On Dec 7, 2017, at 3:51 PM, Tom Hutchinson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> But a lot of cracking good ideas from libraries, and the broader field of
>> Information Science are also not making their way into development in the
>> way that they should.
> I think that this is an important point. As a community, we've learned
> the value of using outside software. However we haven't learned the
> value of outsiders using our software.
> We are solving problems everyone has. How to organize information, how
> to preserve it long-term, how to find and utilize it... These aren't
> library specific problems. So why isn't the rest of the world looking
> to us for solutions?
Why aren’t people looking to us? There are many possible reasons:
* Our profession has traditionally associated itself with books,
not the content of books. People associate us with books.
* As a profession, we do not really know how to organize information
using computers; as a profession, we don’t know how to design a
database, index content, exploit data structures, etc. To most of us,
Excel is a sort of database program.
* The profession resolves around two things: creating collections, and
providing services against those collections.
* Computer science types deal with matrices, vectors, and graphs. They
manipulate arrays, hashes, dictionaries, and tuples. These are the
structures of information in a computer environment, and they are
(more or less) foreign to the library community.
* The profession forces an ontology on collections and then expects
people to understand the ontology.
* Even our own data is beyond messy. If we can’t migrate beyond technology
based in 1965, then how can we expect others to respect our abilities?
* The library credentialing process is really heavy on the principles &
ethos of librarianship, and it is weak on technical skills. Librarianship
is a professional degree, not an academic one.
* Libraries are often seen as a public good, and public goods have
intrinsic value which is hardly valued at all.
I assert librarians have been stewarding the things manifesting information, not really information itself.
In 1983 I decided to become a librarian. I heard about the “information explosion”, and I thought libraries would be a growth industry. Alas.
Don’t get me wrong. I think there are HUGE opportunities for libraries. Customization and personalization is/was one opportunity, but that got shot down because of privacy. Mass digitization is another opportunity, but copyright gets in the way. Increasingly, we don’t even build collections, but instead we license the ability to look at most of somebody else’s collection. Think “The Big Deal”. When you have a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. My current “hammer” revolves around natural language processing & text mining. Give me a corpus of plain text, and I will enable a person to “read" the corpus "at scale”. Enabling a person to use & understand the content they find — and they find a lot — is an opportunity.
Institutions change very slowly. Librarianship is an institution. Therefore, librarianship changes slowly.