I admit that before this lesson I had no idea what cloud computing was, let alone that I was using a “cloud” every time I logged in to Facebook. The cloud can be used by libraries to give users faster access to information, for example, documents they can open on Google Docs. Blocking sites such as Facebook cuts people off from these information sources and is unlikely to win the library any new fans. Instead, libraries can help educate users, such as offering a workshop on how to use mobile apps. The cloud can also be used for photo storage by posting everything on Flickr.
The OCLC article helps put into perspective what cloud computing can do for libraries. Having common data, such as bibliographic records and user-created content such as tags, saves time and allows for increased sharing of information and reduced cost (though I suppose there are downfalls, such as sharing a bibliographic record with an error in it!). I find the QuestionPoint idea quite interesting. Librarians can get help with reference questions from colleagues around the globe. Not only does this help librarians provide better service for patrons, especially those in smaller branches who may be the only staff member present and may have limited resources, but it is a great way for librarians to network. I like that the service is also available through Facebook and mobile phones, since this makes it easier for users to access. Perhaps a service like QuestionPoint can be the answer to the dilemma of wanting to provide 24/7 virtual reference service without having 24/7 staff.
One issue I have about cloud computing is this: if information is being stored on some other network, who has access to it, and how secure is it? If GoogleDocs documents are stored on a server in the United States, how does that affect us in Canada? I don’t know if I would be willing to trust the “cloud” with sensitive information, and yet I have personal photos on Facebook. I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not sure I fully understand what cloud computing is, even after doing this week’s readings, but I expect things like QuestionPoint will probably take off in the near future.