Thursday, December 9, 2010

Reverberations and amplifications on some important issues for libraries

Recently a couple of issues I’ve raised here have been addressed in some other blogs. They provide other points of views and document other dimensions of the issues involved. So, if you haven’t had a chance to catch these posts, I highly recommend them:
  1. Abe Lederman of Deep Web Technologies wrote an interesting post linking the European Union case filed against Google this past week to what both the Federated Search Blog in a recent post and I’ve written about recently in a couple of posts (here and here) concerning the Charleston Conference Face-Off and biased search result sets. Librarians should not turn a blind eye to the potential problems here. It is important to understand that commercial interests can potentially void some of the checks and balances that should be preserved in the library supply chain. In this case, it can be done by separating the purchase of discovery/search tools from the purchase of content. If this isn’t done, as Abe points out in his headline, “If Google might be doing it…” there is no reason to think it can’t happen to the vendor supply chain for libraries as well. It’s a point well worth remembering.
  2. Another blog post I found particularly interesting is one by John Wilkin, Executive Director of HathiTrust and Librarian at the University of Michigan Library. His post, entitled: “Open Bibliographic Data: How Should the Ecosystem Work?” is required reading as are the comments that follow. While I won’t say I agree with all of John’s points, he makes a number of very pointed and well-deserved remarks aimed at OCLC that I do agree with. These include:
    “ By walling off the data, we, the members of the OCLC cooperative, lose any possibility of community input around a whole host of problems bigger than the collectivity of libraries”
    "OCLC should define its preeminence not by how big or how strong the walls are, but by how good and how well-integrated the data are.”
    It’s a different take on what I said in my post, i.e. OCLC should stand for Open and Cooperative Library Content. Karen Coyle, in the comments section notes:
    “If you cannot release your bibliographic data openly, you cannot participate in the linked data movement.”
    The one thing there seems to be a growing consensus about is that clearly some change is needed in Dublin, Ohio.
All of these posts point out that librarians must and can't be passive consumers in the current information landscape. I've written about this in a post before and what I said then is especially true during periods of rapid change and economic crisis. All too often in these times, people simply want to leave it to others and trust they’ll do what is best to represent your interests. Not to be pessimistic here, but that’s naïve and it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility to make known what is wanted and needed to serve the users and organization with which your library is associated and to do so in the most efficient and effective manner possible.