Remixing the library

Last week at the Global Research Library 2020 conference I gave a talk that wound up being more about the role of public libraries in civic life than about the role of research libraries in academic life. I hope there was enough thematic overlap to have made the talk useful for the participants who attended.

I’ve posted a written version of the talk here: Remixing the library. It ties together a number of threads I’ve been pursuing: lightweight integration of information services, the hyperlocal web, and the emergence and use of public data. I’d be curious to know what folks think of the idea, presented in this talk, that libraries can play an important role not only as curators of existing information resources, but also as advisers to individuals and organizations as they increasingly create new resources.

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7 thoughts on “Remixing the library

  1. Hi Jon,

    Your paper helped crystallize an idea that’s been slowly dawning on me recently: One of the big challenges facing my fellow librarians is that the central tenet of our role is changing from being the caretakers of the information repository to being designers of the content going into that repository. For the last couple hundred years librarians could follow prescribed rules to provide world-class access to the latest scientific and philosophic breakthroughs without actually being top scientists or philosophers. It’s a shift from being passive recipients of the world’s knowledge to active participants in its creation, a shift that in many ways goes against some of the deepest core principles of what has become library science.

    The traditional packages (book, journal) are only a few of the many ways knowledge is available now – some of the most compelling work in certain fields is comparatively unpackaged and uncontrolled. For a profession steeped in the idea that our role is to describe packaged knowledge and then help people find it (and play no role in how they use it once we point the way to it), the idea that we can not only modify some types of packages or even create substantially new ones is quite foreign still. I don’t think we suddenly need to become biologists or criminologists to work with data specific to those fields, and especially not to design how it can be used, but there are some important conceptual hurdles to get over before we can really get going with it (i.e., we’re still trying to figure out how to get all the online journals we subscribe to into that OPAC thing no one can actually use…).

    – Cassandra

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