Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Where to Go Next

Academic journal article Library Technology Reports

Where to Go Next

Article excerpt


Although mobile services to underserved populations are limited at present, truly innovative services based on existing projects are possible. These include augmented reality tools, curation of local media, content creation in libraries, and content creation and sharing platforms for mobile devices. After outlining the possibilities, this chapter provides concrete suggestions for building your own, and your organization's, technological capacity en route to innovation, and argues that mobile services should not be overlooked in the context of diverse populations.


The preceding chapters have given accounts of library services that exist as stated, along with ideas of how to use them to reach out in nontraditional directions. This one will be a proposal for what could be. While it's stitched together from pieces that exist in real libraries, I haven't encountered anything quite like this.

Why speculate? Because in talking to librarians across the country and in a variety of libraries, I've found many who want to implement such services, but few who have. The major barrier isn't specialized technical knowledge--while some is required, it's often no more than a reasonably ambitious and fearless person with access to the Internet can learn. The major barrier is getting others convinced of, and excited by, the possibilities so that the institutional support is there for learning, prototyping, and experimentation. So let's imagine more vivid possibilities. Let us dream more audaciously of technology.

My vision starts with the library values of collections, conversations, and context in community. (See Nate Hill's wonderful thoughts about this, with respect to the Digital Public Library of America, on the Public Library Association blog. (1) One of the compelling strengths of libraries, in our age of information ubiquity, is their hyperlocal knowledge: their ability to collect, preserve, and showcase the unique experience of a community. In other words, they can collect knowledge of local relevance, create conversations around it, and contextualize it in ways that make the experience of information especially rich for their communities.

I believe there's something especially powerful about taking that ability into diverse populations. One of the truisms of minority experiences is that they are not reflected in mainstream media. Our Google Images smartphone users are white businessmen and hipsters, even though that doesn't reflect the statistics. My local paper has a lot of interviews with old-guard Irish and Italian Americans--a traditional political force in greater Boston--but I'm much less likely to see the Brazilian and Central American immigrants who comprise so much of my town's more recent population. Not long before this writing, the hashtag #YesGayYA swept across Twitter as authors, publishers, and agents argued over why gay characters are so rarely protagonists in YA fiction. And just last week, I heard a story on NPR about how the "black best friend" character is so often used to dispense wisdom to white protagonists and highlight their racial tolerance, but so rarely allowed to have his or her own story. (2)


I believe libraries are unusually well positioned to surface, and showcase, the unheard stories in their communities. I believe librarians' experience with outreach and technology training are valuable tools toward this end. And I believe, by taking advantage of four tools and ideas that already exist, we could have a uniquely powerful way to create community experiences, develop local collections, and honor patrons' voices.

Showcasing Community Stories

Mobile-Optimized Walking Tour

The first component is a guided walking tour designed for a mobile device: for instance, Scan Jose. With funding from a LSTA grant, the San Jose Public Library engineered an app providing self-guided, smartphone-optimized walking tours of the San Jose downtown area. …

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