I read Marshall Breeding’s May 2017 “Library Systems Report 2017” way back when it was published in American Libraries magazine – but something struck me this morning while reading a completely unrelated article on politics/culture in the US…
(accessed from American Libraries magazine, 27 July 2017)
That if, as Breeding states, in the internet age, libraries are moving toward increasingly centralized, for-profit “solutions” for their tools and services – from technical services, authority syncing, reference chat tools and vendors for research materials of all formats (and I think he is correct), then libraries are moving away from their democratic ideals towards arrangements with a more fascist bent.
This trend in libraries of course simply reflects the state of culture at large that works by default with the internet.
But the end result, as I see it, is at least twofold:
- That the number of librarians and interested connected professionals are able to engage less and less in the design and implementation of those technologies across almost every front- This not only affects those people’s ability to engage in deep-dive lifelong learning, but it also means that “design local” as a guiding metaphor is being thrown out the window. Even as libraries’ staff talk about how much they like to serve their patrons/community/users (whatever each library wants to call its local constituents, it is actually less able over time to to design solutions built specifically for those very people.
- That one major result of the above trend as partially commented upon in bullet # 1 is a significant decline in diversity – this even as diversity & inclusion committees and working groups are being formed across libraryland in the United States. We talk about diversity and intellectual freedom in libraries. But we define those ideas in increasingly narrow terms if we do not take into consideration the elaborate tools that might be built if local libraries maintained their own servers, ILSs, and well defined privacy policies that could be much better managed if local libraries (of all types) maintained a higher level of control over their own systems.
The result of this trend migrates thinking & tinkering away from local decision making, policies, technological innovation towards a totalitarian model wherein diversity is discouraged and intellectual freedom is hindered across several important fronts – especially meaningful fronts in the information age.
A few thoughts…
Thank you for reading.
Good morning everyone.
The application process involves several long questions to justify interest, sort of like a personal statement when applying to graduate school.
Has anyone out there applied to this course in the past who would be willing to offer any advice?
Thank you in advance,
According to the Library Journal, Congress is debating whether to put a 10-year limit on the position of Librarian of Congress.
It has been a life-position since 1802.
According to the article, the Senate has already passed the bill unanimously – which has then sent it to the House to vote.
Curious, what do people think about this?
Supposedly, ALA is supportive of the change.
Thank you for reading.
One thing that seems to have gotten lost in the current conversation about access to information in libraries, scholarly communication (by way of Open Access Journals etc) is the notion that these technologies do not very well represent the past.
The Digital Humanities folks seem to be the best workers toward goals of representing the past with their digitization projects and increased contextualization of those documents. The time one takes to learn a subject is also an exhibition of time itself connected with artifacts, ephemera, books, and archived websites.
I mean, design in the networked era is always changing but there is nary a place to appreciate the web itself as a historically situated technology and tool that collects history.
The Internet Archive is the only place where the history of the internet can be browsed.
But that is only one place. Might we need an archive of the archive? You know, Lots of Copies Keeps Stuff Safe (L.O.C.K.S.S.). Yes, a micro-tangent.
They do offer a service (for a fee) for cultural heritage institutions called Archive-It, with which libraries, universities, museums etc can curate web crawls (collections of specifically chosen internet archives). This has some value. I worked with this tool a few years back at Folger Shakespeare Library.
But the main issue I see with the internet, digitized objects, born-digital resources, e-books, etc (and their archiving) is that the objects themselves, the files (be they DRM free, MP3, .PDF, .JPEG Open Source or Free Software tools, etc) is that the marks of history fail to make any impression on the objects themselves. These objects (say, digitized manuscripts from the 16th century in Arabic) may be surrounded by dates, historical contextualization and narrative, but are not, in my view, fundamentally distinguishable from an object created just 15 minutes ago. The encoding of the object is the same and the viewing is from the same point-of-view – – – from a screen or networked device of some kind.
Books and paper do not have this trouble. Each copy of an analog object is physically dis-ambiguous from its “exact” copy right beside it AND the travels and journeys (its history) will become evident increasingly over time because we live in a physical world. The networked age and digital agenda can not represent this fact. It can only state it – a fundamentally different thing.
Libraries and museums as physical spaces full of physical objects CAN and DO represent the past in a more visceral mode.
Thank you for reading.