CarpentryConnect UK (2019)

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For those who may be new to ‘The Carpentries’ – let me introduce you. I first joined a Library of Congress sponsored Library Carpentry event designed to teach interested folks the intro to ways of manipulating data with Python and OpenRefine.

Screenshot from LC’s website (accessed 15 January 2019)

Library Carpentry is a subset of the larger educational entity, The Carpentries.

Screenshot from The Carpentries website (accessed 15 January 2019)

Well, it looks like an organization in the UK, the Sustainable Software Institute is organizing the ‘first European CarpentryConnect event in Manchester‘ in June (25-27 June 2019). This will be a networking as well as technical learning event it appears.

Screenshot from the Software Sustainability Institute (accessed 15 January 2019)

I wish I could go – but the American Library Association Annual conference is too close there – schedule-wise.

Maybe next time. Either way, this should be good. If you plan to be in Manchester in June this year (2019), and love the educational, open-educational model for learning to code, please consider attending or supporting in some way.


Jorge Luis Borges and #Book Suggestions

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Open Culture has a post listing the top 74 books, as suggested by Jorge Luis Borges, a reader should have in their personal library.

openculture(click on the image to be redirected to the posting at Open Culture)

Some of the items I am quite familiar with, but some I had not heard of – neither generally nor in connection with JLB.

Jorge Luis Borges’ terse, mind-expanding stories reshaped modern fiction. He was one of the first authors to mix high culture with low, merging such popular genres as science fiction and the detective story with heady philosophical discourses on authorship, reality and existence. His story “The Garden of the Forking Paths,” which describes a novel that is also a labyrinth, presaged the hypertextuality of the internet age. His tone of ironic detachment influenced generations of Latin American authors. The BBC argued that Borges was the most important writer of the 20th century.

Of course, Borges wasn’t just an author. When not writing fiction, Borges worked as a literary critic, occasional film critic, a librarian, and, for a spell, as the director of the Biblioteca Nacional in Buenos Aires. His tastes were famously eclectic….

1. Stories by Julio Cortázar (not sure if this refers to Hopscotch, Blow-Up and Other Stories, or neither)
2. & 3. The Apocryphal Gospels
4. Amerika and The Complete Stories by Franz Kafka
5. The Blue Cross: A Father Brown Mystery by G.K. Chesterton
6. & 7. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
8. The Intelligence of Flowers by Maurice Maeterlinck
9. The Desert of the Tartars by Dino Buzzati
10. Peer Gynt and Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen
11. The Mandarin: And Other Stories by Eça de Queirós
12. The Jesuit Empire by Leopoldo Lugones
13. The Counterfeiters by André Gide
14. The Time Machine and The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
15. The Greek Myths by Robert Graves
16. & 17. Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
18. Mathematics and the Imagination by Edward Kasner
19. The Great God Brown and Other Plays, Strange Interlude, and Mourning Becomes Electra by Eugene O’Neill
20. Tales of Ise by Ariwara no Narihara
21. Benito Cereno, Billy Budd, and Bartleby, the Scrivener by Herman Melville
22. The Tragic Everyday, The Blind Pilot, and Words and Blood by Giovanni Papini
23. The Three Impostors
24. Songs of Songs tr. by Fray Luis de León
25. An Explanation of the Book of Job tr. by Fray Luis de León
26. The End of the Tether and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
27. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
28. Essays & Dialogues by Oscar Wilde
29. Barbarian in Asia by Henri Michaux
30. The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse
31. Buried Alive by Arnold Bennett
32. On the Nature of Animals by Claudius Elianus
33. The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
34. The Temptation of St. Antony by Gustave Flaubert
35. Travels by Marco Polo
36. Imaginary lives by Marcel Schwob
37. Caesar and Cleopatra, Major Barbara, and Candide by George Bernard Shaw
38. Macus Brutus and The Hour of All by Francisco de Quevedo
39. The Red Redmaynes by Eden Phillpotts
40. Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard
41. The Golem by Gustav Meyrink
42. The Lesson of the Master, The Figure in the Carpet, and The Private Life by Henry James
43. & 44. The Nine Books of the History of Herodotus by Herdotus
45. Pedro Páramo by Juan Rulfo
46. Tales by Rudyard Kipling
47. Vathek by William Beckford
48. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
49. The Professional Secret & Other Texts by Jean Cocteau
50. The Last Days of Emmanuel Kant and Other Stories by Thomas de Quincey
51. Prologue to the Work of Silverio Lanza by Ramon Gomez de la Serna
52. The Thousand and One Nights
53. New Arabian Nights and Markheim by Robert Louis Stevenson
54. Salvation of the Jews, The Blood of the Poor, and In the Darkness by Léon Bloy
55. The Bhagavad Gita and The Epic of Gilgamesh
56. Fantastic Stories by Juan José Arreola
57. Lady into Fox, A Man in the Zoo, and The Sailor’s Return by David Garnett
58. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
59. Literary Criticism by Paul Groussac
60. The Idols by Manuel Mujica Láinez
61. The Book of Good Love by Juan Ruiz
62. Complete Poetry by William Blake
63. Above the Dark Circus by Hugh Walpole
64. Poetical Works by Ezequiel Martinez Estrada
65. Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
66. The Aeneid by Virgil
67. Stories by Voltaire
68. An Experiment with Time by J.W. Dunne
69. An Essay on Orlando Furioso by Atilio Momigliano
70. & 71. The Varieties of Religious Experience and The Study of Human Nature by William James
72. Egil’s Saga by Snorri Sturluson
73. The Book of the Dead
74. & 75. The Problem of Time by J. Alexander Gunn”

