Keeping Pace With Google: DVDs Are Not The Answer
It keeps clicking for me, and the good news is it seems to be clicking with some other folks as well. So I think this should raise a question. This is a simple question, though it's 800+ words long: With whom does this need to click for it to matter? Does it need to click with the ALA? The directors of the ACRL libraries? If I'm wrong, and this is yet just one more "end of the libraries" time, then our profession live through it just fine. If you agree with me, who should we being trying to convince we're right? Let me explain a little what I'm talking about here.
1. This is another "end of the libraries" time when some people are very worried.
2. We are nodes. We are a small piece of a huge information industry that we used to have a monopoly on.
1. This is yet another "end of the libraries" time:
Sometimes I forget I'm one of the new kids around here, and my grasp on history is tenuous at best. Most people in leadership positions in our profession have been around for decades. This gives them a much better long term view. They have years of experience and a feel for how things used to be. They've also been hearing gloom and doom for years. I have little to base this one, but this could be one reason many of the people who really drive our profession are just not engaged in this issue. In the past year we have Gorman and that guy from Indiana dismissing blogs and Google as an inferior product worthy of our collective scorn. More recently, Gorman spent his luncheon talk at LITA on Bibliographic control on the Web. Showing the librarians love for a precoordinate world, he also showed me he doesn't get it. It's important to note here I didn't see his talk, so I can only go on what I read. Did he really talk about a new renaissance in cataloging?
Gorman suffers from what my experience has shown to be a common trait among librarians that have years of experience: a strong need for control. The need to take information and cram it into subjects, the precoordinate way of thinking. And there's nothing wrong with that, or at least there hasn't been anything wrong with that way of thinking for the past couple centuries, but it may be time to think different and see where it leads us. In any case, while it matters a great deal what the ALA is focusing on, it also matters what John Q. Public is thinking.
The CEO Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library was just quoted as saying "Google is replacing the professional librarian, she has said. Libraries must stock best-selling books and DVDs to keep pace." That same Article quotes an ex-city councilman as saying "Looking ahead to the information age, this is just not the way people get their information," he said of the library's store of books. Is he right? Maybe, maybe not, but unless we're out there fighting to make sure our side is heard, libraries won't be the way people get their information in the future. Are we happy becoming a free replacement for Blockbuster video, or do we want to be in the information business in 20 years? Are we really keeping pace with Google by offering more DVDs? What happens with most people start using digital cable to get their movies?
So while I'm well aware that I haven't been around long enough to understand how things used to be, I'm not sure that's really a hindrance in this case. I really don't know for sure this really isn't just yet another "end of the libraries" time created by people who don't know any better. BUT, I'm as sure as I can be that we're in a different place and time now, and our profession is in big trouble moving forward, and I think it has little to do with Iraq, and much to do with Google.
2. Libraries are nodes:
It may now be necessary to us a completely different way of thinking about the environment we are now working within. The new way goes something like this: we are just part of a larger group of collaborative being who will all work together and bring order to chaos by using tools like Wikis. In my mind the jury is still out on the Wiki future, but I am quite certain the days of central authority control are quickly moving into the past.
The times have changed. Gandel quotes Kobulnicky as saying libraries are now buying "collections" of electronic material put together by others, I'd add we aren't buying anything, we're simply renting access time. We are no longer collecting and preserving, but like he wrote, we are simply negotiating for limited access. Gandel writes "Even the reference function of libraries facing increasing challenges from the Web" I think he both makes and misses an important point there. Allow me to rewrite his idea for great impact: Librarian's most important functions are being replaced by the Web. While this may be alarmist and over the top, I again ask you to think about what they web will be like in 5 or ten years. Do people think the web is replacing libraries? Whether or not they're right, it's a self fulfilling prophecy if enough of them think it. Gandel again: " As the Web continues to develop and expand, creating a vast array of information hubs, the question to be asked is: Will libraries be key nodes on this information network?" There was a time when we were THE place to come for information. That time has passed, and we can no longer operate like we are a monopoly.