This week, we learned about cloud computing, which is defined by Jay Jordan as “a style of computing in which scalable and elastic information technology-enabled capabilities are delivered as a service to external customers using Internet technologies” (Jordan, 2011). Many people and organizations already use cloud computing without actively thinking about it; for example, by posting information on Facebook or by using Google Drive, you are contributing information to the “cloud”.
Cloud computing has a considerable amount of potential for libraries. In Jordan’s “Climbing Out of the Box and Into the Cloud: Building Web-Scale for Libraries”, he describes the ways in which the Online Computer Library Center has used WorldCat and WorldCat Local, among other initiatives, to try to encourage libraries to utilize cloud computing. Jordan explains that OCLC aims to benefit thousands of libraries by way of collaboration; Jordan’s view of cloud computing has libraries enhancing user experiences while lowering the cost of managing library collections. Specifically, Jordan cites the following advantages of utilizing cloud computing in libraries:
- “Increased visibility and accessibility of collections for users
- Reduced duplication of effort from networked technical services and collection management
- Streamlined workflows
- Cooperative intelligence and improved service levels” (Jordan, 2011, p.7)
As we can see, cloud computing certainly has potential benefits for library staff and library users. However, there are many disadvantages that users and library staff members may encounter when using cloud computing. The first and perhaps most concerning issue, is that of privacy. If libraries and/or users are sharing information with each other, might other libraries or individuals misuse this information in some way? Not all libraries or all staff members will necessarily be comfortable with this free exchange of information. Another big concern that comes to mind is that of accessibility. We have all experienced internet outages (like the great Rogers outage of February 2013, a very boring night! :P) and have seen how these outages can affect the workplace and one’s personal life. I love Google Drive, but on one trip to my cottage I realized I couldn’t access a Google Doc I wanted to edit (I had forgotten to save it to my computer before leaving civilization and the internet behind). This was a big inconvenience for me, but in a work setting this could have created a much larger issue.
In terms of libraries and computer users in general, the more we rely on cloud computing, the more we stand to lose when technology fails us. For this reason, some people may be apprehensive in the move towards putting more information “into the cloud”. In terms of where cloud computing may lead us in the future, only time will tell!
Jordan, J. (2011). Climbing out of the box and into the cloud: Building web-scale for libraries. Journal of Library Administration, 51(1), 3-17.