Review of Glut- Alex Wright

November 30, 2007

Glut on Amazon : Glut on LibraryThing: Glut in Libraries

Glut is certainly ambitious, covering as it does all of human evolutionary history. Wright seeks to put information handling into its genetic and social context. Not being an expert in either field, I’ll need to look a little further to see if it holds up scientifically.

Wright covers the history of information management, from the earliest systems on clay to current issues around folksnonomies. As a sentimentalist I was glad to see Paul Otlet get his due- though sadly no mention of Suzanne Briet- and it was interesting to be introduced to the ideas of Ted Nelson. At times some of the coverage feels like side alleys, but on the whole there’s a coherent thread.

Wright’s conclusion seems to be that the ‘old’ hierarchies can- perhaps should- coexist with the ‘new’ networks in a mutually strengtening relationship. This is something which appeals to me.

It has been pointed out that Wright makes several errors (or assumptions if one is being generous…) and certianly there were points when I thought ‘that’s not so.’ But overall this is an interesting book making some interesting points.

Personal note: my girlfriend echoes Karen Coyle’s apparent attitude to ‘information architect’ as a job title.


Of numbers and new libraries

November 30, 2007

Edit, 03/12– for those of you who do not know, Tim (Coates) was the consultant on the Hillingdon library restructuring. /Edit

As I said over at the GLG blog, it is encouraging to see the increase in book loans at the first of the revamped Hillingdon libraries.

As I have said in a follow up comment, we now need to know what people make of the new physical environment- this, as much as the (apparently still to be delivered) new books, will determine if the initial increase is sustained. There has been a mixed reception to the design. Having only seen photos I can’t say as it looks that impressive, but perhaps close up it is.

As a library manager, I would also want to know who is borrowing these books. Have new readers been added? And what books are being borrowed?

Longer term there is the issue, highlighted by opposition councillors, of the changes in staffing structure and the potential impact on service. We shall have to see on that.

One amusing point is the ‘sweet talking’ by Cllr Higgins of Apple. Yeah, top negotiating skills there- persuading a big company to take free publicity in return for a few computers. And why Apple? If you want to stick it to the IntelSoft Man, why not go with local PC suppliers and Linux? And if it’s all about money- which I suspect it is- why not just go with Windows? The involvement of Starbucks and Apple just makes me wonder about some of the financial aspects that have been so prominent- is this how savings are made? Edit As I have said in the comments, it is not a problem to make savings via the involvement of outside firmsMuch less am I implying any impropriety. Rather this is of a piece with my concern that public libraries reflect their communities and support local enterprise where possible. /Edit

Welcome to the Public-Private Library. My objections are not to efficiencies, or saving via alternative funding streams. Rather I would hope for local firms to be approached before big names- part of my broader concern that public libraries reflect their locale. Although, having a Starbucks (or Costa, or Caffe Nero…) these days is probably quite reflective of many areas.

The middling sort

November 22, 2007

Walt Crawford returns to the issue of being in the middle, and quotes your author quite extensively.

This has led me to think a little more on this. In a previous life I studied religion, and in the course of that considered the issue of belief continua and balancing extremes.

One group I looked at went beyond the continuum I was studying, asserting that such an approach held them back and led only to argument and weakening of the cause. Better, they said, to move beyond the opposites and go for a truly holistic approach.

Perhaps this is closer to what I’m looking for. A new perspective where it’s not about holding the middle but rejecting the opposites and looking for a better synthesis.

A true user centredness, based on asking not observing and extrapolating; on confidence in what we do and offer; on caring about all users, not ‘the user’ we identfiy with; on a human approach, for want of a better word.

Of ebook readers and kindling

November 21, 2007

Yes, the Kindle; crazy name, crazy product?

There’s a lot of talk about it. There are essentially two camps:-

1. It’s great, a real space time and tree saver

2. It’s not great, a DRM’d up overpriced waste

I wonder if ebooks are an answer to a problem that doesn’t exist. Or, if it does exist, isn’t seen as so..problematic. People seem happy enough with print books, and the much vaunted advantages of ebooks don’t grab them. As was pointed out by an Amazon forum post, a lot of people don’t see the need to carry 200 books at a time.

As Michael notes, there is also the issue of public lending right for libraries to manage before they can really get on board with ebooks. And proprietary file formats are also a problem; which ones do you buy to lend?

As for me, I won’t be getting one. I can see its place in the information ecology that’s developing; as a reader for academic texts, for access to encyclopaedic information. It’s just not a need I have right now.


November 5, 2007

Off to London tomorrow for the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) Committee meeting. Sadly there will be no time to go and see the Ruislip Manor library- the first of the Hillingdon new libraries.

We will be discussing the role of research in libraries and librarianship, particularly how research can be encouraged and the results better shared.

The LIRG Committee maintains a blog on the CILIP Communities page. All CILIP members are welcome to read and comment on it.