indian couple, a 20 dollar bill and a cricket picture in India as a top result.

Please let me know if you try a term and what results did you got.

A few thoughts about the Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants text by Marc Prensky

Marc Prensky wrote this text in 2001, in which he coins two important terms for the study of technology, the digital natives and the digital immigrants. While it’s not clearly defined who are exactly the digital natives, I can deduct from the text, that it’s a generation born in the eighties, also known under the name of Generation Y:

What should we call these “new” students of today? Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.

So what does that make the rest of us? Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are, and always will be compared to them, Digital

I find it interesting that Marc Prensky talks mostly about the difficulties adapting to these new realities in education. It’s perfectly understandable, at the time this text was written, the digital natives were in school and teachers, the digital immigrants, had to face new challenges. Even after a decade, these challenges are still haunting education, as you could see in one of my previous posts, but in the same time there are more and more teachers that are either digital natives themselves, or well adapted digital immigrants and they find ways to grab the attention of their students.

While I understand the need of sociologists to put up limits and define generations according to their date of birth, in this case we do have to take in account the socio-economic background of a person. Digital divide, resulted from factors such as income and geographic location should play a role in labeling someone as a digital native or an immigrant.

While I was born in the seventies, I don’t really fall into the digital native category, but even if I would been born in the eighties, I would still lie if I would call myself a digital native. In Eastern Europe technology was less developed and less accessible as in the developed countries and this sort of situations can be found even today in many corners of the world.

Anther description of a digital native presented in this paper that bothers me can be found in this passage:

As Digital Immigrants learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their “accent,” that is, their foot in the past. The “digital immigrant accent” can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it. Today‟s older folk were “socialized” differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain.

There are hundreds of examples of the digital immigrant accent. They include printing out your email (or having your secretary print it out for you – an even “thicker” accent); needing to print out a document written on the computer in order to edit it (rather than just editing on the screen); and bringing people physically into your office to see an interesting web site (rather than just sending them the URL). I‟m sure you can think of one or two examples of your own without much effort. My own favorite example is the “Did you get my email?” phone call. Those of us who are Digital Immigrants can, and should, laugh at ourselves and our “accent.”

While the author acknowledges that some digital immigrants are well adapted, he gives me the impression that the digital natives would be digitally more literate than their older peers. Digital literacy does not depend only on the date of birth of a person, or on their childhood being surrounded by gadgets, but rather a mindset, a digital thirst that can drive a person to learn new things and adapt to new ways.

One of my friends grew up in a war zone, in a remote village, his home did not had electricity until he was 15. Today, he lives in Montreal and he’s a computer science engineer, the typical geek that loves gadgets and knows how integrate them in his life. Calling him a well integrated digital immigrant would underrate his skills and way of life. He’s for me the perfect example of a person that skipped the whole digital nurture of a native.

It’s important to make this nuance, because the oposite can happen too, a kid who grows up in a digitally loaded environment, not to perform well as a digital native as he would lack the thirst for digital literacy.

12 years after this article, I think we’re in a better position to understand this phenomenon and there are more and more signs of the direction the working field is taking. The more we learn about this, the less of guess work becomes drafting an educational curriculum.

Logo of FONSAD

A logo and a website for an African foundation

Logo of FONSAD

I’m really proud that I was offered the opportunity to design the logo af a new Nigerien foundation. FONSAD, or it’s longer name, the Salou Djibo Foundation is founded by Lieutenant General Salou Djibo, known for his involvement in the 2010 Nigerien coup d’état. He deposed the former President Mamadou Tandja, who tried to hang on to power unlawfully. You can read more about it here.

In less than a year, parliamentary and presidential elections were held, after which General Djibo handed over the power to the winner of the election, former opposition leader Mahamadou Issoufou.

It was my commission by an NGO to design a logo. It was the first time that I designed anything for an African client. 

In the local culture, the dried gourd shells are used to store water and since water will be in the center of the development projects financed by the foundation, we decided to make it the logo of the foundation. The symbol of gourd is even more meaningful for Nigerien people, since it is also used in proverbs and expressions to describe plenty and abundance. The color blue also reinforces the reference to water, while also denote hope.

For the website, we went with Drupal, as it can cover all the expectations of the members of the foundation.

Now that the website is up and running, I feel good. Not just that mission accomplished kind of feel good, but that good karma feel good, as I know that I had contributed to make the world a better place, especially now, with all the turmoil happening just next door to Niger.

