As a youth I remember intently studying the troubles of others — what they did when they got into trouble and how they got out of it. If the saying “You Learn From Your Mistakes” was so true, I wanted to be able to learn from the mistakes of others. I don’t do that as much anymore — probably because I have more than enough of my own mistakes now to learn from — but every once in a while a situation comes up where this urge strikes. The case ofresurfaced that youthful urge.
As libraries feel the need to join the social media landscape to meet a segment of their user population already there, it is useful to step back and get acclimated. There is a pace of information flow that is unlike anything else in the physical world, and a minor incident — be it an ill-advised policy decision or an unfortunate slip of the tongue — can quickly spiral out of your control. And that is probably the key word: control. You don’t, can’t, and won’t have it. It isn’t the nature of this media. “Damage control,” if you want to think of it like that, is honest, sincere, decisive, and quick communication with your users. As a counter example, I offer the case of Clinical Reader.
A non-librarian colleague forwarded a link to an essay by Mark Pesce called The Alexandrine Dilemma. From the context of one of the comments, I think it might have been the text of a keynote given at New Librarians Symposium in Australia last month. It is a thought-provoking piece that, well, provoked some thoughts.
Towards the end of the last chapter of his book, Nicholas Carr relates an anecdote about the visit of a guest speaker to the Google headquarters (emphasis added):
George Dyson, a historian of technology…, Freeman Dyson, was invited to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, in October 2005 to give a speech at the party celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of von Neumann’s invention [of an electronic computer that could store in its memory the instructions for its use]. “Despite the whimsical furniture and other toys, “Dyson would later recall of his visit, “I felt I was entering a 14th-century cathedral — not in the 14th century but in the 12th century, while it was being built. Everyone was busy carving one stone here and another stone there, with some invisible architect getting everything to fit. The mood was playful, yet there was a palpable reverence in the air.” After his talk, Dyson found himself chatting with a Google engineer about the company’s controversial plan to scan the contents of the world’s libraries into its database. “We are not scanning all of those books to be read by people,” the engineer told him. “We are scanning them to be read by an [artificial intelligence engine].”
Blake Carver (of LISNews and LISHost fame) announced two new projects yesterday: LISWire and LISEvents. In the same spirit that I would categorize open source, open access, and open knowledge, these services level the playing field for the publication of library-oriented press releases and announcements of events.