Have Libraries Lost the Search War?

Dave Lankes shares a conversation because, to him, it goes right to the heart of what he has been saying about the need for librarians to be innovators and leaders.

It is a constant drumbeat that we must change and make our libraries relevant. But dammit, we must move beyond bullet points and slogans and translate this drumbeat into real risk, real action, real new thinking.

He closes with a great series of questions:

Why can’t we replace the “Read” posters that portray libraries as places of things with “Ask” posters that show them as places of curiosity? Why do library gaming programs have to be some sort of lost leader to reading when gaming is a literacy unto itself? Who said the catalog has to be the public face of the library on the web? WHY CAN”T LIBRARIES REINVENT SEARCH?


We *can* re-invent, but it means using social technologies and giving up the idea that the MLS has much relevance when it comes to doing search.

We (IMNVHO) need to focus on providing (intermediated or not) access to knowledgable people, hopefully ones employed at libraries. If a person is interested in a visit to Israel, say, books, websites, DVDs, etc. may all pale next to the experiences of the office secretary who has just gotten back from such a trip.

Every urban area has librarians who are topic experts. Connect them. Our library users need to talk with them, be interviewed by them ... only then a *stellar* search can be done.

>Why do library gaming programs have to be some sort of lost leader to reading when gaming is a literacy unto itself?


1) Do you mean loss leader?

2) How is gaming a literacy unto itself?

Literacy definition:

Able to read and write.
Knowledgeable or educated in a particular field or fields.
Familiar with literature; literary.
Well-written; polished: a literate essay.

One who can read and write.
A well-informed, educated person.

Really good gaming requires information literacy - but gaming varies.

Really good games have had me searching for books on Muslim culture and history; searching road maps and google maps for satellite views of faraway towns; reading Shakespeake, Lewis Carol, Bradbury, and all the Oz books; finding proper clothing for almost the span of written human history; learning algebra, polyhedrons, and probability when I was struggling in math class; challenge a theater teacher on Peter Brook's principles about what constitutes "theater;" and being able to accurately explain vampire myths across 4 continents. It's also taught me some very creative swearing.

Sadly, education has not been a traditional focus of gaming, even though gaming has to potential to be an outreach tool for gamers to learn how to conduct research for anything they may need. Librarians can't ignore or scoff at gaming - any type of gaming. They need to learn to engage it as a way to start non-traditional, non-text based learners onto principles which will help them solve problems and further creative development. This is especially true when encountering someone who has ADHD, Asperger's, or a very concrete or "body active" learning style that needs to be moving or doing something with the information in order to gain interest and have the information "stick."

So, card catalogs was over 1100 years old by the time I started using them in the late '70s. As far as I am concerned this was one of the most efficient, well defined, user-friendly technologies in history. It was the child of the evolution of libraries and librarians over all that time.

Ok, things are moving much quicker now. Competition is stiffer. We don't have 1100 years this time. How can we effectively build systems which identify, collocate, and evaluate the myriad of media available in the 21st century.

Some thoughts:

1. Information seekers must be "socialized" rather than taught or trained. This gives them more of a stake in the process. Sure a lot of people have grown lazy in their information seeking. I think we have actually been expecting too little of them, spoon feeding them by providing them with technology which they don't have to understand. In fact, we encourage them not too! They then become dependent on experts. We need to empower them.

2. So how do we socialize? First by studying the nature of the user-system relationship. I think its important for users to be able to see the process as a transaction where they can contribute to the outcome. I think we do not understand these relationships we, concentrating on creating systems that marginalize the users participation in the process.

That's all I can articulate right now although there is more. We really need to abandon the idea of "retrieval". Even "interaction" is ill suited. A "relationship" with the prevailing technology is what we need and something we can provide.

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