If I made you curios, had over to www.fonsad.org (the website is in French) and why not, make a donation. It’ll be for a good cause.

La fausse page Facebook du maire de La Tuque

L’importance d’être sur les réseaux sociaux

La fausse page Facebook du maire de La Tuque

La fausse page Facebook du maire de La Tuque

Vendredi passé, la Ville de La Tuque a publié un communiqué de presse sur le vol d’identité du maire Beaudoin sur Facebook.

Voici les mots du maire cités dans ce communiqué :

Nous avons ici la preuve qu’il faut être prudent avec les médias sociaux. Je ne suis pas sur Facebook, alors quelqu’un a profité du fait que je n’avais pas de page personnelle pour se faire passer pour moi. Je tiens à dénoncer publiquement cette situation, pour éviter que les gens pensent que c’est moi, parce que je ne sais pas combien de temps ça va prendre avant de réussir à faire fermer cette fausse page. Je ne sais pas qui est derrière cela, mais je demande à cette personne de fermer ce compte. Ce n’est vraiment pas agréable de constater que quelqu’un utilise ta photo, ton nom et ton statut pour dire des choses sur toi qui sont complètement fausses

Le faux Normand Beaudoin a 121 amis Facebook et la page a été créée en 2011.

Le cybersquattage est un phénomène assez répandu sur les réseaux sociaux, même mon employeur a été victime il y a quelques mois, mais dans notre cas la situation a été détectée tôt et le dommage a été minimal.

Notre situation a été mitigée par le fait que la Ville de Châteauguay a une page Facebook officielle depuis mars 2011 et aujourd’hui elle compte plus de 1000 fans. Mais pour M. Beaudoin, je trouve qu’il devrait reconsidérer son absence sur Facebook. La grande dame des communications 2.0, Michelle Blanc, dans son livre, Les Médias sociaux 101, nous conseille :

Ne prenez donc pas les risques et sécurisez vos noms de marque sur tous les médias sociaux (même si vous ne vous servez pas de ces comptes pour l’instant). Commencez aussi à faire une veille efficace de vos marques et de votre nom, afin de vérifier ce qui se dit sur vous et de vous assurer qu’il n’y a pas de médisance à votre propos. Si vous laissez le champ libre, n’importe qui pourrait prendre votre place, et il y a de fortes chances que cela arrivera. Dites-vous qu’il est toujours plus facile d’agir que de réagir.

Bibliothèques publiques – un aide mémoire

Harrod’s librarians’ glossary :

“A library provided wholly or partly from public funds, and the use of which is not restricted to any class of persons in the community but is freely available to all.”

The librarian’s thesaurus. ALA :

“An agency established by a municipality, country, or region to provide materials and services to all residents within the jurisdiction. In some cases, «public library» is legally defined by state statutes. Funding for public libraries comes primarily from the local jurisdiction, with state and federal sources possibly providing additional funding.”

Introduction aux sciences de l’information sous la direction de Jean-Michel Salaün et de Clément Arsenault, page 32 :

“Les bibliothèques publiques s’adressent au public dans son ensemble, sans distinction d’âge, de sexe, de religion, de nationalité, de langue ou de statut social. Leurs principales missions sont l’information, l’alphabétisation, l’éducation et la culture selon l’UNESCO.”

Manifeste de l’UNESCO :

“La liberté, la prospérité, le progrès de la société et l’épanouissement de l’individu sont des valeurs humaines fondamentales, que seule l’existence de citoyens bien informés, capables d’exercer leurs droits démocratiques et de jouer un rôle actif dans la société permet de concrétiser. Or, participation constructive et progrès de la démocratie requièrent une éducation satisfaisante, en même temps qu’un accès gratuit et sans restriction au savoir, à la pensée, à la culture et à l’information.”

Il y a deux grands types des bibliothèques publiques, celles qui dépendent directement ou indirectement d’une ville et celles qui sont organisées dans un réseau pour couvrir un territoire plus vaste. Ces bibliothèques organisées en réseau ont un siège central avec une collection plus riche et plusieurs succursales dans la région desservie. Les ressources : les collections, les employés, etc. seront partagés entre les différentes succursales et le siège central.

