Posting to NGC4LIB
On 05/10/2011 02:11 PM, Eric Lease Morgan wrote:
The way libraries cooperate (or not) has always baffled me. As a group, I think us librarians outnumber the largest of companies. If we were to pool our resources together to a greater degree I think the profession would be able to do so much more. Different concerns? I’m not so sure about that. I think we — librarians — have more things in common than differences as long as we focus on the forest and not the trees.
Where could cooperation be used to its fullest? Well, I have a hammer, and everything often looks like a nail, but I think the development of interactive metadata sharing technologies is one of the best things we as a group could work on. Another is mass digitization.
I have never understood it either. Even in the standards we purport to follow (AACRs etc.) the records have never really been good enough and each library has had to resort to updating copy records, until many gave up because the numbers became overwhelming–NOT because the quality improved.
Metadata sharing is good, digitization is great, but I have mentioned before that I think libraries have to reconsider what they offer that is really unique–something that nobody else offers in this new environment. That is not easy to discover at this point in time, and a case in point is when automobiles overwhelmed the horse and buggy industry. Today, we can look back and easily see that the mistake that those people in the horse and buggy industry made was: they thought they were in the *horse and buggy industry*, and this meant thinking about horses and buggies. From our viewpoint, it is easy to see that they were in the *transportation industry* and everything is totally different. They just couldn’t see the change.
Those folks in the horse and buggy industry were certainly no stupider than we are (some of them were deeply well-read and educated) and I am sure they wracked their brains what to do. I think their example shows that it is very difficult to see certain trends when you are in the midst of them. In the same way, I am afraid of librarians making the similar mistake of thinking we are actually providing services that are already obsolete. What do we provide that people really want and can’t find anywhere else? I have discovered that one thing people want and need desperately is *selection*, since *everyone*, from child to senior researcher, is afraid of falling into a web of false information on the web. For good reason, they are concerned enough about for-profit companies doing the selection for them since companies have their own concerns. Crowd-sourcing may be a part of the solution, but is subject to incredible manipulation. When looked at in this way, the traditional library concept of “selection” changes into something different, but very probably for the better.
I think librarianship could fill this kind of void, so long as we were able and willing to change in some fundamental ways and cooperate in ways and with groups that would have been more or less unthinkable previously. But if such a change happened, it would effect every unit in the library (except shelving. Maybe!). I am sure that there are other *unique* services that librarians provide and that people are clamoring for, but this is the only one I have managed to figure out.