On 10/06/2013 16:13, Anderson, William wrote:
As a thought experiment what would such a distributed exercise look like, and what would the economics look like behind it. We do have the model of the public commons, combination social meeting space, business technology center, event venue, and (?) roving information consultants it sounds like. Likewise we have the idea of more free roaming librarians that, say at academic institutions, would be assigned to classes or specific projects on a temporary basis. Likewise for other government and other institutions.
The basic idea is that since collections no longer need to be tied to a single location, the librarians don’t either. The information goes out to the public and it only makes sense that if librarians want to be a part of that, they need to as well.
I did not mention cataloging or metadata, as I’m not sure how that would fit into the picture, whether there will be a “back of the house”. A victory of the extrovert view? (Susan Cain’s book keeps coming back to me) Perhaps, in my most self interested keep-my-job view, a pairing of metadata librarian and public consultant would be a viable model, a multi-talent team based approach a la Leverage.
In my opinion, metadata/cataloging would be the key to the whole thing and one reason why I believe librarians and catalogers are completely missing the boat. If we want people to believe we are “experts” (which we are) then we need specialized tools. Tools that do the job. And most importantly, it is completely irrelevant how complex the tools are or how many specialized ones there happen to be, so long as they do the job. People understand and even expect that experts need specialized tools: your dentist needs special tools, your surgeon needs other tools, your butcher, your baker, your mechanic, your lawyer…. Each one has dozens of highly specialized tools they need to do their jobs. People realize that for experts to do their jobs effectively and efficiently (therefore, cheaper for you with better results) each expert needs special tools that they know how to use. We want them to use their tools–we just want them to use them well and effectively for us. Regular members of the public know that if they spent weeks, months, or years, they too could also learn how to use those tools but they aren’t interested and don’t have the time. People just want the job done ASAP. And done well.
So, the task should not be to build tools that every child can use–the job should be to build tools that do the job. Compare this to going to a dentist and seeing that his only tools are a pair of pliers, a toothbrush and a bottle of whiskey. I will not let that dentist touch me. I want to see lots of weird tools that I don’t understand and that make bizarre noises, otherwise, I would have no faith in the dentist. I suspect that may be how many members of the public think about librarians when we use exactly the same tools they use.
If you can make tools that do the job, people will pay for you to do that job. History shows this clearly. So, the problem for librarians (catalogers among them) is to find out very clearly what the job is or in other words: what do people want from information? Then give it to them no matter what it takes. And it’s time to throw those dogmatic FRBR user tasks into the trash bin, that’s for sure!