Au Québec aussi, nous retrouvons ces deux types des bibliothèques :

  • Les bibliothèques publiques autonomes, qui relèvent directement d’une municipalité, ou d’un organisme désigné par la municipalité pour gérer la bibliothèque.
  • Les Centres régionaux de services aux bibliothèques publiques (CRSBP), connus aussi sous le nom de Réseau Biblio, vont desservir les communautés de moins de 5000 habitants. Les CRSBP fonctionnent comme une entreprise, ils sont gérés par un conseil d’administration. Leurs premières sources de financement viennent de la part du ministère de la Culture, des Communications et de la Condition féminine.

 Les services

Selon Lauren Presley, dans So you want to be a librarian elle écrit :

“Public libraries are a model of customer service. They understand that they have to illustrate their usefulness to the community to continue to exist.” (p.36)

“Public libraries offer programming as a way to bring together, to educate community members, and to help increase awareness of their services. These programes also allow librarians to reach out to the community and to provide a community space.” (p. 37)

Donc, les bibliothèques publiques offrent une espace de rencontre pour la communauté. Ils vont organiser des clubs de lecture, un excellent moyen pour encourager la lecture et de rapprocher la communauté autour d’un sujet.

Ils ont aussi un rôle éducatif, les bibliothécaires vont promouvoir la littératie de la langue officielle pour ceux qui ne sont pas natifs de cette langue. Souvent, les nouveaux arrivants vont trouver dans les bibliothèques les ressources pour mieux comprendre la culture locale, de l’aide pour se préparer pour l’examen de citoyenneté et des informations concernant les élections.

Un autre aspect éducatif, c’est la promotion de la littératie informatique pour réduire la fracture numérique dans le sein de la communauté qu’ils desservent. Ils vont organiser des cours d’initiation dans l’utilisation des ordinateurs et de l’Internet.

L’accessibilité universelle des services offerts par les bibliothèques publiques est très importante et il a été réitéré dans le rapport d’ASTED de 2011, Bibliothèques d’aujourd’hui. Lignes directrices pour les bibliothèques publiques du Québec. Ceci inclut, la gratuité, la proximité, la prolongation des heures d’ouverture, les services à distance, les services adaptés et les services hors de mur (bibliobus, activités itinérantes).

Les usagers

Les bibliothèques publiques desservent le public en générale :

“Public libraries serve the general public. This means they have to keep a wide variety of people in mind. Public libraries serve the youngest members of the community to the oldest, the financially secure to the least. They serve people in every career and vocation. They also intend to serve all community members whether they walk through the library door or not.” (Presley, p.39)

Au Congrès des milieux documentaires de 2012, nous avons vu l’exemple de la Bibliothèque d’Utrecht, qui a un programme “Bienne démarrer ” pour les parents des nouveaux nés. Ils sont invités à la bibliothèque pour leur parler de l’importance de la lecture dans le développement de leur enfant.

Pour les très petits, les bibliothèques vont organiser plusieurs activités autour de la lecture, les heures du conte, les rencontres avec les auteurs, etc.

Pour les adolescents, le groupe le plus susceptible de s’éloigner les bibliothèques vont chercher des moyens pour les retenir comme usagers. Les bibliothèques vont utiliser les réseaux sociaux, vont créer d’évènements thématiques, des soirées de jeux et des tournois des jeux vidéo.

Pour les adultes les bibliothèques vont offrir l’accès aux livres, aux livres audio, aux livres numériques, aux journaux, etc.


L’ASTED dans son rapport de 2011 lance plusieurs recommandations :

  •  le développement durable (à prendre en considération pour tout rénovation et nouvelle construction)
  • accessibilité universelle, accès physique et  accès au services en ligne (WCAG 2.0)
  • la bibliothèque numérique, l’offre des livres numérique
  • utilisation des médias sociaux comme outil de communication
  • utilisation des logiciels libres
  • accès Internet sans fil
  • la bibliothèque comme espace communautaire

Si certaines communautés offrent leurs soutiens à leurs bibliothèques publiques et ils vont investir dans leur développement, voir même l’implantation des nouvelles bibliothèques, dans autres communautés nous observons une érosion des services de bibliothèque publique à cause de manque de financement. Pour sauver d’argent, les administrations locales vont réduire le nombre du personnel, ou ils vont les remplacer par des personnels non qualifiés. Certaines bibliothèques vont voir leurs horaires réduits et dans certains cas ils sont fermés.

