IL2011: Tuesday Keynote

Libraries and Learning Communities
Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project
Author, forthcoming book, Networked: The New Social Operating System.

Pew just got a Gates grant to study library stuff!

Nonprofit fact tank – Pew is a family name. Oil & shipping fortune endowed the trust. In the business of doing primary research, no fix-it plan, official positions, etc.

Tweckle – twitter people heckling the speaker on the backchannel

FIve questions for librarians to ponder as the ponder learning communities:

  • What is the future of knowledge? Creation? Dissemination?
  • What’s the future of reference expertise? literacy? search?
  • What’s the future of public technology? Knowledge containers? Divides? Access/lending models?
  • What’s the future of learning spaces? collaboration? Alliances? Ownership of data?
  • What’s the future of community anchor institutions?

Digital Revolution 1: Internet (78%) and Broadband at home (62%).

As people moved from dial-up to broadband they became different kinds of users. Worked internet into daily life more, became content creators. Changed the learning ecosystem. People are creating filters and delivery systems to get the information they want quickly – alerts, RSS, etc. Hard to keep up with stuff they might like but don’t know about.

Of internet users: 65% on social networking sites. 55% share photos. (People who share photos are different from those who do note?) 37% rankings and ratings. 14% are bloggers. 13% use twitter. 6% use location services. 23% use maps.

Digital Revolution 2: Mobile phones – 84%

327.6 million phones w/ active subscriptions – greater than the number of people in this country (315.5 million)!

59% adults connect to internet mobile-ly (includes laptops used outside the home). Changed how we think about accessibility/availability. 35% of adults are smartphone owners. 12% of adults own e-readers, 9% own tablets, 56% own laptops (more prevalent than desktops), 52% own DVRs, 44% MP3 players, 42% game consoles.

“It’s an elite audience. You can’t overstate that it’s not everybody. . . . It’s not the majority experience.”

Hyper-coordination – we’ll be in the vicinity and then we’ll figure it out as we get closer.

Digital Revolution 3: Social networking – 50% adults, 77% teenagers

65+ is a growing audience. Want the photos, want to see what grandkids are up to. New social problems – parents want to friend kids.

Social networks and social media are more prevalent in people’s learning process.

Social networks are more influential and are different segmented and layered.

  • People are not logging into their social spaces first rather than the local paper/TV/radio news.
  • Social networks as evaluators of information – turning to smarter friends to help parse things. You can jump into conversations in a new way now.
  • Social network as audience – we are all performers. Might think of ourselves as content creators but it’s all the same.

What is the future of knowledge?

Old: learning as transaction. Knowledge is objective and certain. Fixed. Passive recipients – listen and watch. Knowledge organized in stable, hierarchical structures that are independent of one another. Intelligence based on individual abilities.

New: learning as process. Knowledge is subjective and provisional. Flow. Learn together, change together. Vigilance to identify new knowledge that might supersede what you’re doing. Learners are creators – if you’re an active participant, you learn more. Manage your own learning process. Teachers saying “your job is to teach me.” Knowledge organized organically – disciplines are integrative and interactive. (Librarians can translate between disciplines.) Intelligence based on learning communities – you don’t know, but if you have a smartphone you do know. “You’re as smart as your network is as long as you’re willing to ask your network for help.”

What is the future of reference expertise?

“Embedded librarian” in learning communities – not all locked away in a specific place. Librarian as:

  • scout for new and relevant materials
  • reviewer and synthesizer
  • organizer and taxonomy creator (“There are ways now that you think like nobody else”)
  • “on call” for just-in-time information
  • organizational steward of social capital
  • organizational steward of “bridging capital” – take communities and individuals outside their known boundaries. Bring people things they didn’t know about but will care about once they see it — “serendipity agents”

Librarian as “knowledge concierge/valet:”

  • teacher of social media – learn it first and can show folks how to use it
  • fact checkers and transparency assessors, relevance arbiters
  • aggregators and curators of information – follow the Jeff Jarvis rule: “Do what you do best, and link to the rest.” Don’t need to replicate things — just find them and connect people.
  • nodes attuned to perpetual learning in our communities

What is the future of public technology?

Pew survey – even the people who are experts in this stuff say they have no clue what’s coming next. They refer back to iPhone — no one would have guessed a device like this. Innovation ecosystem will change, can’t figure out what that will bring us.

Still they could identify a few basic trends: internet of things, mobile connectivity and location based services will grow, bigger/thinner screens, 3D displays, all-purpose gadgets and apps, post-PC world.

[This is where the slideshow froze — “I talked it to death.”]

What are learning spaces going to look like?

Attuned to new kinds of learners. They gather info, share and create it in new ways. Self-starters, especially once they get past formal schooling. Work in communities, not individually. People are their own nodes of production – don’t have to depend on outside flows of information. “Producers of their own stories, tellers of their own experiences.”

Smithsonian is working with “citizen scientists” to gather data. They are learning all kinds off stuff by leveraging more interested brains than just their experts. Peer-to-peer health information networks. Tips and information about how to get through daily life as you deal with xyz disease. What problems might you encounter with medication combos, random symptoms, etc. Yes, there can be bad information out there. But, mostly people aren’t making dumb mistakes and relying on misinformation, particularly in hybrid communities of experts and amateurs.

What’s the role of libraries as anchor public institutions?

“How much of your work is aimed at helping individuals, how much of it is aimed at helping communities?” Are libraries places for solitary study or community study? Are you a collection library or are you a creation library? Are you a pathway to information or are you an archive with the best and most reliable information? No right or wrong answer but have to think about these questions.

Gates grant – 3 years will study what public libraries mean to communities, how they serve. Looking at users and non-users, who are these folks and what is there engagement in the community overall, not just the library? How do we map with other institutions and sub-communities in our broader community? Market data!


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