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Future of Digital Libraries: Looking Back, Looking Forward
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Future of Digital Libraries: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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  • We are currently amidst another wave of socio-technical change. Socio-technical refers to the reciprocal relationship amongst technology and social factors.
  • The last one was the web, which allowed easy distribution of content, emphasis on electronic access. Yahoo-2001.
  • Hal Abelson and colleagues said that this era the Web was like a library (2008). This was the golden heyday for digital libraries research and development. However, Abelson and colleagues note that “the web is no longer a library” (p. 112).
  • Before that, Automation and efficiency using digital technology
  • And before that mechanization. And before that, the Bell telephone, Morse’s telegraph, Gutengerg’s press
  • Memex – Vanevar Bush
  • This one is most directly caused by decrease in cost of digital technology, ease of use and refinement of the digital technology, coupled with widespread internet connectivity and the types of activities that this arrangement makes possible.
  • This can be described as a move from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, where users are contributing information as well as utilizing information others supply.
  • With this increased activity, the web has become incredibly big and unstructured, and impossible to organize using hierarchical classification. Weinberger argues (Everything is Miscellaneous) says that we have just recently ended the information age and we have entered into a new age that doesn’t have a name yet. With regard to how information is organized, Weinberger describes it as an age where everything is miscellaneous, “It's about the shape of knowledge, and how moving information from paper to the web changes how we organize and how we think” (Amazon Review). Search is the new paradigm for finding information.
  • Social and economic production. With regard to work and the economy, Benkler calls this the networked information economy: “decentralized individual action—specifically, new and important cooperative and coordinate action carried out through radically distributed, nonmarket mechanisms that do not depend on proprietary strategies—plays a much greater role than it did, or could have, in the industrial information economy”.
  • With regard to culture, Jenkins calls this Convergence Culture: “At all levels, the assumption is that consumers will become active participants, but there is widespread dispute about the terms of our participation. We are seeing enormous experimentation into the potential intersections between commercial and grassroots culture and about the power of living within a networked society.” As compared to consumer culture. Small scale have happened: People making music and performing it, and making zines.
  • Favorites from the summer. Party in the FIP. What does it really mean? Interactions between mass media and participatory media (Perez Hilton, Miley Cyrus, Morning Shows, ABC contact) Showing a culture through creative expression; an idealization; embarrassment because don’t want other people to know what it is like, is it like that
  • Certain functions are going to be less important, and others are going to be more important.
  • With these socio-technical changes, it opens up new opportunities for librarians to ask the question: what do we want libraries to be? Who do we want to be when we grow up? Opportunity to take on new functions, and dispense with others. Not everyone wants to be a coder. Sitting on the computer all day.
  • Balancing act: the future that libraries should go toward, while still sustaining the functions that communities have come to except of libraries. Helping people find, use, and evaluate information is still important. Helpiong people deal with the socio-technical change.
  • So where do we go from here in this constantly changing world. I think David Lankes has a particularly compelling vision of where libraries should go. Professor at Syracuse university. He argues that libraries need to move away from an “artifact centrality.”   Lankes (2009) argues that what Libraries do when they but books and journals each month is essentially make possible the potential for a conversation between a patron and the author, and through this conversation they construct knowledge. We are basically making conversations available to patrons, except the ones that are published. We need to move away from the idea of checking out books to one that focuses on the library as a facilitator of conversations. This moves to focus on the actual social function of libraries, rather than the technical means of making that social function possible (acquisitions, lending). It was easy to retreat into that technical rather than social function emphasis, but changes in technologies themselves, and the prospect of a future were purchasing physical artifacts are declining, leads us to refocus on this actual social function. Too often we are ensconced in our acquired views of how things should be and it is very difficult intellectually to break out of this model. What a school, a classroom, or library should be like. That a library should have x, y, or z. Or that we should spend 12 years in compulsory education in a classroom with a teacher standing in front. Conversation looks a lot more like what the web is becoming with the move to Web 2.0.
  • Warren, usability “ digital libraries need to be both useful and usable"
  • Connecting Digital Libraries to Broader Societal Activities
  • And lastly, it is important to find out how well things are working. Things that don’t work should be fixed or stopped. We should use data and evaluation to guide our decisions, or use mini-evaluations during the design process to guide the development of some initiative. The best way to find out how some initiative is working is to formulate a testable and measurable research question, and collect data to answer this question. In doing this, it is best to get multiple sources of data to answer your research question, or to attempt to triangulate. This can combine quantitative (such as surveys) with qualitative data (such as observations and interviews). Bear in mind of course that evaluations have their limitation. Don’t fall prey to “lets just do what they tell us to do” problem. Don’t use evaluations as a substitute for you or your team’s creativity and judgment in coming up with new initiatives If you ever do a library survey, people will say things like, I want more popular books. I don’t think closely following evaluation feedback will necessarily provide the innovation needed for libraries to be really successful in the coming years.
  • However, what is needed of information professionals is an openness to new ideas, persistence in using one’s creativity, willingness to collaborate with diverse groups, and insistence on fulfilling a social function. This most important social function, drawing from the work of Lankes, is facilitating knowledge construction. And this is how you want to direct your digital technology initiatives, and whether you call it a Digital Library or not does not matter so much.
  • Thank you

Future of Digital Libraries: Looking Back, Looking Forward Future of Digital Libraries: Looking Back, Looking Forward Presentation Transcript

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  • Information Social and Economic Production Culture
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  • What does this mean for libraries?
  • What do we want libraries to be? (or, who do we want to be when we grow up?)  
  • Balancing Idealism and Realism
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  • Thank You. [email_address]
  • Photo Credits
    • Coming soon…