The other day I went along to a meeting at the New South Wales Parliament library. It was basically an in-person meeting to talk about some issues they were having with Koha. It’s a pretty huge collection they’re dealing with so they have interesting problems. One of them that we thought we’d fixed had been caused by a major backlog of records being re-indexed in the search server.
It’s funny to me to talk technically about re-indexing servers or whatever. It feels a little like I’m making up techno-babble. And in some ways I am. This is definitely one of those areas where you have to just move forward a little bit blindly and hope eventually something will click. I feel like it will.
An article by Dave Cohn came through my reader the other day that hit me right where I live: the intersection between journalism and librarianship.
There are two main parts to the article. Cohn first tells us how newspapers and libraries are part of the industrial age when we’re now in the information age. It only makes sense that these institutions that deal with information will have to change as time goes on.
The way we collect and organize the worlds information has changed. For journalism this is bigger than just switching from print to the web in terms of offering a product. And for libraries this is bigger than just switching off the Dewey decimal system. The way we collect, organize and find information has fundamentally changed to empower more people to take a part in this process. That means our relationship to libraries has changed.
He tosses in the Wikipedia and Google Books reference that I also use when talking about this kind of thing there. Also, note the emphasis on empowering more people to take part in this process. This is kind of the optimistic spin on what Jaron Lanier is lamenting in You Are Not a Gadget (see my review).
One difference between journalists and librarians that he notes is the relative economic shelter that libraries operate under, though my experience with library reorganization and the grasping for stats that went on as they decided which departments could lose hours emphasizes the relativity of that difference.
The other is the one that I’d never thought of.
Librarians don’t see themselves as the creators or defenders of truth. That has never been in their job description. They don’t create anything – they are conduits. They help people find information, truth, facts, etc. Journalists might argue that in the act of reporting they were surfacing new information in the world. Through their work knowledge, facts and truth that was unknown to the world would be exposed and known. The act of reporting and distributing a story was like birthing truth, information and facts into the world.
See, I never got that out of journalism. When I do that journalistic kind of writing (which I haven’t done as much of recently but I’m trained for it) I always felt like a conduit. My best work as a journalist is letting other people talk. Cohn explains how journalists don’t give birth to truth, which seems self-evident to me, but whatever.
Anyway, I bring this all up because it was an interesting thing to read, and he suggests it as an avenue for academic exploration. I know I’ll be thinking about this intersection/comparison. It’s funny how I keep on trying to step into these changing industries. Why not something that has some continuity like baking? When I start up at library school, I’ll be looking for my niche and this might be a good angle for a paper or two. Thanks, Digidave.