Why settle for mere digital copies of books (a la the Google Book Search project and the Open Content Alliance) when you can have an edition printed, bound and sent to you in the mail? That’s the twist behind a recent partnership announced by Amazon.com, Kirtas Technologies, Emory University, University of Maine, Toronto Public Library, and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
A post by Bill Harris at “Dubious Quality” with the title Information got caught up in my Technorati filter for disruptive change in libraries. Geoff Engelstein, a colleague of Bill’s mentioned this in an e-mail:
We were a generation of information explorers. They [Geoff's thirteen– and eleven-year-olds] are a generation of editors.
The context is a reflection on Bill’s part of the trials and feelings of success when conducting research: “you’d have to pull out a rack in the card catalog according to the alphabetized subject and flip through the cards. If you got lucky, the title of a book or a brief description would point you in the right direction. Then you had to actually find the book, skim through it, and hope that you’d find some information.” Bill even includes a link to a bibliographic instruction page showing how an actual card catalog works.
I really like Christensen‘s Theory of Disruptive Innovation (as he proposed in his book The Innovator’s Dilemma). It succinctly describes the challenges, if not the fate, of academic libraries as we navigate through changing expectations and fast-moving, turbulent technologies. In fact, I often find that in explaining my point-of-view on where libraries need to go that I draw the core graph of Christensen’s theory on napkins, whiteboards, hands — whatever I can find. Inevitably, with the enthusiasm for the topic and quick-moving hands, the lines don’t always match where they ought and that makes the concepts all that more difficult to explain.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It! “Explore History as it Happened: Google News Now Has Archive Search” Extra! Extra!
In my imagination I can see and hear the herald of the newspaper carrier on the street corner barking out this call. Except, Kids These Days would probably decry the use of dead trees to carry stale news and already be reading it on their PDAs and text-messaging each other on their cell phones. As it is, I found out about it through a story on Search Engine Watch (also found in Wall Street Journal and the U.K. Guardian and the New York Times) which itself touted Google’s “200 Year News Archive Search.” It is a nice service; I look at it, though, and have to wonder about the changing — if not outright diminishing — role of libraries as couriers of information. After all, couldn’t links to resources from the user’s local library be included right there next to the commercial article suppliers? If they could, why aren’t they? And what does it mean that they are not?
What of a service existed where the patrons selected an item they needed out of our library catalog and that item was delivered to the patron even when the library did not yet own the item? Would that be useful? With the growth of online bookstores, our users do have the expectation of finding something they need on the web, clicking a few buttons and having it delivered. When such expectations of what is possible exist, where is the first place a patron would go to find recently published items — the online bookstore or their local library catalog? Does your gut tell you it is the online bookstore? Would it be desirable if the patron’s instinct were to be the local library catalog?
I have been heard to remark to other librarians on occasion a comment along the lines of “Don’t fear Google; Don’t Chase Google; Let’s Out-Google Google!” After allowing the confused stare linger for a moment or the hysterical laughter die down, I explain my thesis: we have something Google doesn’t have — no, it isn’t the selective care with which we select “authoritative” material (the PageRank algorithm does a pretty good job at that); and no, it isn’t our warehouses of books (the Google Book Search project will pretty effectively capture that) — we have faceted metadata. And lots of it.
At any point in time, there is a college IT director trying to determine whether to upgrade, migrate away from, or stay the course with some software package that the faculty and students rely on to meet their instructional needs. A campus may have outgrown the basic CMS, and the Enterprise version is now needed to bring system performance back to an acceptable level. The CMS provider may have changed code base, requiring major staff retraining to follow the migration path. Costs could be up, service could be down, and new third party tools may not easily integrate. Yet even faced with all of these potential reasons to change, making the decision to do so is never easy. User communities hate change, hate training, and hate repurposing earlier content to work in a new environment.
Tom Wilson, LITA past president and all-around insightful posted a commentary to the “Where have all the programmers gone?” post that deserves top billing 1. Please read and digest it before coming back here. And it’s not late to the party at all, Tom — I believe it is only now just getting interesting.Trendster,
You may be wondering about the meaning behind the tagline for DLTJ:
We’re Disrupted, We’re Librarians, and We’re Not Going to Take It Anymore
If you’ll pardon the crude analogy, I’d like to borrow from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’ On Death and Dying — the Five Stages of Grieving: “The five stages, denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are a part of the framework that makes up our learning to live with the one we lost.”