Re: Bill Clinton: Create Internet agency

Posting to NGC4LIB

Both views are quite interesting to me.

First, the idea of Todd Puccio that:

Any agency, no matter how well intentioned, will attempt to protect its funding by keeping its funder happy.
In this case, whatever federal government administration is in power at the time. I certainly would not want to give any agency (How could it possibly really be independent ?) this kind of power.
Even our old advocate friend Sandy Berman accused the LC of being biased.
How much more would an agency of this kind be?

I agree that there is bias in anything created by human agency. Of course LC is biased: it is an official part of the U.S. government and absolutely must reflect its positions in many areas. Nevertheless, funding must exist and therefore it must come from somewhere. Where there is funding, there is power. This is just in the nature of things and cannot be avoided, no matter how we try.

If there is going to be a government, it involves getting funding and directing it toward initiatives. The question is: should there be funding for something like what Bill Clinton suggested? Is there a need for what he suggested? It all depends on if you think what he is suggesting is a type of censorship or not. I would be completely against censorship, but as far as creating a tool to help the citizenry, I would be for it, since that is the ultimate task of librarianship.

Laval Hunsucker’s view:

It is certainly not my experience that not-for-profit organizations or units therein ( including libraries ) are any less vulnerable to all kinds of manipulation than are private, for-profit corporations. Perhaps they are even more vulnerable.

I had in mind public entities that are subject to open scrutiny by the populace. Google’s algorithms are completely secret and they punish websites that overstep their “rules”. (See In any case, I think his statement that funding from taxpayers would be a worthwhile investment is fine, and similar to public funding of libraries themselves.

Also, Laval Hunsucker wrote:

If what you are talking about is the selecting in general of what should come to the attention of a creative researcher/scholar, then I doubt in fact whether there’s a competent and self-respecting scholar or researcher anywhere who would really agree.

We have discussed this before at length. The idea that a scholar has not needed help in finding worthwhile materials, thereby rendering library selection irrelevant has never been my own experience. I’ve worked in all kinds of institutions. I am fortunate to have some really famous  researchers as my friends so I am not just spouting smoke. The fact is, the moment someone searches a library catalog, they are utilizing the selection of librarians, who in turn use publishers, book vendors, their own scholars, and many others. There are all kinds of tools to help librarians select. Someone has to be responsible to decide which materials a library’s budget purchases, therefore, selection is unavoidable. My own experience (seconded by others) is that the creative researcher/scholar all too often concentrates only on his or her own preferences, and anything else can go hang or at least is of far less importance. The idea of maintaining a coherent *library collection* very often is difficult to understand.

Online materials have only made it more complicated. Anyone using Google relies on the selection done automatically with its page rank mechanism since nobody is ever going to look at item number 2500. (OK, maybe .001% of people will, but that only proves the point that the vast majority of  researchers need and want help) Selection of free, online resources is a completely different thing from the traditional library selection, but it is still necessary at least for the moment. Otherwise, people are left only with secret algorithms. Perhaps someday the Web2.0 tools will obviate the need for librarians in selection, but that will be awhile yet.

The problem is, many people equate selection with censorship. Too bad.