(accessed 11 October 2015)

#Cultural Heritage #Conservation Efforts in the Middle East

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       First of all, let me state that the happenings and notions discussed at this event, now one week ago, on 01 October 2015, left one with plenty to think about regarding the efforts and responsibilities of libraries and librarians around the globe. These responsibilities are as much about the future of preservation as they are about embracing a full and nuanced representation of the past in as many formats as possible.
       The event was organized by the Washington, DC chapter of Special Libraries Association – of which the current president is Deena Adelman.
       She introduced the evening generally, noted the DC Chapter is celebrating its 75th Anniversary Jubilee, and then introduced the MC for the evening, Michael Albin, who, as of the time of this writing, is a member of the Board of Directors for Voices for Iraq.
Voices for Iraq
       The three presenters for the evening contributed much to the discussion about issues in preservation and conservation in the Middle East.
       The first speaker was Michael Albin. His paper was called, Vulnerability of libraries and archives and restoration of what’s been damaged” – currently posted at Voices for Iraq. He talked about the inconsistencies in getting information about the state of libraries and archives out of Iraq, made mention of the International Federation of Library Associations’ (IFLA) decision to make the Qatar National Library the Arabic materials preservation and conservation center in the region, discussed the FBI list and warnings against the illicit trading and selling of cultural heritage materials and suggested that libraries and organizations get news verified about regional happenings before it gets submitted for publication because he states that much of it is either sent in a panic or is rather reactionary. He also expressed some thoughts that libraries and archives are not as prioritized as highly as sites and buildings in conservation and preservation efforts. He cited examples in Iraq and Egypt.
       The second speaker of the evening was George Pappagiannis  of UNESCO. His presentation tackled related ideas generally but explored completely different aspects of it – he talked about legal provisions and frameworks that surround UNESCO’s efforts to conserve and protect cultural heritage globally.
Specificallly, he mentioned the several conventions that have been put into place over the decades and that a weird law followed by the United States meant they stopped their annual dues for UNESCO. It seems the US is a non-dues paying member even though membership means dues should be paid. The US is now 4 years behind in its dues. As a result, when asked about how librarians can get involved, Pappagiannis suggested we contact our congress people and ask Congress to get current in its dues – in part because the dues sit about $80 million per annum and this is money which can be used for even greater conservation and preservation efforts globally.
       The third speaker, Mary Jane Deeb, head of the Library of Congress’ African & Middle Eastern Division, suggested a very upbeat approach to preservation and conservation work. Her presentation was about the synchronicity that occurs when good things happen in libraryland that allow for protection and conservation of artifacts and resources. She said, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” – which was really her mantra for the whole presentation. Specifically, she talked about an Afghani collector of photographs documenting all aspects of life in Afghanistan going all the way back to the Russian invasion of the country in 1979. This collection needed some funding to be collected and made available – a funder came through after some time to get the work done. She also talked about what seemed to her as a controlled burn by the Baathist party of their archives in the Iraqi national library at the start of the US-led occupation and war. But it seemed to her and her team that this burn was only meant for those items only – not anything else in the collection or the stacks. In addition, she praised the Shiite clerics who saved so many Iraqi manuscripts during the same time period. These were just a few of the examples she offered. Her emphasis, in tandem with Michael Albin’s earlier, was that though there are MANY challenging events in the work of preservation and conservation, not everything is doom & gloom. It was an inspirational presentation and was a superb conclusion to the trio of presentations.
       There was lots of chatting over catered hummus, grape leaves and baklava, thanks to the hosting institution, Bloomberg, BNA, and professional bonding over issues related to the responsibilities of libraries, museums, related institutions to protect and promote cultural heritage. 
       Thank you for reading.

