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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Library 2.0

David Warlick is beginning a great conversation on his blog, and he has several people debating the value of the Librarian. The argument is that the librarian is most able to connect people with information they need. Others say that anyone can do this with the rise of the Internet.

Warlick's argument, and he merely is repeating what Lee Rainey (of Pew Internet fame) stated at the Metro New York Library Council, is that librarians are more able due to their training in Information Literacy. Rainey provided Ten Reasons why the future could belong to librarians. His reasons are listed below. My reflection, when I have one follows each.

Nobody knows better than you how to manage information.
I am not sure I agree with this statement, though I certainly agree that librarians who are proficient with Dewey Decimal procedures have one method of organization. It was not a librarian, nor does it take one, to use the newer concept of tagging (or folksonomy) to categorize bits of information for easier gathering by others.

Nobody knows better than you how to track down information.

I would agree with this statement based on the fact that this is a daily requirement/request of the job. Teachers, students, and others request the assistance of the library staff for help in finding information they want to know. Although, if the librarian does their job well, they will enable (empower) others to develop skills to find the information on their own.

Nobody knows better than you about the importance of information standards – common ways to categorize, sort, and act on things.

Again, I understand what Rainey is saying, but there are others who have this ability too, and may be better at it due to constant practice - database operators for instance. Unless everyone is working off the same standards, just because I understand the importance of information standards does mean that action will be taken because of my knowledge. We are fragmented by having so many standards that relate only to one educational discipline. If everyone teacher was required to teach ONLY Information Literacy Standards, then librarians would have the upper hand.

Nobody’s word about what’s truthful and what’s important has more credibility than yours.

This very "truth" is what makes the library so uninviting to people. The "arrogance" of the gatekeeper of knowledge persona will not work in the Internet world. There is simply too much information for one person to know. It is a matter of not knowing all the answers, but rather knowing where to find the answers that are reliable. The 2nd item obove.

Nobody is in a better position than you to teach people about information and media literacy.

Agreed. The trick will be persuading teachers that information and media literacy is worth knowing. Until computer technology, web-based applications are accepted practice, and unfiltered content, who will want to become information/media literate only to be denied access to the information?

Nobody is in a better position to be a watchdog of new systems of sorting information than you.

I struggle with the watchdog, gatekeeper analogies for librarians. Information is too plentiful, and a better analogy in my mind would be one of a distributer of information: one who seeks, accepts, and shares information with and from numerous sources.

Nobody is in a better position than you to teach the world about the history and built-in wisdom of credibility-assessment systems

True, but more important than teaching the history of credibility-assessment systems is how the history of CAS is affecting the knowledge pool of the present and future. Determining reliability and value of information on the Web is paramount. There is too much to discuss at this time. I may come back to this later.

Nobody is more empowered by professional creeds and training to articulate the rationale for freedom of speech than you.

Not even the ACLU! That's power, huh!

Nobody is in better shape to play a thoughtful, constructive role in debates about the value of information “property” and the meaning of copyright in an age where it takes a couple of minutes to download a brand new movie on BitTorrent – for free.

I'm a Lawrence Lessig Free Culture believer. Something must change in the arena of copyright. When money determines these rights, those without the money are denied creativity.

Nobody can be as constructive in helping us think through the new norms and even new laws we need to develop about what information is public and what is private.

Again, I refer to Lessig's work.


The library must make their walls transparent, if not fully dismantled. I have even begun to wonder if the fight against filtering is worth it, or if the manner in which we provide homework should change to something more Web 2.0. In other words, since the students and teachers can't access many of the great Web 2.0 tools at school, perhaps the teacher and/or librarian ought to consider homework that is conducted through Web 2.0 apps like YouTube, Wikis, IM, and blogs. If done this way, perhaps, assigning homework might make sense to me. Give students work at home that CANNOT be done at school. I might actually be on to something here...but then teachers would have to be willing to work at home.


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