Sunday, November 06, 2005

Glassworks: The Public Library as the Center of a Digital World

Here's an overview our presentation at IL05, and a link to the slides. We had a great time presenting, and it was really gratifying to hear so much positive feedback. Now, we just need to write the article ; )

It was cool that we presented after Lee Rainie started his keynote with a discussion of how, as technology becomes more and more prevelent, it becomes invisible. A great lead in to thinking about glass as a metaphor for Web content...

Glassworks: The Public Library as the Center of a Digital World

To create glass, you must heat a mixture of raw materials to such an extreme that their molecular bonds break and then quickly cool the newly created substance in order to lock the atoms into a random state before they can form into a perfect crystal arrangement. In other words, glass, the very substance that makes our high-speed digital networks possible through fiber optics, is a type of frozen chaos. The potential for glass, like the potential of digital resources, is limited only by our imaginations. The goal of the Johnson County Library’s Web site is to become the center of everything local and to create a clearinghouse of digital community information. To realize this goal requires creating, repackaging, and organizing content; providing the staff to develop and support the content; and building buy-in from the organization, area agencies, and the community at large. Using glassmaking as a metaphor for community Web development, presenters discuss the planning and future of the library’s focus on creating and managing locally relevant Web content.

Why compare glass and glassworks to Web content and content development?

1. To help think about and expand thinking about what Web content is, what it can be, and how libraries can make the most of Web content to enhance the lives of the people they serve.

2. Think of the basic forms of matter: gas, liquid, solid. However, glass is its own form of matter. It is similar to liquid, and it is similar to a solid, but in fact, it is a unique form of matter. This is one of the most important reasons to think about Web content through the “lens” of glass. Although Web content is like other information, communication, and entertainment mediums—in fact, it is something completely unique—a form unto itself entirely.

3. The potential for glass, like the potential for Web content, is limited only by our imaginations.

4. Glass, like Web content, can reflect and interpret the world around it.

5. Glass is the very material that makes the many possibilities of Web content possible. Our fiber optic networks are simply very pure glass, transmitting information through light. Because glass can transmit an unbelievable amount of information at an unbelievable speed, library Web sites have the potential to serve as “the interplay of ideas at the speed of light, guided by glass.”*

Here are the slides (it's a huge file, but the photographs are pretty ; )

We've thought about doing another presentation entirely online through OPAL. If you're interested, let me know.

*At the Corning Museum of Glass, an exhibit on fiber optics is entitled “The interplay of ideas, at the speed of light, guided by glass.”


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