Requesting Comments on USA FREEDOM Act

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(Image courtesy of Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin’s 5th District <accessed 20 Feb 2014>)

I am formally requesting personal or “official” comments and responses to The USA FREEDOM Act.

The USA FREEDOM Act states it would install oversight on FISA, data collection and, hopefully, NSLs.

Please leave comments here, e-mail jesse (at) or chat at Twitter.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.



#Metadata Production and Privacy in Libraries

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#Libraries and Social Media Pt. 2: Metadata Production and Privacy*

(A Thought-in-Progress)

By Jesse A Lambertson

Social Media Applications

In a previous post, I tried to gather my thoughts on the state of library-use of SOCIAL media and web 2.0 technologies and applications. There are so many in use I did not feel the need to list all of them in that post, just draw attention to their existence within the system and flow of information organization from different type of libraries.

I produced a list here (where you can find the link to download my reference sheet) of major and minor OSNs (Online Social Networks) platforms and their statements on either advertising structure, their mining of user-data and privacy. Obviously, these platforms and applications are used in a much wider context than libraries and cultural heritage institutions. In my search around the internet in English, I found a lot of applications that I’d never heard of before. I am positive other countries and other languages have developed their own.  I would be happy to receive information on any SOCIAL platforms from around the world or any others I missed in my collecting. If you find any, please e-mail the links to jesse (at) or reply below. Thank you much.

These applications are mostly free (in certain versions) to their users – though most also have advertisements either built into the applications from their creation or from other more traditional modes such as pay-per-advertisement models which promote or push that promoted content toward the top of a feed, add it to a video, add it to a certain page etc. This is not a bad thing. When people get together and invest in their ideas, they do so often with the intent to make money. The model now, across some investment areas, is to offer free tools and applications which are paid for either by direct advertising or the selling of metadata and some user data to clearinghouses that deal in such a thing. Many people have commented on this fact as being the most profitable feature of SOCIAL media applications and web 2.0 technologies. I won’t compile those articles here, but this is an area for future information collection.


American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom (ALA OIF) (librarians are well versed in the use of acronyms) has made several statements and resolutions on one’s use of a library with freedom to pursue all angles of ideas and that their freedom to pursue such ideas should be protected from unwarranted surveillance by polices and routines designed to hide user data from anyone other than the library user and the librarians who assist and provide reference services. This last part is mostly out of necessity because librarians work in libraries (of course). The ALA OIF has made statements viewable here and here on the use of National Security Letters (NSLs) justified by the USA PATRIOT Act and its renewal/reauthorization in which they do not deny the use, theoretically, of NSLs, but rather that the Letters are submitted only with very specific evidentiary requirements.  The ALA OIF states, “WHEREAS, the ALA is committed to preserving the privacy rights of all persons in the United States, especially library users and library employees…” I mention this statement, and link to the ALA OIF, not to rage against NSLs, but to get the conversation into the open about privacy and one’s use of the library. Issues of national security NSLs and governmental control/collection of user data in libraries a connected but separate topic – one I have touched upon here in this draft-like student whitepaper from University of Illinois’ DSpace digital repository.

