Today’s blog post is brought to you by a reference desk shift on the first day of classes. I’ve had our expected start-of-semester problems with campus servers, no challenging/real reference questions yet, and lots of internet to read.
As a communicator, I want to expand the reach of the Library and access to our magnificent collections as far and wide as possible. Of course, there are only so many hours in the day, so many staff in Library offices and so many dollars in the budget. Priorities have to be chosen that will most effectively advance our mission.
That’s why it is so exciting to let people know about the launch of a brand-new pilot project the Library of Congress is undertaking with Flickr, the enormously popular photo-sharing site that has been a Web 2.0 innovator. If all goes according to plan, the project will help address at least two major challenges: how to ensure better and better access to our collections, and how to ensure that we have the best possible information about those collections for the benefit of researchers and posterity. In many senses, we are looking to enhance our metadata (one of those Web 2.0 buzzwords that 90 percent of our readers could probably explain better than me).
I could lose myself in these old photos, and am struggling to stay on the “keeping up with librarianship” part of the internet, instead of the “oh wow, check out these pictures” part of the internet.
After about six months in my position, I was able to step back, breathe, and realize that 2.0 in the tech sense was not a service priority for adult reference or, really, for the community we serve. We deployed Flickr, a blog, MySpace, even a YouTube account, most of which ended up being inexpensive experiments that had zero impact in any direction. On the other hand, our internet access is probably one of the least restrictive I’ve heard about in a library environment and I love that our IT folks understand that it’s crucial to be responsive. At any given moment, I’d guess that 70% of our public access terminals are being used for social networking: MySpace, various IM clients, Runescape, eBay, etc. Our help or involvement is not needed or welcomed (unless time is about to run out and a patron wants an extension). Those folks don’t want to interact with us. They don’t want us in their space.
Our community still appears to want fairly traditional library services, slightly tweaked for the 21st century.
She concludes with “And I think we’ve learned enough that it’s time to hush our mouths and just listen for awhile. ” I love the web, I love technology, I love what it can do for us… but it’s a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. And so I can’t but agree with Rochelle. Time to listen. Time to learn. Time to reflect. And then time to apply.
* Stephen Abram has looked back at how young most of our everyday technologies are, and I giggled. A lot. “Just recently we noticed that Google’s domain name was 10 years old but the search service is only about nine. So Google style searching is only in about grade five.” And he concludes with the bit I liked most: “Now, it’s no wonder why it’s taking a while to adapt to all this – in libraries, vendors, software, publishers, etc. And a young child shall lead them. Good people are trying hard to make a difference. They share in speeches and blogs and articles and more. Let’s listen and try a few new things. The future isn’t clear yet.” (I have to admit that the “young child shall lead them” flashed an image into my mind of Buffy taking the hand of the Anointed One, but I suspect Abram doesn’t mean that we’re being led to the Hellmouth.) Yes, it feels like we need to change now or we’ll be hit by the tsunami of technology building behind us, but of course it’s hard — it’s been less than X years for Y technology, and yes it feels ubiquitous right now, but… change always takes some time. Give it a minute. Breathe. Think. And to echo Rochelle, Listen.
* Steven Harris at Collections 2.0 takes on library jargon, saying,
We also talked about making the catalog more user-friendly and less full of library jargon. Someone mentioned links like “you might be interested in” to lead users to related materials. It suddenly struck me that we have that link; we just call it by the wrong name: subject headings. It would be nice if we could speak human to users when we design products. We could still use our secret language when nobody was looking.
Again, rueful giggling, because yes, yes, yesyesyes! I’d love for someone to explain to me why we need to “educate users” about the “proper definition of a subject heading” when we could instead just show them the utility of subject headings by labeling them in ways that highlight their relevance to the information seeker. Why is our secret language so very important to us? What are we gaining by insisting on it?
* Not so much about libraries but very much about information, intellectual property, scholarship, and all the associated goodness thereof, the review blog Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books broke a story on bestselling author Cassie Edwards and her research practices, which this blogger labels “shameless plagiarism”. Edwards maintains she’s done nothing wrong, and her publishers’ initial responses were that she’d done no wrong, and they were unconcerned. They have since backpedaled as the depth and breadth of the allegations became clear. As a regular reader of a variety of genre fictions, I have to wonder how much of the dithering on this issue is related to the fact that the press, publishers, and even readers don’t take genre-fiction readers seriously, along the lines of “Romance novels? Who cares about integrity of authorship and quality of research in romance novels? What’s the big fuss?” Well, I care, and the fuss is that it’s dishonest, immoral, and illegal, not to mention disrespectful of the fact that I am an intelligent consumer of the written word, one who appreciates good writing, thoughtful stories, and careful research, no matter what genre I find it in. The whole thing just raises my metaphorical hackles.
* Back to libraries. John Blyberg wrote a list, This Trendster’s Trends. What caught my eye and mind was this:
Privacy is Dead
Yep, no such thing if you’re a netizen. We basically have the choice to connect or live out our lives in quiet and total obscurity. This merits an entire write-up on its own, but needless to say, our approach to individual privacy needs to be dragged into the twenty-first century. Almost all of the trends I mentioned this time around have profound privacy implications.
One of my colleagues is very interested in libraries, privacy, and user expectations at the intersection of those things, and so we’ve had some brief discussion of those issues at MPOW. Myself? Sure, yes, libraries have long been a bastion of the freedom of information, the right to read, and the right to privacy regarding both. The PATRIOT Act and John Ashcroft had me all a-twitter, and our righteous anger over the issues were part of what helped my husband and I meet at that conference. (Brought together by libraries and Ashcroft. Ah, love.) I believe that freedom of information is vital to a healthy democratic society. Do I, therefore believe that my privacy must be protected at all costs about all things? As a netizen, as per Blyberg, obviously, my answer is NO. The question of exactly what we and (more importantly to me) our users are willing to offer up in trade — privacy for services, and under what circumstances — is vital to moving forward into libraries’ future as information providers, research facilitators, and community members.
So. That’s what I’ve been surfing and thinking about for the last hour and a half, interspersed with “Where can I find this video”, “Is this on reserve yet?”, “How do I reset my email password?”, “Which building is CAR, and where is it?”, and “The printer’s out of paper.” Welcome to start-of-semester librarianship.