Everything is miscellaneous and libraries

Libraries aren’t just about information. So whilst this book is interesting, if a little frustrating at times, it is only dangerous if you think libraries are just about information. It is about one aspect of libraries, and all of its challenges can be met by a mix of genuinely new ideas and an application of some of our librarianship heritage.

everything is

and we will seek our order

and find others there


5 Responses to Everything is miscellaneous and libraries

  1. magia3e says:

    Why is it danerous to think that libraries are only about information? I’m not sure that you’ve put any argument forth. I really have had no experience of libraries beyond this. I suspect that others feel this way also.

    My university library held lots of information. If I needed something for my studies it was there. That was 10 years ago and when I recently studied my masters I didn’t once step inside a library because knew that I would have better access to information via Google.

    If I need to find a journal article or an author’s thoughts for research purposes I can now find it better through Google. I have greater access to information through the web than in visiting a library. I even have direct access to authors and professors through email. Some even blog!

    Today’s social web gives me access to this community in a way that the library never did for me.

    And now, if I want to socialise, I go to the coffee shop in Borders (a book shop) in the local Mall because I can pick anything off the shelf, read it before buying, talk to my friends, do business and socialise. If I need a book I can get it easier and quicker from Amazon than I can get it from an inter library loan from my local library.

    In the consulting game, we use the term ‘point of differentiation’ to distinguish ourselves from the competition. In the 21st century, what is the point of differentiation that can a library really offer? What makes it different from the competition that I’ve articulated here?

    …I would truely, honestly, and desperately like to know!


  2. Pete says:

    thanks for the question. You are right, I’ve just made an assertion here.

    In looking at ‘information’ simply as the stuff in books/websites, then yes, libraries can’t compete; less so as time goes on.

    If libraries are only about the social, then no they can’t compete either; they don’t get the money or time. The mall can be made much nicer, even if they don’t always have what you want. You can get a coffee! And as the social is equated with the web, they can compete even less; why go to LibrarySpace when you can have MySpace?

    I guess libraries ‘point of differentiation’ is that (in public library terms) they are public services. They are not beholden to shareholders. They are not limited to the profitable or even the pleasant areas. They do not always chase the latest. They will keep up as they can, but try not to leave people behind. They advocate access to information, to stories and to the community. When done well, they can represent the community to itself.

    A last point is that libraries and librarians are (yes, ideally) committed to information, stories and community. Amazon et al., great though they are, are ultimately committed to themselves.

    I appreciate this is very idealistic, but it is my honest answer. In my gut, I dont’ want information, sociability etc to be solely done by the shops and the software.

    I am also curious as to how ‘everybody’ now wants to contribute to things, and how this idea is driving so much service planning. I don’t doubt many people do want to blog/tag/mashup, but what of those who don’t? Or can’t?

  3. magia3e says:

    I’ve blogged on the taxonomy of the social web. It gives a little insight into the types of people involved in the online community of interaction, of creation of content, of commenting, and of observing and inaction.

    There are amazing people out there with more expertise than you or I on many subjects. My only wish is that one or two of them could pay me a visit once in a while and deposit a nugget of golden wisdom. Britannica don’t get this, but the Wikipedia guys do, and no one theregets paid.

    Ultimately, social psych explains much of the contribution culture. Without the extrinsic reward (money) many studies show most of us would still continue to work. Given this we know most of us continue to contrbute to online communities for the same reason – for the intrinsic rewards we get: personal satisfaction and peer recognition being chief among them.


  4. magia3e says:

    … and I don’t want information to be ‘owned’ by the shops either!

    I say, the only power in knowledge is in [freely] sharing it. If that means making it public rather than corporate then I am all for that!!!

    … strangely enough, that equates to communist idealism…


  5. Pete says:

    Well aye indeed. I veer between sounding like a libertarian, a communist and a liberal 😉

    I don’t doubt that people do for intrinsic reward, from the joy of sharing to validation through interaction. The concern I have is that online has the same issues as offline; these experts are great, but is the process of creating as open as it seems?

    I admit this is all new stuff to me. would be good to see some of it on MSc/MA/MLS etc curricula.

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