Conflict of Interests

I see a conflict of interest inherent in the system right now with regards to increased traffic on ISNs, user-generated content and library’s encouragement of new media. All media is new when it comes out, but we love our terms. Everyone must categorize and provide schema for knowledge. This is why we like libraries – to put forth tools and thinking processes on how to work our way through the ever increasing subject areas and specializations. But categories and organization models have been in-use in libraries, both special and public, for a long time now and won’t go away with the internet. In fact, talk to any coder and page designer and you will hear about the increased use of tags, keywords and indexing – all of which fall under various definitions of use, value and debate themselves – depending on trends and context. Much of this has to do with the context of machine read information systems. But this context is precisely the point here. My context is libraries and their seemingly complete embrace of digital tools encouraging library users to “connect,” “engage,” and “interact.”

The very nature of these words changes in the internet age. No problems here. Words change. Have doubts about that? Head on down to your local library and access their subscription to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) – which you will need to do because that dictionary, the gold standard of English usage and its history, is only available via subscription and is no longer available in print. Once a user has gotten access to a digital tool, there are records of these connections and usage metadata. Some of this will never be escaped for the reason that libraries also need to exhibit their use and tools like the OED use that to market their value. This fact might be conundrum. But one thing about subscription databases is that they are making money by subscription models instead of simply by collecting data by users of free applications and selling that data through the clearinghouses I mentioned above. As the “market” model gathers more and more steam in areas where it was not the regime, we could easily see an uptick in data collection, sharing policies and privacy issues. Time will tell.

But from the point of view of library users and OSNs, most libraries sign off on ALA’s privacy statements (the ones I linked to above) by joining ALA’s membership ranks. These privacy policies in current popular discussion are dealing mostly with NSLs, now the NSA, Section 215 of the USA PATIOT Act and new variants of Total Information Awareness. But I see a slightly more insidious context developing in this current context. OSN’s make no bones about their advertising and their corporate for-profit structure and legal status. Good thing too. When someone starts a business, they want to do with it what it takes to make the most profit from it they are able to make. Carry onward. But libraries are not structured with this legal and declared ideology. If anything, there is one statement after another with the intent to show libraries exist to allow for the move into a different direction. But these same libraries advocate the embrace of OSNs and web 2.0 applications to accomplish the goals I mentioned above, engagement, connection and interactivity. Except, the very use of these technologies now monetizes personal activity online, shreds even thinner the demarcation of privacy between person and their intellectual pursuits and moves that data to more and more interested parties way outside of any one OSN or library “interactive” instance. The ALA has information about usage of OSNs here – including a PPT here which highlights some of these points.

I see this single point and its as yet un-elucidated sub-points as a major conflict of interest for library usage and patron visits. And there are so many reasons to go to libraries. Not all those need to be marked in databanks and sold.

Please take heed. More will come on this in the future.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

*All links and sources associated with this post were rechecked as of 07 February 2014.

If anyone wants to converse on this topic, don’t hesitate to e-mail me above or submit your information below.

#ALAMW14 in Philadelphia

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I went to Philadelphia in the snow and the cold to meet and learn at American Library Association’s Mid-Winter Conference.


(Image courtesy of <accessed 27 January 2014>)

The conference was held in the Philadelphia Convention Center right downtown on Market St and 11th St. I met many great librarians and library advocates from all over the United States. Besides searching for academic library jobs, I also got to talk about my own start-up, Metamedia Management, LLC and our work as 21st Century Librarians in document management and technology solutions to that end.

