Re: Bill Clinton: Create Internet agency

Posting to NGC4LIB

On 05/22/2011 10:41 PM, David H. Rothman wrote:

I agree with worries over censorship even if that isn’t Bill Clinton’s intent. And, yes, both librarians and journalists are solutions. No policing or corrections agency, though. I hate the idea.

My own concern is that so few non-librarians have an understanding what library selection (collection development) really means today. A good overview of the U.S. theory of selection is Peggy Johnson’s “Fundamentals of collection development and management.” 2nd ed. ALA Editions, 2009, available on Google Books (this section for free in the preview!)

Bill Clinton’s idea is to provide the truth, whatever that means. As the above book describes, there has been a tension to provide “what the public wants” vs. “what is good for them.” Part of this is the latter is the need for a librarian to provide “the truth,” which is extremely difficult–not only trying to determine what “the truth” happens to be, but also trying to define “what is the public?” in a non-stereotypical way. So librarians have focused instead on trying to provide “balanced coverage” as much as possible, and no librarian would ever want to say that their collection contains “the truth”. In this regard, you may beinterested in reading a section of an online book I wrote, “What is a Library?” at

In my experience however, these considerations of library selection may need to evolve into something different (somehow). It seems that it is slowly dawning upon people who use the resources on the Internet that they are being manipulated in all kinds of ways, not only through the resources themselves, but the Google-type searching and how it is all being manipulated in turn. As I have worked with people, especially younger students, they like one-stop shopping and want what I call a “Sam’s Club for Truth” where they can go to this great big place and find truth on the shelves just for the taking. The library information literacy programs are seen as big pains and are relegated to other classes students don’t want to take, and forgotten just as quickly as their basic algebra. In any case, people are not going to research the authors and corporate bodies in the books and articles they want to use. That’s too much work; nobody has that much time to do it, and in any case, that was what the entire bibliographic structure was supposed to achieve in earlier days: the author’s work was vetted using peer reviewers assigned by the publishers, the publishers were rated reliable or not, and libraries bought overwhelmingly from the reliable publishers through book jobbers, who did a lot of vetting themselves.

For all kinds of reasons, this relationship is breaking down and nothing has replaced it, primarily (I think) because selection processes for resources on the web have not been monetized yet. I personally consider the Google/Yahoo etc. tools as a modernized “Books in Print”, i.e. an essential tool of use mainly to bibliographers and librarians, never used alone but best used in conjunction with other tools. Google/Yahoo etc. misses a lot and hides much more, but nevertheless, they are the best we have. The newer tools such as Mendeley and specialized Web2.0 resources show great promise but are not coordinated yet. I have considered such coordination and management to be among the tasks of the future librarian.