Building a career on a single general research question

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  • Odd title, but it’s been an unusual research career. Starting out as an information science PhD student, I was trained to research and design situation specific solutions to information problems.What I came to realize over time was that Library Science could be considered as the opposite of that approach: Library Science is the development and/or improvement of the designed environment within which Masters educated professionals worked.Thus, the challenge over my nearly 20 year research career was to investigate the possibility of a new design for an online library environment based on a shift in thinking for librarians from their comfortable perch within the designed environment of the physical library to the wild and woolly world of the Web where new online resources were now available over the Internet to just about any location.The question that emerged for me early in my career, and the one that continues to drive my current research, was:
  • READ SLIDE As we shall see, the central tenet of library organizing is based on cooperation for purposes of library economy: In short, to share the costs of organizing across libraries as much as possible. The presupposition is that this cooperative impulse remains.We will analyze this research question more in a moment, but first a bit of my background and my adopted philosophy.
  • Here are some background on me.READ SLIDE
  • Background philosophy starts with the fact that we’ve lost control of the word “library”, so we must be careful to define exactly what we mean. Osburn uses “library function”
  • It is the inclusion of published materials in the earlier model for a well designed physical library environment that should encourage us to take a moment to examine a high-level analysis that breaks down the history of the book as a textual carrier. At minimum, this analysis tells us that we’ve been in this position before. For example, in his recent book on the book in the Renaissance, Andrew Pettegree noted the temporary demise of libraries as centers of scholarly activity in the century after the printing press was introduced in the West roughly in the years between 1450 and 1550. During this time, the affluent in society built their own private libraries … quote “The library as a cultural institution struggled to adapt to the new age of print”.READ SLIDEHowever, it is the dynamic ontological status of the online book (as an new option for publishing in an Internet environment) that provides new opportunities for the evolution of library services.That, plus the capability within an online publishing infrastructure for the delivery of library services to user environments, which was one of the structural impediments facing libraries during the 20th century based on the 1876 model for cooperative organizing.
  • My approach is to emphasize that no professionally managed library is an island because ALL libraries are connected in various networks. Of course, it is cooperative organizing networks that are of interest to us today, and as we will see, library cooperative organizing originated in 1876 and has been highly successful, though with known problems that we will discuss.An additional key to my approach is to emphasize that alibrary is designed environment, a design that is replicated across the network of libraries. Put most succinctly, if you know how to use one library, you know how to use any library (though sometimes after a brief tour).What will also be key is understanding published resources as designed environments. Again, if you’ve used one book or article, you’re able to use any one because in both cases individual books and articles are examples of their general design at least in their modern instantiations. Of course, there are exceptions to this: Do you remember the last time you cursed a non-fiction book for not having an index? I cannot emphasize this enough: No professional managed library is an island because they are ALL connected in a network. And now that we know that published resources are themselves designed environments, libraries are actually a network of designed environments containing designed published resources, though with known problems that we will discuss.And where are we today? 120K libraries and 150K librarians (with 336K total paid staff employees, a collective number that is bigger than IBM and would make the library network the 6th biggest employer in the US!)The important thing to note is that these libraries share a designed space that is organized by MLIS-educated librarians and trained professional staff who catalog and classify the books in the open stacks of physical library book collections. Analyzing further, individual books in these collections are themselves organized in standardized ways with tables of contents, indexes, and the standardized typographical conventions pertaining to chapters, chapter sections and even sub sections.And analyzing even further, these individual books aggregate evidence of their use through reader marginal notes and even the “wear and tear” that is seemingly only important to the analytical bibliographers in our midst.In short, a designed environment duplicated across over 120K libraries, and central to this design are the two methods for cooperative organizing envisioned by Dewey and Cutter in addition to the book, itself, and how it can be organized by authors, publishers, and readers.
  • READ SLIDE Let’s now revisit my original research question and analyze it.As we shall see, the central tenet of library organizing is based on cooperation for purposes of library economy: In short, to share the costs of organizing across libraries as much as possible. The presupposition is that this cooperative impulse remains.On a different note, what do I mean by “autonomous use”? I tell my students that a library is a highly organized and navigable environment that facilitates autonomous use by our more experienced users. In fact, think about a time when each of you entered The UI Main Library and were able to use it autonomously: Find a call number in the catalog (or come in already knowing your favorite call number), following the signage to the stacks, finding the shelf, reading the spine labels, locating the book, and taking it downstairs to the self checkout … all without *having* to interact directly with a professional librarian. THAT’S autonomous use!