Besides meeting all my library colleagues and learning about applications being put into action in libraries and archives all over, I also took in an important discussion on the social construction and intersectionality of gender, inclusion, race, ablism, hiring practices and technology in libraries. I heard from people such as Coral Sheldon-Hess, Eric Phetteplace, Cecily Walker , Chris Bourg and Myrna Morales from Community Change, Inc. I live-tweeted from @meta21st (our company Twitter acct) and @jlibraryist (mine) as the discussion went back and forth between live-in-the-room to Twitter. I was happy and impressed to see librarians and library advocates bring together such important notions. Don’t hesitate to get involved in the ongoing chat on Twitter with the hashtag #libtechgender.

I learned about so many important technology and standards in use, but I want to draw attention to two intriguing online educational companies: First,  JoVE, Journal of Visualized Experiments, a video collection of science experiments meant to bring lab results and processes into the open in order to encourage continually tackling those processes to double-check, rethink and verify results.


The second company I got to hear about was EducationonDemand, a K-12 subscription service meant to deliver time-saving video education collections to teachers. They can be likened to a mix between PBS Learning Media and Khan Academy.


Take a look at either of these sites and see if they will work for you. It is good to see so many people adopting so many approaches and platforms toward connecting library work and education. These notions go together.

It was a good conference.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

A Bundle of Finding Aids

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My first post in 2014 – Happy New Year – ish!

Using the POWER of Twitter, er,  Bitly bundles, I made a collection of finding aids that brings together all the XML-encoded EAD finding aids I edited or wrote at Folger Shakespeare Library when I interned there in 2012. See below to find the link to the bundle.


(photo courtesy of National Park Service which credits DC SHPO – accessed 06 Jan 2014)


(photo courtesy of – accessed 06 Jan 2014)

(Please click on the bitly image to see the links to the finding aids)

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

Coining a New Term: #Libraryist :)

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Coining a New Term: #Libraryist


I am hereby coining a new term…that of “libraryist.” My Twitter handle, @jlibraryist, reflects this term already and I believe it can spread.

In the same style of this blog and its reach for new definitions and thought structure, I hope this term can come to mean something along the lines of, “libraryist, n + v,” “someone who works in libraries or who uses them with such insider knowledge that their use of the library becomes equivocal with working in one.”


(My handwriting leaves a little to be desired, thanks for understanding)

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines, “librarianship, n” as, “the office or work of a librarian” (accessed 06 Dec 2013). Not quite circular, but certainly vague.


The OED defines “librarian, n” in two important ways: “The keeper or custodian of a library (This word has supplanted the older library-keeper)” and “a scribe, a copyist (Obs) (accessed 06 Dec 2013). I see these terms overlapping even though the use of “librarian” as copyist has fallen out. I consider this overlap because there is a notion of “librarian” as writer – as not only producing and managing information organization, cataloging schema, metadata for all formats and objects on shelves. It is as if the librarian exists as more than a keeper of items and records in all formats, but also as a producer of some of that same information. What do you think? I believe there is space here for a new definition.

Of course my definition of “libraryist” will change over time as all definitions do – shown by just the two other terms, “librarianship” and “librarian,” in this post. No term is complete in either its definitions or understanding. For not only do definitions change, libraries also do. I am looking for a definition that encompasses as many spaces as possible – those other spaces of library use where we are as interested as thinking about libraries as we are about using their collections, resources and services.

You can comment here or at Twitter.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

Library Budget Debate

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In the era of budget cuts and making the most of existing cash flows for academic libraries, the recent attention drawn to the possibility for serious services cuts at University of North Texas’ library, the news and the petition filed at, have shown how many people are interested in libraries – students and life long learners.

The heavy issue remains about funding. There are open debates about how to convert libraries into content producing entities, how, if it all, libraries should “compete” in the market (which is a pretty serious presupposition given the nature of democratic reading in the John Stuart Mill mode of free intellectual pursuits) and where to move funds in the structure of the university for reasons of fairness.

