So, this is quite a good thread, and it is quite interesting to read the
different viewpoints about what information resources libraries provide.
I'm wondering if we might look at this from a slightly different angle -
most of the discussion has been about what libraries include in their
collections. I wonder, though, if thinking about this through a collection
lens colors the arguments the wrong way. As I see it, more and more it
seems that users are less aware of the boundaries of a library's
collections; many of the discovery tools employed by libraries, or
available outside of libraries, do not limit themselves to a particular
collection (Worldcat local being a prime example of a library discovery
tool that provides discovery that is not bounded by a library's
collection). The role of the library as a provisioner, or broker, of
information, regardless of where that information is located, is seemingly
increasing in importance - in part, I think, explicitly because our
discovery technologies can now be unbounded from finite collections, and
because of this, the friction that users run into in discovering
information beyond their library's collections has been greatly reduced,
if not removed entirely. Users likely expect that if they can discover
that something is available, they should have access to it - a use pattern
best exemplified by google, but that I believe has transcended to the
library sphere as well.

So, if we stop thinking about libraries as collection building
institutions, and more as provisioning organizations, then the issue of
whether libraries incorporate free resources into their catalogs becomes
somewhat moot. The question more becomes, I think, if a user discovers an
information resource, what is the library's role in brokering access to
that content for the user? If we are indeed trying to meet our users'
needs, perhaps we need not to continue to build just-in-case collections,
but provide just-in-time access to information resources, regardless of
their location, and perhaps even without needing a local collection at all.

-- jaf

On 6/1/11 7:04 PM, "Alexander Johannesen" <[log in to unmask]>

>On Thu, Jun 2, 2011 at 9:11 AM, Jonathan Rochkind <[log in to unmask]>
>> There are some unanswered questions about what the purpose of the
>>catalog is
>> or should be in our users research workflow, and it's not obvious to me
>> that purpose will involve putting any possible book or article that
>>exists for free
>> on the internet in the catalog.
>I personally think that libraries in general still have some
>fundamental issues of just getting their head around the two-headed
>problem of free web resources. Not only are these free, but they don't
>physically exists. This has certain implications for libraries ;
>Free: as has been pointed out, sometimes this means not being peer
>reviewed, or doesn't have the quality seal of a publisher, and as such
>there is no process for libraries to really understand how that
>knowledge fits into the rest of their collection. (I don't think it's
>a price issue; it's more a fundamental model issue) It's sometimes
>hard to wrap your head around the concept of anything free being of
>much *worth* where in the past worth and often quality was measured in
>the name of publishers and the amount of peer-review or the reputation
>of the author. The Internet has *changed* this to the core; it's all
>gone or going, and new models are coming through the haze of confusion
>which I think the library world is both unprepared for and seriously
>underfunded to deal with.
>Links: The whole concept of web resources, of what a link (or a link
>to a mirror or cache) is all about confuses libraries who are deeply
>rooted in all things being physical. I know this is a dozy, but I
>still find this an issue when talking to librarians even today. The
>concept of virtual things in the library world really only exists with
>the notion of meta data, and I don't think the transition to the
>resource itself *also* being virtual has worked out well. Libraries
>*likes* physical objects, they *like* shelves, they *like* their
>buildings, and I don't blame them; we are physical beings who love the
>smell of paper, however books are not actually important, buildings
>are not actually important, that smell is definitely not important :
>Ideas, knowledge and concepts are, and that's what we all try to pry
>from the books. (As an aside, if ideas and concepts were valued more,
>why couldn't LCSH morph into something far, far more important and
>useful? The mind boggles at the lost opportunities!) You cannot pry
>anything from a link except the possible resource at the other end,
>but it is a few traceroutes away in a virtual place, and in need of
>technological interpretation on arrival, and then comes the next level
>of trouble;
>These are just the conceptual problem. The next real problem of
>technology and the library world is - despite the hard and excellent
>work put in by people like us on this very list! - that they are still
>a slow-poke in the realm of using and developing technology. Most ILS
>are charmingly quaint in dealing with these things. OPAC's are mostly
>dreadful. Backend infra-structure never powerful or big enough for the
>growing digital stuff coming in. Systems running always a bunch of
>features away from being what we need, only getting by on a barely
>useful set of features (that far too often the vendors dictates) to do
>the minimum we have to do. Yes, yes, exceptions here and there, I
>would never deny that, but look at library land as a whole; you're
>lagging behind and you cannot really compete in a world that needs you
>to not only run, but win. And frankly, you *cannot* win, not on
>technology. There's just no way. Winning this one requires not
>technology as such, but paradigm shifts in thinking, both from inside
>and especially from the outside, coupled with proper resourcing by
>people who understands the value libraries truly bring to the world.
>And this latter thing is becoming a real problem, I think.
>> One reason that libraries may not prioritize putting free ebooks in the
>>catalog is because
>> there are other places users can search for free ebooks on the internet
>>-- but there
>> aren't other places users can search for non-free ebooks that they know
>>will be licensed
>> to them as library patrons, or for that matter to search for physical
>>things on the shelves
>> that they know are available from their library.
>Seems like an odd argument to me. Why are we talking about the price
>and the format of the information rather than the *quality* of it? I
>thought a curated collection was the bee's knees, regardless of what
>formats used. Hmm. Maybe I'm thinking too much like a knowledge
>customer than a librarian these days, and I've lost my touch or my
>way. :)
> Project Wrangler, SOA, Information Alchemist, UX, RESTafarian, Topic Maps
>--- ----------------------------------------------
>------------------ ---