Posting to NGC4LIB
David Rothman wrote:
Jim, thanks for your reflections, and here’s something of interest. Nate Hill of the San Jose Library and the PLA blog wrote of the three Cs–collections, conversations and context–as functions of libraries. I like that mix.
Collections, Conversations and Context. I like that too: simple, clear and with a punch. Maybe that could be our new “Tune in, Turn on, Drop out” (!)
Currently, the systems have been trying to provide some of this, but nothing I have seen is really successful yet. One of the best I have seen so far is Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” that allows experts, and others, to comment on each page. http://thegoldennotebook.org/book/p1/ This is nice, but somehow, something seems to be lacking to me.
Concerning the Protocols, it is important to understand how the library supplied context in the old days. It worked in an ingenious way. In the old card catalog, you would open the correct drawer, browse, find the heading and flip through the groups of cards as you see in these searches in the LC catalog: (title) http://tinyurl.com/3gcggnw and if you knew enough, subject search http://tinyurl.com/3vb37al.
Just browsing the cards gives the searcher a context for the item–you see pretty quickly that there is some kind of controversy. Then, when browsing the shelves, you see a lot more. The thing is, people today very rarely browse catalog records like they browsed catalog cards and a lot of this is lost. Also, browsing the shelves is lost too. While there are advantages to keyword, there are serious problems as well, since the catalog was designed to function best in the other environment, and a lot has been lost in the transfer onto the web.
On the web with keyword access, you can wind up right in the middle of the item: http://www.archive.org/stream/TheJewishPerilTheProtocolsOfTheLearnedEldersOfZion/JP#page/n6/mode/1up and who knows what someone will think?
In a relevant case, I worked in a collection that had quite a number of books on globalization, but all were anti-globalization. My own political opinion is also anti-globalization, but since I am a librarian, my personal views are irrelevant, so I wound up buying a number of books that provided a much more positive view of globalization even though I personally disagreed.
Concerning appropriate texts, I hadn’t thought about it in this way before, but the problem you mention of appropriate texts may be fairly new (or maybe not!). While the concern of appropriateness was always there for librarians, it was more circumscribed in the sense that a specific institution had more circumscribed patrons, high school or middle school, research scholars or undergraduates perhaps, but now it’s potentially *everybody* (pre-school to senior researchers) using the same system (as they do with Google). Public librarians would have much more experience than academic librarians. It’s amazing that the systems work as well as they do, but there is still a lot more needed.