Au Québec, en novembre 2012, le gouvernement a annoncé un investissement de 100 M$ dans les bibliothèques de Montréal. Une excellente nouvelle pour le monde des bibliothèques.

History teacher using Wikipedia to motivate his students

In my previous post, I wrote about the experience of a literature teacher in which he put a great effort into discouraging his students from using the Internet as a source of information. One of the targets of his experiment was Wikipedia.

Today I found an article about a teacher with a completely different atitude that shows a much better understanding of the new realities of education. “Wikipédia comme outil de motivation scolaire” (Wikipedia as a tool of academic motivation), written by Patrick Rodrigue for the Abitibi Express, presents the case of Martin Baron, teacher in the History department of Cégep de l’Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

As part of the Sociocultural history of the indigenous people and history of the Americas class, students were asked to publish on Wikipedia their research.

The idea for the project came in early 2011, when he asked his students to write about the Algonquins. Their first reflex was to go on Wikipedia, but they didn’t find much information. The idea of seeing their research published online gave the students and extra motivation and as the school semester was advancing, the excitement was increasing.

His requirements were high, the French had to be impeccable, the research had to bring a real contribution and not just a rehash of what was already done.

Each student has contributed with information from his area of interest and the final result is the Algonquin article.

To find out more about this project I suggest you read Une contribution à Wikipédia comme projet de session ! (A Wikipedia contribution as a school project), written by Martin Baron and Marie-Josée Tondreau. I find especially interesting this part:

Une répercussion non prévue
Lors de la publication des travaux, les étudiants ont réalisé spontanément la richesse et les écueils associés à Wikipédia. L’action de publier un article sur un site collaboratif d’information, devant un groupe, était un moment de grande fébrilité. Petite anecdote : des étudiants ont contacté les membres de leur famille au moment de la mise en ligne. Les étudiants ont également constaté à quel point les informations peuvent être critiquées si les références d’un article ne sont pas inscrites. Sans l’avoir anticipé, ce projet a permis de développer l’esprit critique des étudiants face aux informations sur Internet.

This I would try to translate as:

An unforeseen aftereffect
During the publishing of their work, students suddenly realized the richness and the pitfalls of Wikipedia. To publish an article on a collaborative information website, in front of a group, represented a time of great excitement. A small anecdote: the students have contacted their family members at the launch. The students have also realized to what degree information can be criticized if the references of an article are not listed. Without having anticipated it, this project developed the critical thinking of the students concerning information on the Internet.

I find the method used by Martin Baron really enriching for the students, they’ve learned how to do search for relevant and original information, how to reference, how to edit and publish their findings. They’ve got an inside look into the functioning of Wikipedia and now by contributing, they’ve learned how to evaluate information posted online.

Well done M. Baron! Keep up the good work!

Caricature of a teacher punishing kids

Loys Bonod, the teacher that vandalized Wikipedia

Caricature of a teacher punishing kids

“The naughty children”, 1849. Source: Wikipedia

Friday morning, at the Introduction to Information Studies class, we were presented some of the main critiques of the information society and a few arguments used by technology skeptics. One of the cases presented by our professor, was about Loys Bonod, a French teacher that went to great lengths to prove his students are cheating. In the end he wrote a blog post on his website, Comment j’ai pourri le web  (How I rotted the web), where he describes in details his tactic. Here is a brief timeline of the events:

The cheat

Every year, he would ask his students to write an essay about certain subject related to French literature. They would have about a month to do their research and come up with a text. At one point he noticed a recurring pattern of a strange syntactic construction in several of the essays and after a quick search on Google, he realized that his students bought online for less than 2 € an essay on the subject. Later that year, another student chose the shortcut of a ready-made essay and he was caught cheating.

Setting up the trap

At the end of the Summer of that year he found a XVIIth century poem that had no traces on the Internet. The author is Charles de Vion d’Alibray, a very little known character of the French literature.

First he registered an account on Wikipedia and claims to have made some editing to prove himself as a legitimate and credible contributor.

He also registered on several forums used by students, as a fake student and asked questions about this author, than he created another account to answer his own questions with an in apparent scholarly fashion, but his answers were totally wrong.

Finally, he wrote an essay that he submitted to a couple of websites selling essays. These websites had accepted his text without verifying the correctness of the content.

He made sure to post links all over the place on the Internet, so that his online trap gets good page rank on Google.

