The Wearable OPAC: An Extended Improvisation on Open Source

I’ve been recruited to perform a pre-conference workshop at the Atlantic Provinces Library Association Conference in May. Here’s the draft description I’ve come up with for my session, titled tentatively The Wearable OPAC: An Extended Improvisation on Open Source:

For me, the greatest innovation in library technology in recent years has been the miniature public library card that clips to my key chain. This small innovation has completely changed my relationship with my library card, and thus my library: what was once a revered object, a sort of “golden ticket,” is now a ubiquitous extension of my person. It’s wearable.
Taking this innovation as a jumping-off point, we’ll consider how the library catalogue could make a similar conceptual leap: what if we could wear the OPAC.
Clip it to our key chain, or slip it into our pocket, or throw if over our shoulder. What would a ubiquitous personal library catalogue look like, feel like, and how could it change our relationship to the library?
Such an approach — decentralized, cheap, omnipresent, connected, social — demands an open approach to technology, moving the focus away the deified, proprietary, impersonal, behemothic and toward the commonplace, open source, personal and disposable.
What if we wore our OPAC like socks, rather than visiting it like church?
Over the course of an afternoon we’ll engage in real world experiments to actually create such a thing.
Using small bits of cheap technology together with open source tools, databases, and programming languages, we’ll stitch together a proof-of-concept wearable OPAC. And in doing so we’ll ruminate on open source and its potential application in libraries, both in terms of its ability to free libraries from the tyranny of technology vendors, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the hope that it offers to mutate the relationships between the institution, its technologies, its librarians and its patrons.
Participants are encouraged, but not required, to bring a wifi-enabled laptop or handheld device. No experience with open source, programming, or library technology is required. An open mind, and a willingness to suspend any latent fears of or reverence for technology is recommended. This is neither a speech on open source nor a training session; think of it as an interactive performance piece.

Non-librarian civilians are welcome to attend; you can register on the APLA website. The cost is $50.

By the way, before this blog post, Google showed no results for the search wearable OPAC. So I’ve coined a new phrase.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on March 24, 2008 - 20:08 Permalink

Please DYA (Define Your Acronyms)

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on March 24, 2008 - 20:10 Permalink

OPAC = Online Public Access Catalogue.

oliver's picture
oliver on March 24, 2008 - 21:04 Permalink

What is “your” OPAC? Who wants whose OPAC? If you want somebody’s OPAC, why is it to your advantage that it’s part of somebody’s sock? How often would you need to change your socks to have a reasonably up-to-date edition of your/somebody’s/somebodies’ OPAC?

Steve Benson's picture
Steve Benson on March 25, 2008 - 02:44 Permalink

Can you please post your notes from the event and comment on it. As a librarian I’m pretty curious about it.