The thought creeps into my mind, given the recent articles, say at The Atlantic, on high school sports, but still quite relevant, that one mode of funding is to turn a percentage of revenue generated from college sports, which are nonprofessional, toward the university’s research goals. I am sure most institutions have thought about this and currently have a policy in place. These funds could be used for collections, innovation and paying those increasingly expensive subscriptions to journals. I am simply thinking of a way to unify the university, not split it between academics and everyone else. Isn’t this why we emphasize university education in the first place – to pursue reading and thinking habits that enable life-long learning, a cultural and personal need that will last much longer than anyone’s ability to maintain top tier abilities in a physically demanding sport?*

Many universities, University of North Texas included, charge fees to each student enrolled that go directly to fund the university library. Most universities have more than one library – which are oft times subdivided into disciplines and are built into spaces closer to those majors. I don’t know how these subdivided libraries are funded even within the same university. Though this could be a research project by itself. Athletes who play university sports represent, surely, every possible major within the university and revenue could thus be shared, if not with the library directly, then at least for various research resources and database access costs that are currently part of library services.

Believe me, I’m a fan of sports. I personally put hours of my life weekly into bicycle riding and I enjoy live baseball. I’m just thinking about this issue of money and am trying to do so without setting up any divisions or dichotomies within the academy. I am really wondering about overlapping interests in which the stakeholders represent a diverse population across the entire university or college. I’ll entertain any angles of response.

Reply here or at Twitter.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

*These thoughts are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer. ☺

#Libraries and Social Media Identity

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#Libraries and Social Media Pt 1: Identity

(A Thought-in-Progress)

By Jesse A Lambertson

In Hal Niedzviecki’s book, The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors, Niedzviecki analyzes the current mode of SOCIAL media and use of assorted web 2.0 technologies as not simply directed toward gathering information and learning – the rhetoric constantly used to justify one’s use of these applications – but are used instead to create a form of identity. He asserts his point on the notion every SOCIAL user and web 2-0 content producer believes their lives are as important as everyone else involved in the media. He suggests the response to that feeling is not only to build “connections” to others for learning and sharing about oneself in order to feel on equal ground, but rather the use of SOCIAL and web 2.0 technologies creates the existence of one’s self in that universe. What you see in SOCIAL and web 2.0 sharing-applications IS what you get. Interesting premise.

For a time, let’s suggest his point is spot-on. If that is the case, how might we turn this paradigm toward the now ubiquitous use by libraries of SOCIAL technologies ranging from branded blog platforms, Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter to WordPress (to name a few)? I don’t know if we can make a final argument about SOCIAL technologies and its use by libraries of all kinds – academic, digital, public, research and special. My goal is not to draw attention to any library on any one point or example, just to strike attention to the idea being ruminated upon in this post. I don’t want to step on any toes of course. I just think this is a topic of study that has not gotten enough attention yet across library types.

My disclaimer: My views do not represent those of my employer’s, they are my own. Also, there are so many variations on SOCIAL media use, please fill in my blanks and accidental omissions with your own observations and don’t be afraid to show them to me here in the reply field or on my favourite of the SOCIAL platforms, Twitter.

Academic Libraries

Academic libraries are not all research libraries. Nor are they necessarily special libraries such as archives, image collections, map collections, medical libraries and law libraries. But what I see in my observations is that all of these libraries tend toward the same SOCIAL media and web 2.0 use. Some academic libraries use their SOCIAL profiles to directly state in yet another medium what they think they want to look like to their users; some use these applications to produce a quick information dissemination mode as students carry their mobile devices with them and can learn about events or alerts; some seem to want to create an “easy” web 2.0 alternative to walking in the library at all; some use web 2.0 technologies to promote content in OTHER web 2.0 platforms (such as Twitter to blog, or Blog to website); some run a live feed of their SOCIAL media on their normal websites; some use these technologies to draw attention to regional factors that may affect library use or resources; some link to other libraries’ resources, say within a library consortium, that they feel would be relevant to certain “followers” of their SOCIAL media feeds; many use web 2.0 technology as a form of sensational news (in lieu of having a “broadcast station” always on; some use these technologies as a reflection of the Learning Commons model they’ve adopted in the library brick and mortar spaces; and some use these assorted technologies in an advocacy capacity.