Once everything was in place, he gave his students two weeks, to write an essay about this poem. He asked them to be original, as he was curios about their personal opinion.

The catch

Out of 65 students, 51 have fallen into his trap by copying to diverse degree from the Internet, the information they have found, without making any background check to see if what they are copying is correct or not. They had used Wikipedia blindly without verifying the authenticity of the sources. The worst errors were those of the interpretation, were complete phrases were recopied, denoting a complete lack of understanding of the poem and of the methodology of writing essays.

He did not gave grades on this assignment, but he managed to have the students blush when they realized they were caught cheating.

Loys Bonod’s conclusion

I will try to translate his conclusion to best of my knowledge:

It is recommended that teachers introduce students to the NTIC (New Technologies of Information and Communication).

I think I’ve done my job and it is self concluding: students in high school do not have the maturity to take any advantage of the digital when it comes to humanities. Their servitude to the Internet goes against the autonomy of thought and personal culture that the school is supposed to give them. Wanting to enter the digital into the school, we forget that he has already entered a long time ago, and in its wild form, he digs the grave of the republican education.

With this educational experience I wanted to show students that teachers can sometimes master new technologies as well as them or better than them.

I then wanted to demonstrate that any content posted on the web is not necessarily validated content, or it can be validated for reasons which fall within the intellectual imposture.

And finally, I wanted to prove that more than laziness, it is a serious lack of confidence that pushes them to copy what they find elsewhere, and that endorsing the thoughts of others, they deny themselves and disappear.

Did I succeeded? It would be to my students to say. One thing is certain: this experience, I think, marked my students and I have a fine reputation in my school.

For my part, I do not believe at all in a possible moralization of digital in schools.

And I defend this paradox: there is no real benefit to the digital unless the mind was built ​​without him.

Update: for an alternative translation, consider proximity1’s comment, as I might have missed some of the nuances of Loys Bonod’s article.

Wikipedia’s reaction

Mr. Bonod’s reputation reached beyond the walls of its school and he’s now given as an example of possible vandalism of Wikipedia, next to men with big penises and friends of gays.

My colleagues’ reaction

While information science at its origins was dealing with archives and libraries, in the pas few decades because of the digital revolution, things are changing fast and information professionals have to adapt fast to new realities.

As a mandatory, introductory course, we’re quite many in the amphitheater and often the reaction of some of my colleagues denote mistrust of new technologies and in few cases, I even felt hatred of anything that would involve a computer, or the Internet.

The story of Mr. Bonod is a juicy bone, for such people that fear technology. What better proof you need to demonstrate that Wikipedia is not a reliable source of scholarly information, than the editing of the Charles de Vion d’Alibray article?

My conclusion: the palaeontologist is not a veterinarian

I have all the respect for Mr. Bonod’s experiment, he put in a lot of time and effort to show kids that stuff on the Internet have to be taken with a grain of salt. What really bothers me is his conclusion that the mind should be formed in a bubble, isolated from the digital world and only exposed to the Internet when a teacher or someone else considers it to be ready.

This is a complete non-sense.

How does Mr. Bonod think it’s even possible to escape the Internet? It’s everywhere, it’s not just the laptops and cellphones that are connected, but those teenager’s TV’s and game consoles too; every day there are more and more devices that get hooked up and educators should stop ignoring it.

How can he foresee the job market his students will have to fit in? I can guarantee, it’ll be totally different from what he has witnessed before and instead of discouraging his students to use the Internet, he should teach team and encourage them to use it correctly and in a constructive way. Vandalizing Wikipedia was maybe to extreme as a pedagogical method.

People like Bonod, I see them as palaeontologists, enamored and passionate about a world long gone. There is nothing wrong to be a palaeontologist, but when your fluffy kitten needs a vaccine or your dog has an indigestion, would you take him to a palaeontology museum or to a veterinarian? I bet you would opt to take your pet to the vet clinic, but what if the doctor is not a veterinarian, but a guy specialized in dinosaurs. He will probably have some basic knowledge about cats and dogs, but he’s mind is filled with ancient bones of Triceratops Horridus and he’s handling your darling like it would been an petrified fossil.

While our cats and dogs are in safe hands with the veterinarians, when it comes to schools, often I wonder about some teachers, the Loys Bonods of the world and their curriculum.