  • Now as the title of my talk suggests, I’ve had a single GENERAL research question since the beginning. However, as you would expect, that general research question naturally subdivided itself over time into more answerable and specific research questions.READ SLIDE
  • READ TITLEWhere are we today? 120K libraries and 150K librarians (with 336K total paid staff employees, a collective number that is bigger than IBM and would make the library network the 6th biggest employer in the US!)The important thing to note is that these libraries share a designed space that is organized by MLIS-educated librarians and trained professional staff who catalog and classify the books in the open stacks of physical library book collections. Analyzing further, individual books in these collections are themselves organized in standardized ways with tables of contents, indexes, and the standardized typographical conventions pertaining to chapters, chapter sections and even sub sections.And analyzing even further, these individual books aggregate evidence of their use through reader marginal notes and even the “wear and tear” that is seemingly only important to the analytical bibliographers in our midst.In short, a designed environment duplicated across over 120K libraries, and central to this design are the two methods for cooperative organizing envisioned by Dewey and Cutter in addition to the book, itself, and how it can be organized by authors, publishers, and readers.
  • As I mentioned on an earlier slide, an online publishing infrastructure offers libraries is a chance for comprehensive services to users where they are rather than the users HAVING to come to the physical library … in particular for organized collections.But what will this designed environment look like? What should it be based on: Library science? Information science?What is library science and what is the relationship of information science to library science?The real question that I’m driving at is “where is library research best suited? In library science based on research into a designed online library environment or in information science whereby we educate our students to design unique solutions to information problems?To begin to address these questions, we must again take a look back to see the historical relationship of library science and information science TURN PAGE
  • I believe that library science can serve as a guide for facilitating the design of the designed online library environment.However, we must have an understanding of what library science is. In my view, library science should be understood as originally conceived by Dewey and others as defined above READ SLIDE FIRST POINTThis is an earlier definition than the later understanding of library science that emerged from Williamson Report in the 1920s. This view of library science was based on the positivism and quantification research studies and was centered in the University of Chicago Graduate School of Library Science.However, regardless of the definition of library science chosen, the world of library practice faced an insurmountable challenge at the turn of the 20th century.READ SLIDE POINT TWO
  • The failure of the Cutter/Dewey designed environment to scale up opening for new ways to think about information provision outside of the libraryREAD SLIDE (FIRST POINT)[[should note the role of SLA in the early century]]January 2012 Library Quarterly article “LIS dissertation titles and abstracts (1930-2009) where have all the librar gone?”From abstract: “The results provide general empirical support for long-held anecdotal assertions that libraries are no longer the primary research focus at the doctoral level in LIS. ” Which led to the question: Where is the library science research occurring for the future designed online library environment?
  • To address those questions, I am proposing a theoretical framework as a basis for the development of a designed online library environment that attempts to account for the reality of an online publishing world. I am also proposing that an entrepreneurial mindset is needed.READ SLIDEThere is a certain irony to the question of scale, for it was a scaling problem that hobbled the Dewey/Cutter designed environment model at the turn of the previous century as catalogers struggled to perform analytical cataloging of articles and other publication types in an economical way in the face of the commercial competition provided by the periodical indexing industry (e.g., Poole and Wilson). Further, it is the problem of scaling that challenges the HathiTrust and the DPLA: Will they meet the demands of a yet unspecified future set of user needs?
  • A full understanding of library services opportunities can be focused through the lens of textual studies.A fully scaled up “designed space” would need to facilitate all needs of the almighty text:Textual multiplication: (see Tanselle “Rationale of Textual Criticism”) The distribution of copies of texts to different contextual situations, from samizdat to formal, a necessary precursor capability before texts can be intentionally selected and aggregated into usable (library) collections;Textual generation: The creation of a new text by an authoring entity, including facilitating genetic analysis (and the new role for digital special collections in a holistic digital librarianship when organizing artifacts, texts, and works);Textual transmission: The publishing history of a text as it is updated, edited, and/or re-issued:Into new editions published using same document format as previous edition (often accompanied by new paratext)Into new editions published using different type of document format (e.g., from tablet to scroll to codex or codex to electronic book);Textual reception: The impact of distributed texts on readers, including those impacts recorded in specific copies of texts (e.g., marginalia), those impacts traced through the apparatus of citation and documentation, and those impacts analyzed through literary criticism;Textual use: The outcome of the use of distributed texts in contextualized situations.
  • It is the inclusion of published materials in the earlier model for a well designed physical library environment that should encourage us to take a moment to examine a high-level analysis that breaks down the history of the book as a textual carrier. At minimum, this analysis tells us that we’ve been in this position before. For example, in his recent book on the book in the Renaissance, Andrew Pettegree noted the temporary demise of libraries as centers of scholarly activity in the century after the printing press was introduced in the West roughly in the years between 1450 and 1550. During this time, the affluent in society built their own private libraries … quote “The library as a cultural institution struggled to adapt to the new age of print”.READ SLIDEHowever, it is the dynamic ontological status of the online book (as an new option for publishing in an Internet environment) that provides new opportunities for the evolution of library services.That, plus the capability within an online publishing infrastructure for the delivery of library services to user environments, which was one of the structural impediments facing libraries during the 20th century based on the 1876 model for cooperative organizing.
