I’m in Denver for the the cleverly named 2007 LITA Forum. This is the first in a while that I have not been giving a talk at, which is nice. I can enjoy Denver, enjoy my colleagues, and begin my new role as “committee recruiter”…one of the first duties that comes along with being Vice President of the division.
So, yes, I am taking time out to talk up LITA a bit. It is one of the best conferences for IT networking that I know of (that’s small ‘n’, lest you think I refer to the days of LAN and WAN administration and actually meeting to talk about it). Long breaks and a diverse crowd of administrators, managers, techies, and newbies make it a great setting. And for those who can’t be there, almost every session is covered by an army of volunteer bloggers at the LITA blog.
My favorite session yesterday was from Gregg Silvis from Delaware, who opened the floor with “Library 2023: A Provoked Discussion on the Future of Libraries.” Basically, he lit the fuse and got away to watch the fireworks, while ably guiding the discussion and keeping it civil. It was a frank discussion punctuated with just the right amount of contrariness.
Silvis posited that in 2023 there are 100,000,000 freely available texts; what does this mean for librarians, scholars, copyright, and even Kinkos? There was a lot of discussion about the library as a place for study (a third place) versus the warehouse of books. And way too much discussion—including by your’s truly—about the value of metadata. It got me thinking about the library as place. Short of there being barista and XBox training in library school, I am struggling with the librarian’s role in this 2023 library.
Quote of the day from UIUC’s Michael Twidale:
“Public libraries are the gateway drug [to freely available content].”
Ron Gardner, Contentdm specialist for OCLC, made the point that libraries are getting a lot more involved in the creation that goes on in libraries. It got me thinking that we are still a little fixated on what comes into the library (metadata creation, organization, even the library website) rather than caring as much as we should about what goes out.
In a profession full of humanists and expert researchers, is it time for us to be thinking even more about what people produce in libraries, rather than simply finding them the right resources and leaving them to their best devices? Could the library profession be a key player in the quality of information that with or without our help is going to wind up available to millions through search and discovery mechanisms that are not of our own flawless (ahem) design? We’re already playing a role in the production of mass digitization of our existing resources and the creation of digital portals for our unique resources. Isn’t the next logical step to be the stewards of the things that are created from access to those things?
Maybe I’m just high….altitudinally speaking, that is.
[This post originally appeared as part of American Libraries’ Hectic Pace Blog and is archived here.]