Many journalists hate bloggers and blogs, they feel threatened by how easy it is to write, publish and distribute a story. Photographers hate stock photo website, because they dilute the price of average quality images. Graphic designers a weary of websites like 99designs.ca because people would design a logo for 200$.

The world is changing and educators should not just accept these changes, but embrace them, embed them and use them as tools to open up new perspectives in their work of forming minds and souls.

As the French philosopher Michel Serres pointed out, we shouldn’t be concerned with what we are loosing because of the digital revolution, we should rather focus on what we gain. He actually had a very interesting dialog with Alain Finkielkraut on Radio France Culture about the education in the world that is coming. Here is the link to the podcast, the interview is in French.

When I look around my class and see some of my classmates, future information professionals, people that in a couple of years will decide about library budgets, and archive development, their hatred, fear and complete misunderstanding of the direction our world is going scares me and I wonder, what on Earth are they doing here?

In the second half of our class, we had Martin Lessard, a Montreal based web strategy consultant, invited to talk about the role of social media in a world of information overload. It was quite funny to hear him talk about Loys Bonod’s case, but from a completely different perspective than our professor. I saw many shaking heads in disapproval around me.

In conclusion, those that are passionate about dinos, should not work with kittens.

How should RFID be used in a library or the 12 tasks of Asterix

My visit to “The Place”

A few weeks ago, I needed to borrow two books from the school library. As any diligent student, I was there at the opening of the library at 8:00 a.m, I knew that the books are available, I’ve checked them online the previous night (although I did not reserved them, BIG mistake). I had only 20 minutes, as my class started at 8:30, I had both codes jotted down on a paper and by looking at them, the books should be on the third floor.

To do some good to my heart, I took the stairs instead of the elevator, really fast I found the shelf the books were supposed to be, but they were not there.  Was I too late?

I set down to a computer to check the library catalog, but it was asking me for my student ID and password… Not sure why they need it, all I wanted was to check if some books are available or not. Good news, the books showed up as available, at least according to the catalog.

On my way up, I saw an information desk on the second floor, so I headed down, still taking the stairs. There was a paper waiting, saying that at opening, people should refer to the information desk at the ground floor.

On the ground floor, I finally got hold of a librarian that was suggesting to look for the books on the sixth floor, in the section with the books that are not arranged yet.

Time was getting short, I took the elevator, and although I found the above mentioned section, I was still in bad luck. It was already 8:20 and I had to go to my class.

After class, I went back to look for the books, they were not on the third floor, but this time there was someone on the second floor. I showed her the code and she directed me to the sixth floor, the books were not there, I came back and she checked on the library catalog to see if they are still available. No, someone was faster than me, probably with more experience and although I was at the opening, as a new user I could not find the books.

I felt as someone who entered “The Place”, that building in the 12 tasks of Asterix, where everyone goes nuts. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can watch it here:

Here is why RFID can be handy in a library

Today, as student of EBSI, I attended the Conference of the Library and Information Community of Quebec, where I especially enjoyed the presentation of Ton van Vlimmeren, director of the Utrecht Public Library. His talk was about the implementation of RFID technology in the libraries of Utrecht and in the Netherlands in general. This technology had measurable positive impact on the public as in increased the quality of the services offered by the library.

Here are some advantages I retained:

  • overall satisfaction of the users, the ser vices were more efficient
  • the boundary between a librarian and a library technician is eroded, they can all focus on helping the users
  • opened up new services
  • longer opening hours

In general the library has changed dramatically in the past 10 years and this change will continue as the Utrecht Public Library, as of next year,will become a foundation, instead of a municipal institution.

What more could be achieved with it?

My particular misadventure in the University library, made me think of the usefulness of RFID, and how it could be used to help even more the user. As it is used now, like in the case of the Dutch libraries, RFID can speed up the checkout and checkin process of the books, but today it should do more than that.

Would my library offered me a tablet at the entrance, I could have found the books I was looking for, on my own and I would have checked out in less than 10 minutes. The tablet would have told me to go to the sixth floor and it would have guided trough the labyrinth of shelfs. I know, I’m talking here about a library and not a fast food restaurant, but inefficiency is costly, no matter what field we’re in.

What I’m presenting here is not science fiction, or some obscure technology in some experimental phase. Every kid has now a smart phone or/and a tablet, these devices have GPS built in, and the price of these toys are dropping every day. How long should we wait to see them used in a library?