Bob Harriman, a former colleague here at OCLC after his tenure as the coordinator of LC's Newspaper Program, and now the Director of Preservation Programs for Preservation Technologies, brought "del.icio.us" to my attention. OK, maybe I'm the last person to hear about this, but I find it fascinating. From its home page, here's a description of what del.icio.us is all about:
Ed Kiecyzkowski, now the County Librarian in San Bernardino, California, was the director of the Mansfield-Richland County Public Library in Ohio when I ran the Fairfield County District Library. He did a survey of how public libraries used clerical, paraprofessional, and professional staff. He told me that the only job all the libraries in his survey reserved for librarians was collection development and selection. Of course, this was at least 15 years ago, but this kind of cooperative, user-managed development of sources and tools changes the playing field, doesn't it?
I think the growth of sites like del.icio.us also shows that privacy is less of a concern for users of this type of site than it is for many librarians. Am I saying that we should throw our traditional defense of the privacy of library use records out the window? No, I am not. But do I think we should be doing a better job in mining our circ data to help people find more things that might interest them or be useful to them in their research? Yes.
My feelings on this led to a very heated discussion in the Library Automation class I discussed earlier on this blog. Several of the students in the class were quite passionate (and articulate) in their belief that library records should not be used for this purpose, especially if there was any chance whatsoever they could fall into the clutches of Big Brother. I couldn't agree with those students more. But I do feel that there must be ways to aggregate this sort of data, maybe even using the records of a number of libraries, to protect user confidentiality but still allow us to use what we know.