  • READ SLIDE
  • READ SLIDE
  • Extending the online book concept to special collections and (some) archivesREAD SLIDE
  • Building a career on a single general research question

    1. 1. Building a Career on a Single General Research Question From Information Science to Library Science: An Odyssey Steven L. MacCall, PhD School of Library and Information Studies University of Alabama Fall 2013 SLIM Research Forum Emporia State University-KC, Overland Park, KS
    2. 2. My General Research Question How best to cooperatively organize online resource collections for autonomous use in a designed environment outside of the library?
    3. 3. About Me • Trained information scientist (PhD plus ALAaccredited MSIS) & self-trained library scientist. • I am a generalist’s generalist. • I am an “experienced” entrepreneur. • My teaching and research aimed at developing and improving library practice: – Library workforce (re)development – Cooperative organizing in the online environment – LIS research and its impact on library practice 3
    4. 4. My Organizing Philosophy • In his recent book The Social Transcript, Osburn centers the definition of library function on larger social processes rather than on the daily activities of librarians. • These social processes manifest libraries as a cultural technology: “Those mechanisms created and maintained cooperatively that are intended to transmit selected cultural elements needed to sustain continuous adaptation within a society.”
    5. 5. Organizing Philosophy (cont.) • Following Boulding, Osburn points specifically to the mechanism of the “transcript” of a society’s public image, which is transmitted in many cases over long periods of time: – Through oral retelling (in “pre-literate” times) – Through textual transmission (amongst other methods) after the invention of writing • The library, as a cultural technology, functions to select, organize, interpret, and preserve the social transcript over time. • Library function as cultural memory mechanism.
    6. 6. Dual Nature of Library Function • According to Osburn, it is important to note the dual nature of the library function: – Specific and predictable usage in the short term (i.e., everyday library activities for the immediate pressing needs of individual societal members) – Non-specific and less predictable usage over the long term (i.e., the needs of future societal members over centuries and millennia) • But what about the social transcript published online?
    7. 7. Textual Formats Over Time • From library function perspective, social transcript can be considered as texts published primarily in book form. • Let us review the history of textual formats: Textual Format Inscribing Method Ontological Status Label Tablet Imprinting Static “Tablet” Scroll Script Static “Book” Codex Script Static “Book” Codex Print Static “Book” Online Digital Static “eBook” Online Digital Dynamic “Online book”
    8. 8. Specific Issues Arising • Of course, online texts already exist, but are they optimally organized? • Using Osburn’s dual notion of librarianship, this issue sharpens as: – Is that method for optimal organizing suitable for immediate more predictable uses? AND – Is that method for optimal organizing suitable for unspecified and likely less predictable future uses?
    9. 9. The Current Challenge Illustrated: What of Cooperative Human Organizing? Organization now resides in a black box. The algorithms used by Google, Westlaw, and LexisNexis to connect the researcher with desired information are proprietary…. There is no point in lamenting this development. The battle is over and mediation of information by librarians lost [emphasis added] Robert C. Berring, 2012
    10. 10. My Framework for Research into Cooperative Human Organizing Libraries reside in networks. Libraries as designed environments. Published resources as designed environments.
