Typed and scraped
Bethan Ruddock has already commented on this blog and is typical of the relatively few who are prepared to debate the future of libraries in public. It is always very encouraging to see young people speaking their mind – it takes courage. There have been a number on this blog – and in my ambit – Broniba (Jennifer Daniel), Sara Wingate-Gray (the travelling poetry library) and others I met at City University who want to change the world and not accept it as it is. Here’s Bethan – she urges librarians to get out and talk to others. I have resurrected some suggestions for what could be done together..
A newly minted librarian, Bethan joined Mimas in 2008 when she started working with Copac to incorporate specialist libraries. …
Bethan is actively involved in the SLA (Special Libraries Association), and in 2010 has been selected by the SLA committee as a Rising Star of the association, an award that recognises newer members of the association who have made significant contributions.
bethan ruddock says:
Peter, I agree with you. I think many librarians – myself included – are often wary about taking their professional engagement and opinions outside the profession. This may be due, in some part, to a certain self-deprecation about the profession: there’s a movement in libraries and information provision which says that the user doesn’t care about what we do or where the information comes from, they just care about getting the information they need. For a lot of users I think this is essentially correct. But we shouldn’t take this to mean that we shouldn’t engage with those users who are interested, and we certainly shouldn’t assume that it means that no-one outside the profession cares about what we do. When we face issues – as we frequently do – that affect other groups, we should use our expertise to be advocates. As you suggest, there are a number of methods by which we can do this.
There is no point in us complaining of powerlessness and saying that no-one listens to librarians/information professionals unless we are actually talking to them.
(I’m hoping that my profession will forgive me for these sweeping generalisations, especially as I have included myself among the number that needs to improve. For a number of outstanding examples of what librarians should be doing, see the Library Journals Movers and Shakers (http://stage.libraryjournal.com/MS2010), especially the advocates.)
Yes – librarians are not powerless. Librarians are human beings who outside the library are indistinguishable from the rest of us.
When I talked at Internet Librarian last year (http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/2362193 ) I thought that rather than simply try to motivate change I would give some concrete suggestions. So I came up with 12 ways that librarians could help to change the world probably without going to jail or probably without getting sacked, and maybe even advancing their own position. I thought them up in a train journey – not sure whether they will stand the test of time and I might comment later. Here you get a snippet.
The library can be at a gateway of power and creativity in the electronic world. Be excited about the possibilities. Steve Coast has changed the modern world of maps – by himself and with only 250,000 other unpaid volunteers. Anyone could have done that. The library should be a great place to bounce ideas around.
For some librarians like Sara it’s fun. I introduced Sara to Rufus because of open Shakespeare and she’s got caught up with the Open Knowledge Foundation and put huge effort into it. Anyone can do that.
So the zeroth suggestion is have fun. Think excitedly. Nothing is impossible. Here they are from Nov 2009. The order is random.
Actions that every librar(y|ian) can do
- Citizen Librarian .
Engage volunteers to help with the library. There are zillions of things that the Internet generation could do. If they can catalogue Galaxies they can catalogue other information. Relax control and increase your community
- Post ALL ACADEMIC OUTPUT publicly – IGNORE COPYRIGHT
The academy creates information. That belongs to the academy and its members, not to third parties. So theses, manuscripts, etc. are under our control. If the whole world decided to do this the third parties would be powerless. Start with the non-controversial stuff. Then move to fuzzy areas and ask for forgiveness not permission. You might start to get academics involved.
- Text-mine everything
Show how important the content that we have is. It’s ours. Text-mine the theses. And data-mine them. Start to expose what we have, not hide it away. People will help
- put 2nd year students in charge of developing educational technology and resources
Since the library in 3 years time will be on a students device and not in a building get them involved. Ask them how to run their information. Because if you don’y Google and Prentice-hall will do it and cut libraries out
- Actively participate in obtaining science grants
Academics survive through grants. If you can help an academic get a grant, then they’ll support you to do it again. Much grant-writing (I go through it regularly) is not discipline-dependent but benefits from good style and knowing the intricacies of the funder. No reason why you can’t do this – I’d certainly appreciate it.
- Actively participate in the scientific publication process
Same motivation. Help a scientist get more papers out and you will be appreciated.
- Close the science library building and move to departments
There is no need for science libraries – they may be nice quiet places to work but there’s nothing special in their design or management. Human librarians should wear white coats and sit next to scientists and becomes authors on their papers.
- Hand over all purchasing to national rotweiler Purchasing officer
There is no point in librarians trying to negotiate with the trained salesforce of publishers. They are trained to win. Hand it over nationally. I believe the Brazilians do.
- Set up a new type of University Press
One of the biggest missed opportunities of the century. The Universities could have set up new ways of academic publishing. The costs are now much lower. It may not be too late. In five years it will be when Google or its successor runs academic information systems
- develop their own metrics system (ARGGH!)
I hate metrics, but if we are going to have them, they could easily be run by the library. All the information flows through the library – why should ISI do this. You’d get open metrics of more believable quality.
- Publicly campaign for openness
You can do this. Think of something every day that should be Open. Then think about how you can make it so. Join the Open Knowledge Foundation. There’s nothing in the Panton Principles that you couldn’t have done. Nothing in OKF’s Bibliographica. Or CKAN or …
Engage with mySociety. Encourage web democracy…
- Make the library an addictive game
Some of the great innovations rely on game-based addiction. Nothing wrong with that. Make it fun to use the library – whatever it morphs into. Make it gently competitive. Make it rewarding in the Internet sense.
And get out of the library and come at talk to us. If you have read this blog, you can work out where I’ll be at lunchtime.