Lee Rainie, founding director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, was the phenomenally brilliant opening speaker at the 2009 Iowa Library Association Annual Conference. With a conference theme like “Deciphering Our Future: Transforming Iowa Libraries,” Rainie’s talk about his research on American internet usage kicked everything off on just the right note. He gave the same talk in Wisconsin later that week, and those slides are available here (via slideshare):
The very first thing Rainie said to us was, “Who’s tweeting this? What’s the conference hashtag?” (ahem: #ilaconf09). A few librarians eagerly grabbed their cellphones and netbooks while many others just stared at each other blankly. But the great thing is, regardless of their technology background, most Iowa librarians seemed genuinely curious and receptive to Rainie’s talk.
He argued that “the Internet is the asteroid that hit the Industrial Age,” and that the challenge for libraries is to successfully straddle the Industrial Age and the Information Age. We’re living in a networked society now, which is OK by Rainie because he says that large, diverse, robust networks can make us “healthier, wealthier, happier, and more civically engaged.” Within these new social networks, librarians can think of themselves as nodes that help people find their way through the network.
Rainie then identified 10 “network ecosystem changes” based on data from his research at Pew. These changes (which for some reason all start with “V” but are explained further in the slideshow) are:
#4. Venues / Availability
#5. Vigilance & the Cult of the Amateur
#6. Vibrance & Virtual Worlds
#8. Voice, Visibility & Content Creation
#9. Voting & Collective Intelligence
These changes in technology make networks that are bigger, looser, more segmented and more layered. In other words, they’re more liberated… but they’re also much more work. That’s why librarians need to help. We can help our user base figure out how to pay attention to, acquire, assess and act upon information. We need to be informed and intelligent nodes in the network.