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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

The Cloud and the Future of information

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, July 6, 2014

The future of information services, and the distribution of both print and audio-visual media has been predicted recently, and it involves “the cloud.”

This “cloud” is not a meteorological forecast that a weatherman would describe, but rather it is the ability to transmit data through the airwaves.

I made the mistake of asking a computer expert “exactly what is the cloud and how does it work?”

Unfortunately, he answered me with all of his accumulated knowledge and every tid-bit of information that he had gathered on the subject.

I finally said “thanks,” and threatened to recite the Dewey Decimal Tables from 000 to 999 unless he stopped.

How it works and where the signals go aren’t important to most of us, we just need to know that the growing concept is that data is now flowing around the world in swirls of information linked somehow.

Our eBook library, called the Ohio Digital Library, is the beginning of this flow of information allowing blobs of data to be downloaded into a personal device and used, which will then go away on its own.

For a librarian, the concept involves an automated checkout from your home or office in the same way you checkout a book from the public library, but the return is automatic and it is impossible to “damage” the book with a cup of coffee or an unruly dog.

No overdue fines, as the eBook is never late since the computer, or rather a software program takes care of the return.

Mixed in with the eBook collection are “audio eBooks” that work the same way and are just like books on CD that are checked out of the library.

Oops, I forgot to tell you that eBooks can be made into Large Print books by changing the size of the font on the eBook.

The Ohio Digital Library, from the start, has had independent movies available for download, but they had a small focused audience.

Now Starz Media has been added allowing TV shows and newer movies to be available, and soon Warner Bros. Media will be added to the offerings.

I think it will be common for these media to become routinely available through the Ohio Digital Library and your local public library.

We already have the Disney Digital Online books, which are available in unlimited quantities and are interactive when downloaded into your device.

The Ohio Digital Library has already separated the database into a Kids Collection, and shortly will add a Teen Collection, and it has already passed 170,000 items for loan.

I remember the days when the library had a collection of 16mm and 8 mm films, supplemented with hundreds of warped, scratched vinyl records.  Things have progressed in a fairly short time.

And what about the future of public libraries?  Statistics for 2013 found that we were just as busy, if not more than years-gone-by.

The library and its structure have to physically exist for the eBooks to be offered, and we continue to provide human beings to serve as the “value-added” to information.

We remain the public service desk in the community, while so many other offices and public agencies have disappeared or are now behind web sites.

And it is also my view that people cannot remain “in the cloud” of information, and will have to emerge from their homes to interact with other people.

I remember a day last winter, following a snowfall during the nighttime that closed schools, and delayed opening of the library to mid-morning.

Someone popped through the front door and exclaimed, “I had to get out of the house, I am having cabin-fever!”  (She had only been stuck inside half of the morning!)