    11. 11. My General Research Question How best* to cooperatively organize online resource collections for autonomous use in a designed environment outside of the library? *Twin measures of efficiency and effectiveness
    12. 12. Specific RQs: Cooperative Organizing • SRQ 1: Past influences: How did we achieve today’s designed physical library environment? – 1876 – Aspects of history of the book • SRQ 2: Present day challenge: What will be our designed environment for the online library environment? – Library science versus information science – Invention and extension • SRQ 3: Future work: Will the future designed online library environment scale to meet the varied needs of users? – Digital Inversion Theory – Entrepreneurship
    13. 13. Influences from the Past • SRQ 1: How did we achieve today’s designed physical library environment? • Those investigating cooperative organizing are interested in 1876 developments: – Cooperative cataloging (led by Cutter) – Cooperative classified shelf arrangement (led by Dewey) • History of the book as text carrying format: – Book as organizing device – Book as aggregator of evidence (analytical bibliography)
    14. 14. Post 1876 Cooperative Organizing • In the print book era, libraries developed various methods for organizing them as textual carriers • By 1876, libraries had launched planning leading to present era of large-scale cooperative organizing • Let’s call it the “Cutter/Dewey/Print Book (C/D/PB) Model” that included the following aspects – Cutter => cooperative cataloging – Dewey => shared classification for relative shelf arrangement in directly accessible open library stacks – Print book => Book indexes, intertitles, and other paratextual elements
    15. 15. Present Day Challenge • SRQ 2: What will be our designed environment for the online library environment?? • Library science versus information science: – What is library science? – Why did information science emerge? • Invention and extension: – Who is doing library science? – Designing the designed online library environment
    16. 16. Library Science Before Williamson • In 1876, Melvil Dewey referred to “library science” in the context of the body of knowledge required to optimize shared library management under library economy: – Existing library network (over 3,000 libraries in 1876) – All libraries are branches in a single system (Cutter) • By the turn of the century, it was apparent that cooperative organizing methods worked for books, but they failed to scale to all published materials: – Bibliographical methods (i.e., analytical cataloging) failed to scale up to all published materials, esp. articles – Bibliothecal (i.e., classified shelf arrangement) methods required user visits to libraries
    17. 17. The Information Science Century • With the early 20th century failure of cooperative library organizing methods to scale, there was an opening for SLA and for a new “information science” (IS) to develop: – In 20th century, IS became heavily concerned with improving search through algorithmic indexing – During this period, IS research came to dominate LIS schools as measured by doctoral student research output and the recent rise of the iSchool movement • Where is the library science research occurring for the future designed online library environment?
    18. 18. Invention and Extension • Inventive librarians have taken the lead in evolving library practice across the network of libraries: – Large-scale digital special collections efforts (e.g., DPLA) – Large-scale book digitizing and access efforts (e.g., HathiTrust) • How can these efforts be extended through additional research? That’s where I want to be. Proposals: – A new theory based on textual studies, not info science – A design based for a new online cooperative organizing environment based on the affordances of the online book as the newest evolution of textual carrier format.
    19. 19. Future Work • SRQ 3: Will the future designed online library environment scale? • Digital Inversion Theory to guide further research: – Provides basis for cooperative organizing incorporating the evolution of textual transmission to online formats – Also includes aspects of special collections organizing • Entrepreneurship: – Making an economic case for library services as optimized distribution and documentation channels for publishers and their online published texts – Cooperative special collections organizing: Monetization and the case for adopting a Digital Asset Management model
    20. 20. Textual Studies as a Framework • Textual multiplication: The distribution of copies of texts to different contexts. • Textual generation: The creation of a new text by an authoring entity. • Textual documentation: – Of reception: Impact of texts on readers (e.g., annotation) – Of use: Outcome of the use of texts (including generation). • Textual transmission: The publishing history of a text as it is updated, edited, and/or reissued: – Into new editions published using same document format as previous edition (often accompanied by new paratext) – Into new editions published using different type of document format (e.g., from tablet to scroll to codex or codex to electronic book).
    21. 21. Textual Formats Over Time • Let us review the history of textual transmission: Textual Format Inscribing Method Ontological Status Label Tablet Imprinting Static “Tablet” Scroll Script Static “Book” Codex Script Static “Book” Codex Print Static “Book” Online Digital Static “eBook” Online Digital Dynamic “Online book”
    22. 22. Digital Inversion Theory Developed for Guiding my Research Program • Locational inversion: Online infrastructure provides for on location services (i.e., BDLs “branch digital libraries”) rather than physical library services. • Ontological inversion: An online publishing infrastructure provides for textual updates as needed rather than having to wait for the publishing of new physical editions. • Temporal inversion: First develop cooperative methods for organizing born digital collections for on location use then design for textual transmission from codex to online. • Bibliothecal (classification) inversion: Browse over search
    23. 23. A Role for Entrepreneurship • The possibilities afforded by an online publishing environment enables on location services (BDLs) by libraries for the first time in a long history of managing access to and preservation of the social transcript. • The key is cooperative organizing: – Across libraries – But also across publishers, authors, and readers • Publishers are under economic stress … can we provide a lifeline with our network of libraries?
    24. 24. Entrepreneurial Example: DIT & Digital Asset Management • Archival methods are also undergoing changes in the online era based on born-digital materials. • Documentation strategies can possibly benefit from application of digital inversion theory: – Currently investigating the documenting of football games efficiently and effectively (“maximal indexing”) – Maintaining the dual library function by providing for immediate on location and long term usage scenarios – Seeking to develop a generalized documentation strategy for deployment across library network
    25. 25. Revisiting my General Research Question How best* to cooperatively organize online resource collections for autonomous use in a designed environment outside of the library? *Twin measures of efficiency and effectiveness

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