Monday, May 16, 2005

The Rare Event

It's Members Council here in Dublin, Ohio and so George, Alice and I are not at our computers much. George does have a Blackberry and Alice and I have smart phones but we just haven't made that step into moblogging and so aren't doing a very good job of posting.

Last night, Kurt De Belder, University Librarian, Universiteit Leiden in The Netherlands gave a speech to delegates and OCLC staff, covering some issues regarding the future directions of academic libraries. It was nice to hear from a librarian from outside the US for two reasons: things are very different, and things are very similar. Kurt used a term I liked to describe issues in the landscape libraries inhabit. He called them "fault lines" which I took to mean places where there's tension and potential for disruption, if not full-scale disaster. One issue among many was that of the unintegrated nature of the "integrated library system". Integrated with what? Itself. Not the Web, not other systems and certainly not integrated with users' experiences. Of course, ILS vendors are beginning to address this but much faster would be better.

Lorcan has a long and very thoughtful essay on "the user interface that isn't" over at his weblog.

After Kurt spoke, Stewart Bodner spoke. He's the Associate Chief of the General Research Division at the New York Public Library, and a funny guy. He gave his presentation in the form of questions to our community. My favourite was (I am paraphrasing from my scribbled notes), "Can we all stop planning for the rare event?" His point was that we librarians spend a lot of time worrying about the "what ifs", identifying the rare event and then building a system for that rare event. I thought of the soulessness and lack of personality that our catalogs have because we have always planned for the rare event of an invasion of privacy. Lorcan comments on the space in his post "The Prisoner and the Catalog."

Sounds like a novel by Kafka.

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