Monday, March 26, 2018

A User Persona Built from Likes vs Libraries

I had an amazing mentor in library school who said “Communities get the libraries they deserve”, which I thought was amazingly insightful. Her meaning was that if a community doesn’t invest in their library (attention, policy, and money) then their library would falter. Given my recent post on the Taxonomy behind Facebook and the recent story from the New York Times about how Cambridge Analytica leveraged data from Facebook to build detailed user personas I have been thinking a lot about the nature of information consumption in our culture.

While Cambridge Analytica took liberties with Facebook’s data not envisioned or condoned the basic premise behind Facebook being a free service is that the users give up their data so Facebook can serve targeted ads based around their individual profiles (among other revenue streams it now seems). As users we have chosen to sell our digital selves for a free service. Facebook is hardly the first service to do this type of exchange (tons of websites show ads to keep their content free) Facebook is just in a unique situation considering the data they possess. While the #deletefacebook trend removes the app from your device it doesn’t look at the larger cultural issue around exchanging data for services.

I find myself personally torn between privacy and convenience. When I did my dive into Facebook’s taxonomy and I saw how they were building a profile on my behavior for ads I didn’t stop using the service and when the Cambridge Analytica program details were released by the Times I didn’t delete my account either. Why? Facebook is so useful.* I can keep in touch with people who I knew during college, find other users in my area with similar interests, and it is especially useful as a parent for advice on how to manage my offspring. Facebook (and services like it) is a connective web for communities to come together, which is a fundamental foundation in being human: connection.

Facebook could charge for their service though that would limit who could reasonably afford it and thus cap their potential user base. Within those who could afford it would they actually pay? Old word newspapers have had to turn to subscriptions services and micro media outfits have custom newsletters that build a direct money for value relationship. I don’t know the specific financials behind these models nor how they compare versus selling ads though it does prove their is another path for revenue (note: which is funny to write as before “the internet” pay for service was the ONLY model.) Yet we as users have become accustomed to the internet being free and I think there would be an uproar if Facebook started charging users nor would they have been able to build such a global community if that has been their business model back in 2004.

In contrast to Facebook, libraries are privacy oriented when interacting with users. There are strict privacy laws (note: this is in the US) about divulging patron records and librarians have a strong ethical code around patron privacy:

“We protect each library user’s right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted.” (From the ALA Code of Ethics)

However, while libraries may seem free to users they are decidedly not free to operate. Like any organization they have facility, staffing, materials costs that is paid for by the users. Rather than giving data community members pays thru their tax base (or membership fees) to keep the library open. Bonds and referendums are regularly brought before communities to fund libraries with success and failures. This is done as I think patrons would balk if the library sold their information to fund their operation (I would).

Privacy is the issue of our time and we need to be data conscious consumers. What are we giving up for a service and what value do we get back? The limits in computing are not in technology but human will. What will we comfortable with as a society? Without having this discussion another company with another dataset is bound to do the same thing as Facebook.

*If like me you’ve struck a sorcerer’s deal with Facebook the EFF has a great article on how to clamp down on your privacy settings.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Alternative Careers in Librarianship Webinar

As mentioned briefly before I am participant in an upcoming webinar for SLA (see official blurb below) about alternative careers in librarianship. This is a topic I am particularly passionate about as I firmly believe in “Big Tent” librarianship is the future of the profession as the we humans create more about data our skillset is ever more relevant.

If anyone had any questions please comment below or send me a note via Twitter (georgedpr) or you can email me at george (at) georgedpr (dot) com.

Official Release: The SLA Illinois Chapter and Upstate New York Chapter, in conjunction with the Students and New Professionals Advisory Council and SLA staff, are proud to present Not Your Everyday Career Advice: Alternate Careers in the Library and Information Field.

The webinar is hosted by Rachael Altman and Jill Wilson, and features a dynamic and experienced panel of LIS professionals: Jamal Fisher, Deb Hunt, Ted Slate, Rachel Cole, and George Peckham-Rooney.

Join us and listen to our panellists speak about their career trajectory, give real advice, and share stories about what worked for them. Come away with a newfound appreciation for the highly adaptable and transferable skills we all possess.

Who should attend? This webinar is for anyone and everyone—no matter where you are in your career!

Please join us on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 2:30 pm ET.

Monday, March 5, 2018

SEEDs Conference 2018

Last week it was my great pleasure to attend the latest SEEDs Conference(Southeast Educational Data Symposium) on behalf of MPOW. There was some fantastic speakers/panels on educational analytics technology, the state of higher education, and building business intelligence communities. Though I wanted to mention two speakers where the topics pertained specifically to librarians and librarianship writ-large.

The first I wanted to mention was the session from Bertha Adeniji* (The Adoption of Learning Analytics in Higher Education), which used bibliometrics to look at the research around learning analytics and its adoption in higher education. It was fascinating to see how young the fields is with the research really beginning around 2011 and still seemed in its infancy 2018. In an age of “big data” in many ways it seems like we are just beginning to look at how data can be used hack learning. (Also, the librarian in me loves bibliometrics.)

The second session that really grabbed my attention was the closing keynote by Dr. George Siemens** entitled Directions in Learning Analytics, which covered the past, current state and potential future for the field. Part of the presentation looked at the changing economic landscape and the need for workers to retrain to enter new fields, which would be accomplished not by getting a new degree, but by a micro program that accumulated all their prior knowledge alongside their new skillset. Dr. Siemens mentioned that we will move more toward life long learning and accrediting locally (maybe thru online badges). It made me think about libraries and librarianship again as in this burgeoning world there would need to be resources for those life long learners to build their knowledge and libraries have traditionally be part of this paradigm. If learners have to return to continue to build their skillsets they are going to need a guide a librarian could be that guide.

*A Phd student at the Palmer School of Library Information Science at Long Island University CW Post

**Dr. George Siemans, the founding president of the Society for Learning Analytics Research (