In My Tabs July 22/2012 : LAC-BAC, Wikipedia, and Being The Man

I’ve decided to start listing some of the links I keep open in my tabs over the week. As for the title of the post: that’s an idea I blatantly stole from an old friend, Jhameia Goh.  (Jaymee, hats off to you!)

Library and Archives Canada produces a report on the state of their analogue holdings.  There’s an interesting line in the executive summary, which discusses collections and holdings management: “In short, in managing the on-going usability of its holdings, LAC aims to ensure value for money.” Read on.

–  Metropolis Magazine has an interesting article on how libraries have been envisioned through the ages.  In short: These buildings and the people who work in them adapt, big time.    Let’s keep that up, shall we?  (n.b. I blogged about it here.)

Wikipedia is suffering from a gender bias in its articlesSlate reports on Jimmy Wales‘s talk at Wikimania 2012 (some of my colleagues attended, which makes me almost-awesome) about how the site’s gender gap in its editor and author roles affect not only the interpretation of Wikipedia articles, but whether or not the articles are even remain published.  Note:  This is NOT a new phenonemon.

Wikipedia is also suffering from a dearth of admins. The Atlantic explains that fewer people are volunteering to help maintain the site even though it continues to grow.     (If one of these these bullets about Wikipedia bother you, and especially if two of them bother you, and especially if you’re a women, then you may want to contribute to one of the greatest websites on the free web.)

OCLC’s 2010 Perceptions of Libraries Report.  I’ve been trolling this (and other reports) for an internal report I’m collaborating on regarding online teaching and learning.  I think this is the OCLC report featuring a poll that said that no students started their research with at the Library or at the Library website.

The Open Knowledge Foundation’s Data Journalism Handbook. I have many friends in journalism and PR, and I love that our fields are crossing here (despite the best advice not to).  OKF calls this handbook a “collaborative effort involving dozens of data journalism’s leading advocates.”  With a quotation from Tim Berners-Lee re Data Journalism, so you know it must be good. 🙂

– Following ‘s Sarah Houghton’s recent post on moving into Admin, K.G. Schneider has a great post with hints and tips on what it takes to lead a library organization (or any kind of organization, really).  Are you itching for LIS management one day?  Remember, get out of the library from time to time, save your bullets, and learn what a suit of armour can do for you.


Adapting to a changed world

A funny thing happened while Mark Lamster was writing about how libraries are more popular than ever for Metropolis Magazine.  Well, two funny things happened.  First, he didn’t really give enough evidence to prove his claim.  And second, he rhymed off the different ways that libraries have manifested themselves through the ages.

(I’m not going to fault Lamster for not sufficiently explaining his popularity claim since I assume that an editor wrote the headline. Besides, this is from a news site that is focused on architecture as opposed to information science. His concern lies elsewhere.)

I think all librarians need to read this article.  And I don’t mean that everyone should skim it between e-mails. I mean everyone should sit down and read it.  It won’t take long to do, I promise, so you don’t have to give me the tl;dr line. What’s so important about this article is that an outside observer is speaking to other outside observers about what libraries have looked like in the ages-old past, in the recent past and present, and what they will look like in the future. Lamster’s article inadvertently explains that the library as so many of us like to think of it – as a wondrous cathedral of knowledge and public reading room – is only a recent understanding of the term. Rather, libraries have been closed buildings with closed stacks and difficult-to-use technologies for centuries. Libraries have been loci of state power much longer than they’ve ever been the democratic, open, free spaces we think of them today. But as society shifted to become freer and more egalitarian, so did the nature of the library shift to become what we know it to be today. And libraries will change again, and again, to meet the needs and opportunities that future users bring.

I’m linking to Lamster’s article because I want to stress that libraries are not defined wholly by their collections. I don’t think that libraries must be filled with books in order to have any use to the world. Libraries with books are great. Libraries with books are beautiful, wondrous things, actually. But have no need to fear the library that has fewer books compared to x years ago. Libraries with fewer books can still be information hubs and community centres. A library that gives up stack space for meeting rooms and research space, that moves books off-site to make way for local business support centres or for information portals such as geospatial data centres, language labs, digitization centres, local collections, archives, etc., is still a useful space that serves the public good.

There’s a good chance some you will object or reserve judgment since the jury is still out on the long-term viability of collection models the prioritize access to licensed material rather than purchasing content outright. Some of the people Lamster interviewed also expressed consternation that libraries are adapting to the digital world in ways that don’t suit them. That’s okay: we can continue Whither Print? debate another time.  My argument is not whether collecting print is good or bad.  My argument is that we must honestly come to terms, as a profession, with the effects that advances in information technology has on our services and spaces. The world around us has changed, full stop. Online information repositories have increased in number and become easier to access, and our users now keep Internet access devices (read: smartphones) in their pockets where ever they go, so libraries must continue adapt.

Don’t fear change, fellow librarians, and don’t fear technology.  Embrace it, because your users have done so already. It’s better for us to be part of the online access movement and be able to guide its direction than to react to it. Let’s build and be present in the networks that link people, the places they inhabit (physical and digital), and the information they seek in their lives.

Part of me is cringing since I’m typing this today, in 2012.  And another part of me wonders if writing this on a blog will only preach to the converted.  That may be so.  But I feel a need to continue flying the flag and to declare what our role can be in this online environment.  I hope you do, too.