Librarians & online content

I read something online recently that made my heart beat faster, and I felt that I had to get this out of my system. There’s a popular idea that because things can (and increasingly do) exist electronically, that the need for classification (and in a way, librarians) are not required or are becoming unnecessary. Please, let me convince you that this is absolutely not the case…

  • Digitization and digital books: People assume that with the advent of e-Publishing and scanning technology that libraries are going to digitize all of the print materials in the library. This is not the case, and would be illegal under copyright laws. Libraries do not own the rights to digitize and make published materials available online without consent of the publisher and sometimes the author(s), or other owners of the materials. There ARE many books that have been digitized because of their age, public domain, etc., but libraries are not, and I doubt will ever be, fully digitizing their collections.
  • Misconception that electronic materials don’t need to be organized: Call numbers, classification systems (e.g. Dewy Decimal, Library of Congress, etc.), shelves, and signage are long-held systems to help people find print items in a library. The equivalent tools exist for electronic materials: hyperlinks and URLs, controlled subject vocabularies, tags and keywords, images, book covers, etc. These fields are in place to help people find materials in the easiest way possible. Just like their print counterparts, electronic stuff has its own access points, unique to its medium. Digital books have a classification and cataloguing system of their own, and they’re usually established by librarians.
  • Librarians, search tools and the Internet: I heard there was a scene on Parks and Recreation where Amy Poehler’s character said to the librarian something about being unnecessary or replaced because of the Internet. I can’t stand this argument… It’s obviously a cinch to find basic information on Google, but not everything is indexed on search engines like Google. Information isn’t always free, and Libraries have the resources to pay to have them available for you through subscriptions. If you’re only looking for basic details about something, clearly a librarian isn’t required. If you’re looking for something substantial or specific… you might have to scroll through a shitload of Google results if you don’t know what you’re doing. The Internet holds an incomprehensible amount of information. While having made it quicker to find lots of cool stuff, it has also been made more challenging to find authoritative or quality information. Librarians and other information professionals are essential in organizing, processing and helping to make sense of it.
  • Librarians as “gatekeepers”, not custodians of information:Librarians aren’t threatened by the Internet, or think that our jobs are in danger because of it. We use the Internet to make finding stuff easier, and we help people to use the Internet to make their lives and work easier. Heck, it makes our jobs easier too.

Suuuper Sessions at the 2010 Super Conference

At the end of February, Ontario Librarians will come together at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre to celebrate the Ontario Library Association Super Conference. For three marvellous session-packed days, Librarians from all sectors (Public, Academic, Government, School) convene to share knowledge and learn from each other. It’s a pretty great thing! In 2009, I volunteered as a graduating student and attended a session about digital libraries in public schools of remote communities in northern Ontario. This year, I look forward to volunteering again, this time with Knowledge Ontario’s AskON booth. On Thursday, February 25th I’ll be demonstrating the reference chat service, and will answer questions from visitors.

Additionally, I hope to attend one or two sessions on the Thursday. Unfortunately, there are several sessions of interest to me that conflict with each other. Here are my top few to choose between:

9:05 AM

While studying at FIS, I worked as a Graduate Student Library Assistant at the Data, Map & Government Information Centre (a mouthful, I know, but is acronymed as “DMGIS”). This job was amazing: rewarding, challenging, and I learned A LOT every single shift. However, it was often frustrating when/if a historical item from the collection was missing, or was never acquired (due to being rare or brittle). What is great about digitization initiatives (as well as Open Access developments), is the ability for other institutions to share their historic and rare collections through digitization! This session outlines these initiatives, and I would REALLY like to attend.

9:05 AM

This session strongly appeals to me for a few reasons. The first is that I am a huge fan of Academic Librarians who research, publish, and are ambitious about contributing to library and professional literature. Next, it is one of my major professional goals to one day work as an academic librarian (collections, research & reference, electronic resources or serials), and I hope to succeed in generating papers about my library and work. Thirdly, (and similarly), I think it is vvvvvvery important for librarians in academic settings to legitimize their status and role as tenure-track librarians by maintaining a culture of research.

Those are the two conflicting sessions for 9:05 AM. Below are the 3:45 PM sessions that I have to decide between:

3:45 PM

NOT ONLY is this session being convened by Marian Davies, a past conference collaborator, co-author, and present friend, but I am greatly interested in topics surrounding minimal funding in collections management. Solutions to, and the cause for some of these problems fascinate me, including aggregators, subscription agents, platform providers, the “serials crisis”, Open Access initiatives, etc. This would be a good session to attend!

3:45 PM

I love digitization projects and community/local histories. Period. I’d be interested to learn how Knowledge Ontario approached the project, what strategies were applied, and what obstacles (if any?) that they faced. During the Summer of 2007 I worked at the Oshawa Public Library, and digitized a collection of local history materials with optical character recognition. After this experience, I came to appreciate and realize the ability to access historical materials online. It is absolutely amazing, and increasingly necessary.

3:45 PM

Open Source Software is something that I barely understand, because of my limited knowledge of coding, etc., but I recognize it as a valuable and cost-saving alternative to proprietary system platforms. This sounds like a good learning opportunity, and I wish it was at a different time!

SEE YOU AT THE OLA SUPER CONFERENCE!!!! 😀