Academic libraries have realized, without stating so directly, their use and dissemination of information and trivia via web 2.0 tools straddles a contradiction of sorts. The first is that much information spread must be overseen by someone who has been entrusted by the institution to spread said info. We call this “vetting.” In this we find institutions determined to control what they “look like” to the outside world – this is their attempt to control their identity in SOCIAL media and web 2.0 platforms (in addition to the trusty website and library specific tools that have been there for years already). The other side of the contradiction straddling is the notion of dialog friendliness, trying to promote something that looks like connection and conversation in these consumer products used by not simply high level researchers and graduate students with narrow abstract goals in their use of the these libraries. I don’t have an answer for this contradiction. But it seems to be a slight unbridgeable gap between the affectation of “everyday” conversation marketed with use of web 2.0 technologies and the maintained image of the image engaged in that conversation with those technologies.

This contradiction is particularly interesting because academic libraries are increasingly jumping on the “big data” bandwagon by producing data on their own in the form of metrics and use statistics. One of the features not evident to those who may read or follow SOCIAL media produced on behalf of these libraries is that as information professionals look at all the numbers associated with access, use and other features, libraries are wont to also track, not users, but whether use of all of these applications increases traffic, use, connections etc. The truth is that a great deal of the data produced by these technologies is owned by the companies that produce these platforms. The other item worthy of note relative to this contradiction is that even as libraries jump on the SOCIAL/web 2.0 bandwagon, they are also the site where many technologies are used that take much time to learn and that contain links to articles, e-formats and databases unavailable just because an interested party “follows” their Facebook page or Twitter feed. I talk about this notion a little more below as it relates to digital libraries. The point here is that even as these web 2.0 technologies are used in greater numbers, the very quality of the academic library where students and researchers check out subject monographs, read subscribed articles for papers on a diverse array of topics, and find other media just for fun, is steeped in nuanced faceted search levels, intellectually created subject access, tags, owned catalog records, archival items in hazmat controlled vaults and experts (subject librarians) who will in fact aid in quicker and more efficient deeper research pathways. I am not saying these features cannot be combined with web 2.0 applications, but it is not their strength to aid in such goals. So when we say ask where a particular library is using some form of SOCIAL media, we might also consider what that really says about the identity of the institution in question.

Digital Libraries

Some digital libraries are not libraries per se, but are abstract organizations that act as advocacy units for digital libraries. I am thinking specifically of the Digital Library Federation. But some of these, such as the World Digital Library, is a specific library with connections to other larger organizations. I mention this because how SOCIAL applications are used by these groups is not always used with the strict attention to their own interests, but of those organizations that have funded or invested resources. So sometimes, information dissemination pushed out on SOCIAL applications gets pushed again by other organizations with vested interests of their own. I am not saying this is at all a bad thing. I simply draw attention to it because whatever identity or status one SOCIAL or web 2.0 application may enjoy is slightly changed with this realization. Others use web 2.0 applications to draw attention to new campaigns or digitization efforts.

The odd thing about digital libraries, which makes one think they exist on the open web for easy and free access, is that even though these efforts are taking place, and one would really want to tell interested parties about them, the collections being promoted are not always available in any way other than subscription. I am not using this post to get into issues of publishers, embargoes on copyrighted publications or open access, I have already commented upon these topics and I will continue to learn more over time. Subscription is not inherently a bad thing, But digital libraries are not always accessible on the open web. In fact, it is precisely the definition of the term, “access,” commonly used now with regard to getting information and research resources which sees its clearest use in digital libraries because “access” feels like a technical term (access codes, access granted etc) not necessarily related to simply seeing art, seeing manuscripts or reading books even though the OED defines it as, “To obtain, acquire; to get hold of.” The comedy of this is that even if resources are freely available on the internet, it is actually made possible by a series of access codes through control systems that allow your device (mobile, laptop or desktop) to communicate to the servers at the digital library and retrieve the items you have requested either via database query or URL request.

