Internet of Things (IOT), is a new buzzword works beyond Internet of communications, which we already are quite familiar with. It is a giant leap forward for the Internet, making it possible to connect objects and transfer data with or without human intervention. Connecting any object may include everything from cell phones, coffee makers, cars, washing machines, air conditioners, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else one can think of. The objects, using sensors and having networking capabilities would be able to communicate with each other, access Internet services and interact with the people. The objects in IOT sometime even may include persons or animals. For example heart monitor implant installed in human body could be able to transmit messages to Doctors to define the state of health of a person to avoid any medical emergencies.

This paradigm shift from Internet of communications to Internet of Things (IOT) is bound to impact business models, consumer experiences and everyday life. The growth prospect for IOT is very high, as number of objects connected to Internet is increasing year after year. According to CISCO, by 2020 around 50 billion devices are going to connect to Internet, so you can think of the possible impact it is going to cause to businesses and consumers. Innumerable number of applications of IOT can be seen in various types of industries such as manufacturing, health, insurance, logistics and consumer appliances.  In case of service industries, such as insurance and health it can bring in far reaching changes in the way services are provided and business is carried. Take an example of general insurance, at present such insurance for cars is issued irrespective of how the car is driven, but with the help of IOT installed in smart cars it is going to give an edge for companies to charge premiums based on the consumers driving behaviour.

In case of libraries, IOT can bring in much value addition to its services and will be able to provide rich experiences for patrons. Librarians are already aware of RFID, which does similar job of IOT by interacting with objects, tags, machines and library management systems, but only the difference here is the Internet, which is going to interact with the object or thing such as book. Libraries have physical objects such as books, journals, CDs/DVDs and many more physical objects, IOT may certainly help in overcoming perennial problem of misplacement of books. It may even strengthen the ties between books and readers thereby realizing Dr S.R. Ranganathan’s 2nd law of library science ‘Every Reader his/her Book’.  Some of the areas of libraries, wherein IOT may be very useful include access to library resources and services, information literacy, collection management, Reference services, location based services and appliance management.

One way this new kid in the block offers great opportunities, but on the other hand it has risks in relation to privacy and security of data. However, over a period of time it is expected that technology may provide solutions to protect privacy and personal data of individuals. In case of libraries, it is sure to make value addition to its services and librarians may adopt it once it evolves and accepted. I hope you may find one of my joint articles ‘Internet of Things and Libraries‘ useful to get a broader perspective on IOT and its application for libraries.

The Library of the future

If you imagine, how the library of the future should look like, watch this video, which showcases, the James B. Hunt, Jr. Library at NC State University.

“We’ve built an inspiring library where North Carolina’s thinkers, dreamers and doers can come together to seek solutions to the grand challenges facing this world. The Hunt Library offers spaces custom-built for collaboration across any distance. We’ve equipped it with cutting-edge tools to make concepts concrete. We’ve invested in immersive, large-scale visualization technology to create canvases that measure up to your ambition.” (Excerpt from Source: http://www.ncsu.edu/huntlibrary/watch/)


Illustration by Tejas

MOOCs a popular abbreviation for ‘Massive Open Online Courses’ being heard everywhere, especially from 2012. The year 2012 was termed as “The year of the MOOC‘ by The New York Times. It shows the popularity of this new medium of online education offered by prestigious universities of the world for free to the masses. The people in hordes irrespective of their age, educational background and geographical area are joining for these courses. The enrollment for these courses across disciplines is huge beyond the imagination of anyone. This new invention has brought in a world class education to the door steps of many, who even would not have dreamt of getting educated from universities like Harvard, Princeton, MIT etc. In spite of their shortcomings as compared to the advantages of face to face education offered in physical campuses they have been widely embraced by the people all across the world. The key players offering these courses include coursera, edx, udacity, futurelearn and many more.

The impact of this new breed of education has been seen across the disciplines, universities, departments and colleges. The field of Library and Information Science (LIS) is no exception to this development. Libraries now have to brace this new medium of education and resolve challenges it has posed in providing services to unlimited number of students. The biggest challenge for libraries is how to cater to the needs of such a widespread and diversified student base with limited number of resources. Next the big question is how to convince the publishers in extending access to resources to these off campus students. To brainstorm librarians about the consequences of MOOCs on libraries, OCLC conducted a workshop in 2013 on ‘MOOCs and Libraries‘ to throw light on many of the issues libraries may face as a result of this new medium of education. This event, I think brought in some amount of clarity regarding the issues libraries are expected face.  Taking a cue from this workshop and few other studies on this topic, I wrote a chapter along with other colleagues for a felicitation volume entitled ‘Library as a Change Agent in Liberation and Deliberation of Higher Education through MOOCs‘ to highlight the issues libraries need to gear for to effectively deal with this new breed of online education.

In regard to LIS education, I feel this new phenomena more than challenges it has brought in opportunities in strengthening the course curriculum across the schools. In the developing world, schools of LIS invariably face several challenges, one among these is the acute shortage of teaching faculty to teach various subjects. I think here MOOCs can play an important role by bringing in collaboration in building the courses on subjects mutually beneficial to schools. Secondly, schools may use some of the courses already available online from different universities in the respective subjects to augment learning skills of students by encouraging them to enroll for such courses and providing discussion on the topic in a flipped classroom environment. Some of the courses presently available in LIS include, MetadataThe Emerging Future,  Copyright for Educators & Librarians, etc. Some of these courses apart from students may also help working librarians in updating their skills. To inform professional colleagues about this new form of education and highlight some of the areas of collaboration, I along with a professional colleague wrote a paper on ‘MOOCs and LIS-Education: A massive opportunity or challenge‘ for a journal ‘Annals of Library and Information Studies‘.   

It is very true that, MOOCs can not meet up to the merits of physical classroom education, but they can certainly make a good value addition by bringing in a variety and enabling learners across geographic regions to learn with no age bar and at no cost. Libraries need to put in extra efforts in meeting needs of such learners by offering facilities such as computers, Internet connection and providing links to free and open access resources. They also can make use of MOOCs to build information literacy courses for the effective use of digital sea of information. Similarly, LIS schools themselves or in collaboration may initiate steps to use this medium to offer few courses using platforms such as coursesites and canvas network

I think, it is still a challenge for many Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals to understand the nuances of digital library or institutional repository (IR) development using open source software like DSpace. They can now have a sigh of relief as Stellenbosch University library has made available ‘IR-Guide‘ , which provides step-by-step practical guidelines in developing an IR targeting academic institutes situated in developing countries.  This useful document has been written by Mr Hilton Gibson, System Administrator at  Stellenbosch University Library Services, Stellenbosch, South Africa. I am sure this guide will be of much use to LIS professionals.

The full text of the guide is available at: http://scholar.sun.ac.za/handle/10019.1/79321

Twitter for researchers

I came across this very useful and interesting guide developed by ‘University of York Information’ on how to make effective use of Twitter in academics. Twitter undoubtedly has lot of potential in sharing information and also helps in building academic collaborations.

Does information has any connection to food? J.P. Rangaswami in his TED talk muses on our relationship to information and food.