Friday, February 24, 2006

Materially in Montana

George and I are in Helena, MT to give presentations to the participants of the OFFLINE conference, at the invitation of Bruce Newell, the director of the Montana Library Network, delegate to OCLC Members Council, and friend. OFFLINE is an interest group of the Montana Library Association, and began in the 80s as a venue to help librarians become better Dialog searchers. We've come a long way since then, haven't we?

It's actually rare for us professional windbags to be at the same event so I will have the pleasure, this afternoon, of being able to see George's presentation "Living in an immaterial world" which is a great mashup title, invoking George Harrison, Madonna and The Police.

I will be talking about a toolbox of stuff....blogging, podcasting, mashups. I am even going to mention Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 which we have devoted few pixels to here at IAG. For my part, that's because I am loath to talk about something I really hadn't got my head around yet. But, I am going to keep it very simple as this represents my level of understanding at the moment. Like this....

Web 1.0: taking traditional media and making it web accessible. Static. Broadcasting. Often the same "look and feel" as the non-digital version. "Owners" are the designers, presenters and deliverers. Same for Library 1.0.

Web 2.0: Web presence becomes a participatory space and is added to, enhanced and changed by participants, not just owners, in a decentralized structure. Same for Library 2.0.

My example of the latter will be LibraryThing which is a very, very interesting phenomenon. Created by Tim Spaulding, (not a librarian), LibraryThing is a product, a service, a social network, a blog, a catalog and a cataloging tool with hundreds of participants. Tim has a quote on the home page from an article by the Christian Science Monitor:
"LibraryThing appears poised to turn the cataloging of books into a form of communal recreation."

For all the talking and writing about Lib2.0 in Libraryland, I don't think there's really been much said about the "owners" not being the drivers of change. If Lib2.0 unfolds as Web2.0 is, I suspect we may not have much control over what happens to our Lib1.0 services. LibraryThing is a good example of a shift in control. Make sure your seatbelts are safely fastened. It's going to be an interesting ride.


Jeffrey Beall said...

Oh, Alane! This is another of your postings meant to devalue and intimidate library cataloging and catalogers! Do you really believe that user-supplied tags will replace professionally created metadata? Your agrument is like saying mob rule will replace government--and be better. I think your seat belt is on too tight, or perhaps the clear and rarefied air of Montana is affecting your reasoning. I say, if you want to get rid of library cataloging, go ahead. People will soon realize the value that cataloging adds to print and electronic assets and quickly bring it back--hopefully without all the obstacles that the utilities throw in the path.

Alice said...

Hey Jeffrey, thanks for stirring the pot a little. In the spirit of a good discussion, I won't put words in Alane's mouth about what she intended or didn't intend by her post--but I'd like to ask everyone else: what do you think about user-supplied tags vs. librarian-supplied cataloging?

I, for one, want to think that this is an AND phenomenon, rather than either/or and that one will replace the other...that there is a time and place for both types of metadata.

Video (or Podcasting) might have killed the radio star, but don't tell that to Garrison Keillor. Or Click and Clack. Or Al Franken. Or my car. I like a world where I can have radio, podcasts AND video.

Same goes for metadata. For me. Anyone else care to jump in here?

Bruce Newell said...

Jeff has a good point. There probably is a difference between metadata from the pen of a trained cataloger and that from an untrained but interested student.

But is the difference between the two enough to make a difference, and how do you tell? Bateson suggested that information is any difference that makes a difference. If metadata is (useful) information, then it should make a difference, and the only difference worth worrying about is tied to patron-related outcomes.

Wouldn't it be interesting to compare finding 'stuff' in (1) WorldCat--a vast sea of professionally cataloged bib records, some of it cataloged by mob rule (2) (Librarything) or revealed by a machine. Say (3) Google. Let's see if there is a difference, or enough difference to make a difference.

For what its worth, most library users I know will go for Google everytime, regardless of the outcome. They like the convenience. How do we make what's revealed in Google worth pursuing further? Is the metadata created by mob rule in Librarything good enough? How do we measure the utility of carefully constructed bibliographic records against those built by civilians? So to speak. I wonder how we measure the difference in utility between librarian-created records, and those created by passionate amateurs.

Let's run this little experiment.