When digital libraries use web 2.0 applications, much of these harder issues related to information gathering and dissemination are hidden from view by the very fact that MANY web 2.0 applications are themselves being given to users free of monetary charge – this applies to many blogging applications (even WordPress has a free edition of its full code that can be hosted by anyone without using WordPress’s servers used for their more controlled themed platforms), Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and even Reddit. Thus, in terms of what identity is being indirectly postulated in instances of web 2.0 application use, the question is thrown into a bit of disarray. One of this factors which does fit, however, is the obvious and direct connection between lots of technologies being used to produce digital content (“born digital” we sometimes call it), its storage, preservation, visual representation and then retrieval. These are attributes that affect library identity because of the very technologies being used.

Public Libraries

Public libraries may not have long lists of special collections nor widely available digitized objects; but they do have something in their favour regarding the use of SOCIAL media and web 2.0 technologies – they are a tax supported organization run by civil servants (even if they are trained librarians). And as a result, their user base comes from quite diverse subsets of the population – much are tax payers themselves and can use pretty much every item in their collections. And to tack on a little side note, most of these freely available web 2.o technologies are embraced on a mass scale by users from every ethnicity, economic tier and educational achievement – precisely the population that makes use of services and resources at the public library. But let me not make the mistake that web 2.0 technologies, which make use of the web and digital infrastructure are the same in their nature as the identity of public libraries. They are not. The data and metadata produced by many SOCIAL applications on the web and used on the ever increasing number of mobile devices is used for profit, bought and sold, by many different interests out there. It is not clear this data is really collected in order to further democracy or to help people learn or to get jobs – these are some of the reasons public libraries are used. And libraries are operated as a public service by tax paying citizens and sometimes fund by the federal government and philanthropic persons or organizations. So when we remark that public libraries are using freely available web technologies, SOCIAL media platforms and other like applications, we are trying to connect one institution, a non-profit, with another institution, that of the companies with clearly stated monetary reasons for their being – that of increasing profits for their shareholders (and sometimes their employees). The irony of this of course is that many employees of these companies also pay taxes and turn right around and use their local public library.

Public libraries have many different uses for SOCIAL media and applications such as blogs etc. For instance, some libraries have added them as an afterthought because it’s “what’s happening” (this will be the case with some libraries in all categories); some have dedicated staff who produce, program, code and add content as part of their job description; some use these applications to have informal “chats” with followers; some use them as open “help” boxes where library users can send in their concerns with issues such as the catalog being down or a technical glitch in a transition from one interface to another; some use them to promote events that are national in scope but which libraries have gotten involved with (I am thinking about the annual NanoWrimo); some draw out collection spotlights of all the formats they carry (the good thing about this is that every collection item highlighted in a web 2.0 platform can theoretically then be used by every follower who has read about it); and some prefer to use the technologies in a formal way, more like a press release of an event or something. There are all kinds of ways Public Libraries use SOCIAL media and web 2.0 technologies. But this is sort of fascinating because the style can vary much from public library to public library even though public libraries’ mission statements remain fairly consistent.

Collections vary too according to local usage and budget restraints. Public libraries are, after all, a tax funded feature of the local government –city, county or state. Maybe the patron usage of SOCIAL media is what then determines the usage by the library. But what does this say about the identity of public libraries as an institution? This is where the line between users and the library becomes blurry. I will have to exit this section with these questions in mind.

The question was opened about what identity was produced by libraries of all kinds using SOCIAL media and web 2.0 technologies in a culture increasingly dominated by them. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration if the question is worth anything. I am not saying my original premise is even true, just that there may be something to it. I may take up this topic again in the future.

Please don’t hesitate to reply in the field below or “chat” about it on Twitter.

Thank you for reading.

Jesse L.

*There  are a couple instances of words that have an extra “u” in them. I just like the English spelling and find it easy to type by default.