Thursday, 15 February 2007

Wanted - good home for old library cabinet

Just read a lovely series of nostalgia posts from the ever excellent New Zealand library Listserv.
Memory Moment 1
You remember them, everyone? ListServs? Of how, way back in the mists of time, or at least 12/20 years ago, listservs were the most useful part of our digital life - ask a question of your gang at breakfast - have the answer by lunchtime - the facts and figures in your presentation ten minutes later. And some of us even acknowledged the source.

The librarians of both New Zealand [thanks Knowledge Basket] and the world have some excellent Listservs, including NZlibs. Right now one of their members from National Radio is looking for a good home for one of their old library catalogue cabinets.

Memory Moment 2
You remember them as well? The picture above is from the old cabinets at Yale University. Once the brain of any institution, the card index was the definitive metadata store, and the Dewey and Library of Congress systems the way knowledge was indexed and catalogued.

These days, its all digital - catalogues are now library management systems [LMS], with a myriad of different modules, all looking to capture both the analogue and the digital and bring them into the orbit of their members through a parallel customer or patron record which knows what you have out - what you have on order, et al.

When you put these two worlds together, and then add in some customer profile information about, say, my interests, and then hove into a view a really kicker web site, then, you start seeing that the modern public library has a huge potential to not only survive the transition to the web/digital world - it can become one of the key resources people use to manage and navigate and live their digital life.

There are some really good examples of this kind of thinking already happening here in New Zealand.

First, have a look at Christchurch City Libraries web site. For sure, there is an interest here. McGovern had a hand in working out the information architecture, design, and navigation.

But the build - the back end - the ongoing content - the databases - including the LMS plumbing is managed and in many cases developed by the digital library services team.

In other words these guys got digital before you did.

Up in Auckland , eLGAR, the consortium of five separate library authorities, scoped, commisioned and brought to launch a shared LMS. This project has won a bunch of awards including the 2006 Computerworld Excellence Award Excellence in the Use of IT in Government. [Note; The 2007 Awards are still open for applicants until Friday 16th march , here]

Public libraries going digital
But the wider picture of how public libraries will transition to the digital age is more vexed and complicated issue.

Off the seventy odd New Zealand library authorities, it would be fair to say the majority of them struggle to resource their analogue world, far less the bright new coin of planet digital.

Moreover, public librarians as a profession, although they embrace the idea of a digital future, are perfectly well aware that there is a lot to do to convince their political masters, and in some instances, their own peers, of their relevance in the age of Google.

Some of this is all about making people aware of what is already happening.

For example, Any Questions, the librarian based reference site for New Zealand students doing homework is a great initiative, and a good example of the kind of co-operation that will win the argument - in this case, librarians from various library authorities work within a web framework which was built and managed through the National Library, which in turn had, and continues to have, loads of support, both professional and financial from the NZ Ministry of Education.

Similarly, Matapihi, the heritage portal which gives us access to 80,000 pictures, objects, sounds, movies and texts on New Zealand arts and heritage, is another great example of how local partners, while retaining complete control of their own material, connect to a national framework which gives us a federated view of all the different partner collections.

But no matter how good these examples are, there is a crying need for a lot more strategic thinking on how the local public library network/profession can remain true to its strength as a local community asset, work nationally with its peers and partners, and interlink globally with the rest of the digital landscape of knowledge, information and imagination.

Well Worth Your Attention

Some excellent thinking has started. Lots of this is in the well worth your attention paper -
Public Libraries of New Zealand - A Strategic Framework 2006 - 2016

The emphasise is on the vital role that public libraries play in community life, and looks at the challenges that public libraries face in meeting the demands of the future

It is also refreshingly clear about the value of the local library.

"Public libraries are invaluable to our democratic way of life – they contribute to our economic, social and cultural life – both locally and nationally - engage, inspire and inform citizens and help build strong communities'.

They have identified four areas of strategic development which they want libraries to build on.

  • Accessing information, ideas and works of the imagination

  • Supporting independent lifelong learning and literacy

  • Enabling online access to the digital world

  • Building community participation and development

This strategy, and how to implement it should take a big leap forward this coming Monday 26th and Tuesday 27th of February in Wellington, when around 100 people from the sector, local and national government, plus a whole bunch of innovation/business people are being asked to come together and come up with their ideas on how to sustain, change, innovate and or champion the future of the library space.

They will also have the chance to hear from David Lammy , the UK Minister for Culture who has been invited out to talk to the conference on the UK experience on transforming the library sector through initiatives like the Love Libraries campaign and the Reading Agency.

These initiatives have in turn been incubated and/or created by the UK agency MLA. Chris Batt the head of MLA is also coming out to talk to the conference.

It's a big gig. I am delighted to have been asked to go to it. My own personal hope is a three part work programme/outcome:

1. Cultural
A programme of events and activities leading to a very loud public conversation to examine, critique, and hopefully, reaffirm the role and purpose of the public library for the likes of you and me - the customer, formally known as the member.

2. Political
An ongoing commitment by both local and central government to find new ways of collaborating around the importance of the public library as a national community asset, including new funding and partnership models.

3. Professional
A big conversation in the library world and their customers to make sure the library profession has the skills , attributes , values and frameworks to be a major resource for you and me on the emerging and every growing digital landscape.

Two invitations

Lastly - I have two invitations. The first from me - make a comment on how you see the future for the public library.

Second - from Penny Carnaby, National Librarian and Chief Executive of the National Library who writes, to extend an invitation to attend a public meeting on Tuesday, 27 February at 5.30pm, for "A Conversation with David Lammy, Minister for Culture for the UK'
5.30pm, Tuesday 27 February 2007 National Library Auditorium Aitken St Wellington
Please RSVP


Anonymous said...

I like this: "A Librarian's 2.0 Manifesto":

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