My friend E posted this article, “Integrated Solutions,” about the move to consolidate information technology departments and libraries in liberal arts colleges. It’s really quite worrisome that the reasoning is primarily fiscal rather than driven by other needs and issues such as access and responsibility. There is a bit of a claim to efficiency of information access, but even that is subsumed under business-speak. It really troubles me how much universities are using the vocabulary of the business world more and more these days, from “integrated solutions” to “vice presidents” and “chief _____ officers.” I’m not suggesting that the academy has ever been free of capitalistic interests, but the less distance we put between the two worlds of education and business, the less likely people are to question that the impulses behind money-making endeavors are or ought to be disentangled from the interests of learning, research, and an open exchange of ideas and values.
The latest Facebook changes have again got users in an uproar. What is annoying is not so much that Facebook continually “innovates” (a word and concept I hate, actually) but that the changes are always geared towards this idea of sharing everything all the time with everyone—what Mark Zuckerberg calls “frictionless” sharing.
Farhad Manjoo discusses this latest innovation move in his blog post “Not Sharing Is Caring,” and I tend to agree with his assessments about the issue not being so much about privacy as it is about what we social networkers might actually want out of social networking. Sure, we already over-share about trivial matters, but there is a level of intentionality to our sharing that Zuckerberg keeps wanting to do away with with each update to Facebook. On a continuum of privacy, where we have at one extreme a surveillance state that aggregates everything you do online and makes it easy for other people to see to the other extreme where you can’t share anything with anyone, Facebook keeps veering towards the surveillance state.
Many commentators have been noting that Zuckerberg is visionary in his transformation of user expectations—where pre-Facebook, people were much more reluctant to share any private info online, now it is the norm to share and the outliers are those who are not on social networks.
I really miss the more intentional forums for sharing like blogging from a decade ago. The newer blogging platforms are much more oriented towards re-posting other people’s posts and sharing links quickly rather than offering places where people have to ruminate on what they share and not simply pass along a link but spend some time articulating what they get out of the link and why they want others to see it and enjoy it or think about it.
In other news, the NYT is covering a story about the Kindle’s joining of the library ebook world, where Kindle users can finally check out books from their public libraries like users of other ebook readers (the Sony Reader and the Nook, for example). Having Kindle join the ebook lending world has been a hotly anticipated thing for at least a half year. This is big news because Kindle is by far the most popular ereader, and the option of checking out books rather than purchasing them (or using the Lendle platform for sharing books with others, in very limited fashion) will certainly shake up the current world of ebook lending. I’ve noticed that my library’s use of the Overdrive service is already quite popular, with a huge portion of available books checked out at any given time. It’ll definitely be worth keeping an eye on the ebook in libraries development…. It also makes me wonder how library’s that lend out the Kindle readers themselves, with a pre-loaded selection of ebooks, might change now that the readers can also check out library books. (I was also just reading yesterday in Library Journal about the factors that libraries have to consider in ebook lending services: Secrets of ebook success.)
LIS 7010 (Intro to Library and Information Science)
Reading Response for September 21, 2011
– Rubin, Foundations of Library and Information Science, 3rd edition, Chapters 3 & 4
– Haycock and Sheldon, The Portable MLIS, Appendices J & K
– OCLC Perceptions of Libraries, 2010
Somewhat randomly this summer (I was googling the acronym MPOW, which apparently stands for “my place of work”), I came across a blog post by K. G. Schneider, a.k.a. Free Range Librarian, in response to a speech by McMaster University’s research library director Jeff Trzeciak (“Thoroughly Modern Karen: A Response to Jeff Trzeciak”). According to Schneider, Trzeciak noted that the future of the research library involved hiring PhDs in subject areas and information technology specialists rather than librarians-as-such, ostensibly those with master’s degrees in library science. The speech was clearly a provocation for the world of librarianship, and Schneider offers one spirited defense of librarians’ embrace of the changing world of information technology and library user services (although the defense often veers harshly towards ad hominem attacks).
The debate raised by Trzeciak’s critique of an outmoded library that is resistant to change is worth considering in light of this week’s readings about the history of librarianship’s professionalization since the late nineteenth century. That history has involved related issues such as determining the appropriate kind of education/training for library workers as well as how to adjudicate the tension between library science and information science in a world of rapidly changing information technologies. Much of the furor raised by librarians in response to Trzeciak’s prognostications were about his devaluing of the kind of training that librarians receive in their graduate education and his insistence on the need for new and different competencies.
With regards to the second issue about perceived incompatibility between library science and information science, one distinction that Rubin draws is that the former focuses on education and literacy in the institution and physical structure of the library while the latter is centered on information access in more decentered and networked environments. I find this distinction useful even as it seems to oversimplify the issue at hand. My own take on the issue is that the library as an institution offers a rich history as well as an important infrastructure for access to books and other information, and as such, it is more useful to consider ways of holding on to what libraries offer in terms of services while transforming them for emerging technologies rather than abandoning them wholesale for a brave new world of digital information. Rubin also emphasizes how libraries promulgate democratic values, and in this capacity, it is worth mobilizing libraries as a social site and a socially-relevant actor in education and providing information for the public.
Question for consideration: What are the pros and cons of continuing to invest in libraries in the twenty-first century as centers of information, literacy, and education?
In Matthew Battles’s Library: An Unquiet History, the history of libraries that I read for the first week of library science school discussed biblioclasms in different time periods and places, from the destruction of the famed Library at Alexandria to the book burnings of the Nazi regime. It is really quite fascinating to consider the role of libraries in different cultures and to consider why they might be considered dangerous enough to destroy, both institutional and private libraries. One of the points I thought was most interesting was Battles’s observation of the irony that sometimes collecting books into a library, especially one with universal aspirations (to collect everything published or written) can be detrimental to the preservation of writing if it becomes the target of an invading army or other hostile group. He suggested that the private libraries of individuals may have contributed more to the preservation of ancient texts than some of these great libraries of ancient Greece and Rome precisely because they were not destroyed or ransacked wholesale.
In any case, today, I came across the article “My Lost Library” by Ariel Dorfman that reflects on the author’s relationship with his library, abandoned in Chile after he fled the country during dictator Pinochet’s military rule and crackdown on dissent. The situation is not quite that of libricide, but Dorfman traces a thoughtful account of how his books stood as evidence of worlds suppressed by the Pinochet regime.