May 2008 Archives
Chrystie reminded me, as anyone working in the WebJunction group should, that it is the network of people that matters. They create the data in WorldCat. They are the institutions in the Registry.
This truism was made all the more poignant by a really great Members' Council meeting in Dublin last week. This was my second one, and this time, there was a lot about "the network." Having been heavily involved in several professional and personal groups where I have interacted with boards and members' groups, I can say that this board and members' group is among the best I've seen. And I'm not just saying that because the truth of it is seen in their determination to make difficult yet important decisions, like the one they made last week about OCLC Governance. Decisions like these are the teeth behind catch phrases like "Local, Group, Global." The network of members provides the focus for a vision statement like "The world's libraries. Connected."
Some people have teased me about my new title, Executive Director of Networked Library Services. And I'm the first to admit now that I was mistakenly approaching the "network" as piles of hardware and software--sitting there at my disposal to build something great, increase efficiency, and reduce costs for libraries. I'm still gonna try to do all that, but in the meantime, my colleagues and the membership reminded me to stay focused on the real network.
Knowing others well has always served me better than being well known.
But how much is enough? I find myself needing a social networking strategy. What seems to have started as an implicit popularity contest--how many friends, how many followers, how many degrees of separation--has turned into an overwhelming array of networking opportunities.
So I do have a bit of a strategy that is likely similar to others':
Facebook: Come one, come all. "Friend" no longer means what it use to and any friend of a friend is a friend of mine. But frankly, I don't care too much if you would spend a million dollars the same way I would, and should I care which Indiana Jones character you would be? I use Facebook for communication and for (surprise, surprise) seeing what people's faces look like. When I'm ready to thin out my garage of friends, I will likely start with those who don't want me to know what they look like. Facebook, people...come on!
LinkedIn: Here, I am selective. If I don't know who you are, haven't shook your hand, talked to you, IMed extensively with you, eaten or drunk with you, then I'm not likely to link to you. Add to that some assurance that I won't be embarrassed by a connection anytime soon--harder to guarantee, even for the people who add me to their network.
Twitter: Sorry. I don't get it. I don't like it. Don't look for me there much longer. It's hard enough for me to keep track of what I am doing. I simply don't have the time or inclination to tell everyone else.
Add to this : LibraryThing, StumbleUpon, Twine, Plaxo Plus, Iminta, etc., etc. How many more of these must I really sign up for? For now, I will stick to Facebook and LinkedIn and continue to employ my current strategy. Everyone else I want to keep up with has my email, IM, or phone number. Someone nudge me when there is a clear winner in the aggregation of social networks.
So like a good librarian, I did some research. I read a lot of Tim O'Reilly. I read a lot of Lorcan writing about 2.0 and O-Reilly. I tried to put something together that juxtaposed basic 2.0 principles against the entire workflow of the library. I will admit that what came out was a tiny bit mocking of the 2.0 meme, but I nevertheless kept coming back to O'Reilly.
In April 2007, he gave an interview where he accused much of the 2.0 crowd of missing the point. I've been calling this the "It's the data, stupid" quote:
"[There is] a major theme of web 2.0 that people haven't yet tweaked to. It's really about data and who owns and controls, or gives the best access to, a class of data." (full context)
I think libraries should appreciate this sentiment. I know my colleagues at OCLC do. The conversations that I'm in are invigorating--look at what we can do with all these data! Things like WorldCat.org and Identities. Now the next logical step, and echoing O'Reilly, how do we give the best access to it? The Developers Network is taking shape, and intense internal discussions regarding use and transfer of OCLC-derived records is in full swing. Stay tuned.
I love that the access discussion is happening; and I'm somewhat dismayed about the confusion over 2.0 leading to new discussions of 3.0 and 4.0. Sheesh. Before 3.0 takes hold, I'll be focusing on the use of the data for more and better purposes.
I was quite graciously received by the CUA faculty (which now only includes one member from my time there from 1994-1996), students, and fellow alumni. It was difficult to see firsthand that the Library and Information Science Library where I worked for two years had been dismantled in preparation for a new information commons space. A plant had taken the spot where my desk once stood...a desk that held the IBM 286 on which I created my very first website in early 1995.
I regret having taken so long to return, but the occasion of the lecture was a great way to come back. Elizabeth Stone was still hanging around as Dean Emerita in old Marist Hall when I was there. She seemed omnipresent, in fact, and she was one of the few faculty to actually use the library (which is probably why it got absorbed into the main library). I'll admit to not ever speaking very highly of my library education, but as I reflected on my time there and the faculty who taught me, I suddenly had a new perspective.
Each of them, including ones I never even had classes with, had some impact on my career and the way I think about librarianship. Dr. Hsieh Yee taught me to love cataloging (something I will blog about another time); J.W. Coffman (my advisor, who I learned passed away recently) taught me that the separation of theory and practice was not as wide as many perceive it; Barry Wheeler taught me to question all technological assumptions; Paul Koda taught me never to take myself or the profession too seriously.
I received kudos for the lecture, which included a lot of stuff I have said in other venues. But frankly, I am grateful to CUA for inviting me back because it made me reflect on the last decade plus in a way that I would not have otherwise.