Libraries, Data, and Collectionism

So I’ve been thinking about a way to describe the enthusiasm about big data that has captured the business, government, and academic worlds over the past decade. I will admit up front that the rapid advances in deep learning technology that large businesses like Google, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon have accomplished in the past few years should be celebrated. The efforts by these companies and the fact that they have open-sourced many of the artificial intelligence frameworks they are creating should be applauded.

Death of a Library Search Box

I’ve been thinking about how libraries can become better at serving researchers and expert users, especially through their front pages. A recent news item from the University of Tennessee library prompted me to make the connection between expert users and library home pages. The University of Tennessee library just announced the launch of their One Search box on the home page. I found this quote especially disturbing “launching a major upgrade to the Libraries’ discovery portal: the search box in the middle of library homepages will yield exponentially more results than in the past.

John Unsworth at CLIR Camp plus Libraries and Scholars Interacting Over Time

John Unsworth spoke at the CLIR-DLF postdoctoral camp last week. I thought he presented some interesting ideas about the emerging cross-connections between libraries and publishers, as well as some speculations about the development of scholarly data communities around the existence of large-scale data resources. Unsworth works at Brandeis as a vice provost, CIO, and university librarian. He also serves on the executive committee of the HathiTrust Research Center. As part of the HathiTrust he has been directly involved in the development of a 11 million digital collection of books and journals scanned from the collections of member libraries.

Information, Professions, and Technology

One of the research projects I began last spring is starting to show some initial results. I wanted to study the reception of some key technologies by information science professionals over the past 40 years. I was interested to see if there were any differences in professional attitudes toward different technologies. I decided on two cases to look at in depth: first was the development of OPACs, online public access catalogs, during the 1970s and 1980s; second was the World Wide Web, during the 1990s.

Citizen Science, Libraries, and Public Access

I’ve been brainstorming some concerns about libraries and citizen science for a current writing project. On the face of it citizen science and libraries seem to be made for each other. Libraries want to provide access to as many patrons as possible, citizen scientists have research questions that may need the help of skilled information professionals. Perfection, right. But there are some flies in the ointment, as there always are. Reginald Smith wrote a blog post about the enclosure of libraries in August 2011.

September Project in Minnesota??

Time for another mashup of ideas. I recently read about the September project, a group of good-hearted librarians who have been hosting discussions during the month of September around the themes of democracy, patriotism, and citizenship. So connecting this back to Harry Boyte, my ongoing interest in Open Space, and a nascent Citizen Media Camp, I start thinking that Minneapolis needs to have a September project event. Consider this post a marker for the idea.

Social Media Breakfast in Minneapolis

I attended the fifth Social Media Breakfast at the Minneapolis Public library this morning. Jon Gordon from FutureTense started things out with a Q&A about technology and media. Most of the questions surrounded the new NPR API and the social media activity at Minnesota Public Radio. He mentioned the changing attitudes among journalists about social media. Perceptions are shifting slowly from not letting media employees speak online to accepting off-the-record conversations about anything.

Librarian as Bartender

At Wiscon this year I attended a panel about librarians. There’s no surprise there. The connection between avid readers and libraries is natural. As the discussion began people shared some common comparisons or metaphors for libraries and one of them has stuck in my head: the librarian as bartender. Other comparisons were made, to gatekeepers, filters, and guides, but this one interests me. I think the comparison was apt. Librarians are a bit like providers of drugs to the addicted.