Saturday, April 14, 2012

Re: [ACAT] Think like a startup

Posting to Autocat

On 13/04/2012 19:00, ... wrote:
<snip>
There are some good points there. I believe that libraries should take chances, and they should go out on a limb to support the user. But I hesitate when I'm told to "think like a corporation"--that is not the spirit of the library.
</snip>
While I agree with you, I think it is important to delineate more precisely why a library should not think like a corporation, especially a startup corporation that is willing to take real chances for substantial gain. Although it may be more or less obvious to us, it is people who are *not* librarians who will have to accept it and understand, since they are the ones who distribute the money, not us.

So, how is a library not like a corporation, or I would even say, not like a normal non-profit organization? For one thing, I would suggest:
Libraries must think in the long term, and in such long terms that normal corporations cannot understand. By this I mean, for a corporation, something from ten years before is essentially forgotten and obsolete, while the majority of the (perceived) value of a library comes from what the librarians acquired and did in the past, often 50 or many more years before.

As a corollary to this, much of the current labor of librarians may not really be used until many years in the future.

As an example, there was one place I worked (to be nameless) where I saw a very large collection of nicely-bound older materials (1950s and 1960s) that the head honcho wanted to throw away. I mentioned that this collection was very possibly unique in the world and I did a little bit of a search and found nothing anywhere. The response was that it had never been used. My reply then was that it had never been cataloged and nobody knew about it. If nobody knows about it, it cannot be used. The solution that I suggested was to catalog it, not as individual pieces (impossible with the resources) but at least as a collection.

It didn't work.

The idea that a library is not subject to the same laws as a corporation will have to be demonstrated sooner or later.

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