DiigoNotes - Libraries deal with Disruptive Change

Thanks to Carolyn Foote for sharing this article with me. Profound implications for libraries. As Blue Skunk Blogger Doug Johnson points out, you can't just be a Book-Librarian anymore.


    • Gutenberg 2.0

      Harvard’s libraries deal with disruptive change.


    • Increasingly, in the scientific disciplines, information ranging from online journals to databases must be recent to be relevant, so Widener’s collection of books, its miles of stacks, can appear museum-like.

    • Google’s massive project to digitize all the books in the world will, by some accounts, cause research libraries to fade to irrelevance as mere warehouses for printed material.

    • The skills that librarians have traditionally possessed seem devalued by the power of online search, and less sexy than a Google query launched from a mobile platform.

    • Yet if the format of the future is digital, the content remains data. And at its simplest, scholarship in any discipline is about gaining access to information and knowledge, says Peter Bol, Carswell professor of East Asian languages and civilizations

    • where the research horizon is constantly advancing, much of the knowledge created in the past has very little relevance to current understanding.

    • “you want to be riding the crest of the tidal wave of information that is coming in right now. We all want access to information, and in some cases that will involve building collections; in others, it will mean renting access to information resources that will keep us current. In some cases, these services may be provided by a library, in others by a museum or even a website.”

    • That’s a vision of librarians as specialists in organizing and accessing and preserving information in multiple media forms, rather than as curators of collections of books, maps, or posters.”


    • “Internet search engines like Google Books fundamentally challenge our understanding of where we add value to this process,” says Dan Hazen, associate librarian of collection development for Harvard College. Librarians have worked hard to assemble materials of all kinds so that it is “not a random bunch of stuff, but can actually support and sustain some kind of meaningful inquiry,” he explains. “The result was a collection that was a consciously created, carefully crafted, deliberately maintained, constrained body of material.”

    • Internet search explodes the notion of a curated collection in which the quality of the sources has been assured.

    • When you get into the Internet world, you tend to get a gazillion facts, mentions, snippets, and references that don’t organize themselves in that same framework of prominence, and typology, and how stuff came to be, and why it was created, and what the intrinsic logic of that category of materials is. How and whether that kind of structuring logic can apply to this wonderful chaos of information is something that we’re all trying to grapple with.”

    • How the flood of information from digitized books will be integrated into libraries, which have a separate and different,

    • contradictory, logic remains to be seen.


    • Bol’s vision of future librarians as digital-information brokers rather than stewards of physical collections is already taking shape in the scientific disciplines

    • In fields faced with information overload—such as biology, coping with a barrage of genomic data, and astronomy, in which an all-sky survey telescope can generate a terabyte of data in a single night—the torrents of raw information are impossible to absorb and understand without computational aids. 

    • There is growing awareness of the need to have an “information-processing approach to medicine baked into the core education of doctoral and medical students.” Otherwise, Kohane says, “we’re condemning them to perpetual partial ignorance.”

    • “How do we make information as useful as possible to our community now and over a long period of time?” 

    • “The digital world of content is going to be overwhelming for librarians for a long time, just because there is so much

    • librarians need to teach students not only how to search, but “how to think critically about what they have found…what they are missing… and how to judge their sources.” 

    • Actually delivering a physical book from the HD, on the other hand, costs $2.15—much more than the delivery of a digital book to a computer screen.

    • If students want to read a book cover to cover, the printed copy may be deemed superior with respect to “bed, bath and beach,” John Palfrey points out. If they just want to read a few pages for class, or mine the book for scattered references to a single subject, the digital version’s searchability could be more appealing; alternatively, students can request scans of the pages or chapter they want to read as part of a program called “scan and deliver” (in use at the HD and other Harvard libraries) and receive a link to images of the pages via e-mail within four days. 

    • “the notion that we are going to abandon the codex as we have known it—the traditional book—and go digital overnight is very misguided. It is going to be a much longer transition than anyone suspects, just as the transition in the past between the oral tradition of literature in antiquity and silent reading as we’ve known it for almost two millennia was a long transition, taking the better part of a millennium itself.”

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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