This past Wednesday evening I drove from Calgary to Edmonton to participate in the TAL NEXT Library Futures Symposium. That was great, but is the topic for later posts. This one is how my new car provides instant feedback to improve fuel economy, and why that makes me think we're on the right path with some of what we're planning for the new Taylor Family Digital Library (TFDL)
So earlier this month I finally got rid of my 1993 Honda Civic in favour of a 2011 Hyundai Sonata. I figured if I was going to keep this car for 17 years too I was gonna get a comfy one this time :-) While the Sonata is classified as a full-sized car, it employs a 4-cylinder Gasoline Direct Injection engine to keep fuel efficiency in a pretty good place. But it doesn't rely just on technology for fuel efficiency, it also employs instant feedback to try to change the behaviour of the driver as well.
The first is a simple ECO light that stays lit as long as you're driving in a reasonable fashion. It turns off during hard accelerations, so I've turned that into a game by trying to see how slowly I can start from a dead stop w/o turning into a turtle in order to keep that light on as much as possible. The other display is a constantly updated current average fuel consumption indicator. Of course being a Canadian model, it displays in litres per 100 kilometres instead of miles per gallon, and since I grew up only learning the latter, all I know about the former is that the lower the better. When I snapped the shot below and thought about this post, I noticed I was averaging 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres, which I found equates to a pretty darn respectable 37 MPG. Not quite as good as the old Civic, but not bad for anything larger than a subcompact these days!
So here's the library tie-in. In the TFDL we'll have a large number of LCD screens which we'll be using in part to display live data about what's happening (and has happened) in the library. We want to show our users that it's a live and dynamic place both in real space and behind the scenes. Here are some of the existing dashboards or widgets from which we're drawing inspiration: Case Western Reserve Kelvin Smith Library, IBM's Many Eyes, Brown University Library widgets, Protovis, the Watson Library Dashboard (based on the Drupal project museum-dashboard), and Google Chart Tools.
Of course we're not really trying to change behaviour as much as reveal it. We want to have as much live information as possible; current circulation counts, terms being searched in the catalogue or some other electronic resources more or less right now (some privacy issues to consider with that of course), workstation availability, maybe tweets and FourSquare checkins, that kind of stuff (please feel free to leave suggestions on what you think would be interesting to see about library operations).
It's my hope that users will see this data and realize that there's an awful lot more going on within Libraries & Cultural Resources than they were previously aware, and that they then might be compelled to explore some of the other services or resources that we offer. Time will tell if it has that desired effect, but even if not, it'll sure be interesting to bring all this previously invisible information to the surface.