Systems and Technologies

Chrystie Hill on Libraries and Community

In October 2009, Chrystie Hill spoke at TEDx - Columbus expressing in a personal way her vision for libraries. As she notes, in researching for her book Inside, Outside, and Online, she spoke with library staff, thinking about their practice through a community-building lens. Across the board, she heard that librarianship is about people and connections, not the books or the services that we think people need.

Tim O’Reilly, in presenting his ideas of Government 2.0 in an Inc. article, said, “We've come to think about government as a kind of vending machine -- we put in our taxes and we get out services." He suggested that we look at government as a platform, like Apple’s iPhone, upon which 150,000 apps have been created, harnessing the entrepreneurial energy of others. What then would be the role of public libraries? Digitized music, movies, and ebooks challenge libraries’ function as a “vending machine” of physical items. Perhaps libraries’ platform is the human connection that Chrystie describes in this 20-minute video.


Chrystie Hill said that she was mad that she didn’t bring a copy of her  book to the Tedx talk.. “They didn’t tell me I could.” We’ll do better. Below is an excerpt. 
 

As a library professional, I value traditional library services and am as interested as most of my colleagues in whether library visits and overall circulation have increased. Yet, increased circulation and visits to the library, even an increase in library program or classroom attendance (especially for children’s programs), feels less of a feat against the fact that we’re not doing a good job online or outside the library. We’re absent (not entirely, but mostly) as active community builders even in our own spaces, but certainly outside the library. We’ve neglected to recognize our role as organizers and keepers of information access as primarily a social role. In fact, the scholars engaged in early discussions about the role of the library in developing and facilitating the participatory and social nature of the Web weren’t librarians, and the year was 1996.

In their seminal work “The Social Life of Documents,” John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid explained that documents—digital or otherwise—are much more than carriers of information. Although documents are powerful for helping us structure and organize information space, they also help us create and negotiate social space. In other words, groups form and conversations emerge around them. Brown and Duguid argued that we should expand our notion of the document to include all the social interaction that happens around it. Here they are in the late 1990s, well before Web 2.0 or prevalent Internet use, telling us that if we pay attention to how people form groups and create community around documents, it will help us move technology (and by extension, other ser¬vices) in the direction of what humans actually do with a document (Brown and Duguid 1996, 2000). In my version of the story of where we went wrong, my first point is this: we’ve neglected to consider, in general, the social life of documents, as outlined in the article. This is true for all documents, regardless of format.

A few anecdotes from some target users are instructive:

Trudee is a young professional, presently in her early twenties. She won’t ask a librarian any question, at any time, for any reason. I can ask my friends or find it myself, she says on the suggestion that she ask a reference librarian to help her solve a problem or locate information; they’re faster.

Matt is a middle manager, presently in his early thirties, who also trained as a librarian. Upon discussing whether his local library is relevant to him, he says (quite emphatically), the most important information need that I have is “what are my friends doing?” concluding then that the public library is not relevant to him as an individual user.

In the words of one OCLC survey respondent, presently in her early forties: Books, books, books, rows and rows of books, stacks of books, tables filled with books, people holding books, people checking out books. Libraries are all about books. That is what I think and that is what I will always think.

Somewhere along the way we chose (deliberately or otherwise) to value our traditional roles as much as we valued the traditional definition of the documents we cared for. If documents helped humans structure and organize information space, librarians helped humans structure, organize, and access documents. In neglecting the social nature of documents and our users, we neglected to nurture, or at least to articulate, the very social nature of our own roles.

“For what Hill (director of community services, WebJunction) offers is nothing less than a holistic vision for public libraries in the United States, centered on the library's ability to create community. She adroitly draws on scholarship and research, examples and interviews, to create a plan for libraries that is as sharply focused as it is quietly urgent.” Library Journal, starred review.

See the Google books excerpt.

Welcome to alaeditions.org!

I would like to welcome you to Editions.org and our open-forum blog. It is my privilege to be the Publisher of both TechSource (subscriptions, e-learning, webinars, and workshops) and Editions (professional and reference books, both print and electronic). My team is part of a larger unit at the American Library Association called Publishing.

The dirty little secret is that I am not a librarian, but I know a great deal about what librarians do, what they think about, and what they are concerned about.  But I never know enough; I will never be close enough to the action because I do not work in a library. So my colleagues and I depend on you tell us what is going on and what you need for your professional development. And here is a chance for you to do just that.

Something that we in publishing share with librarians of all kinds is high anxiety about how quickly our work world is changing. I am old enough (the proverbial 39, thank you Mr. Benny) to remember when the art and science of putting a book together meant having a hand-written manuscript typed by two different people (in order to ensure that the material was correct), comparing the documents, creating a master with hand edits, and sending it off to the compositor—who made galleys. (And why did we call them galleys, anyway. A galley is a long metal tray that holds type ready for printing.)

The galleys would be edited, read by the author, edited and corrected again, and sent back to the author. Changes would be made again until we finally had page proofs, which were sent back to the author and then to a proof reader. Cover art had to be hand drawn; even charts, graphs, and other display elements were hand drawn—we had an art department with lighted tables, for goodness sake.  And permission letters were a horrible bore—they took forever to do and get back. Did I forget the index……done manually? Once the art was in place and the index readied the second set of page proofs were sent off to the author. Corrections always came back, no matter how often you explained that an author could not rewrite anything! Finally, everything was sent to the printer, who put the book under the camera to make film, to make plates....and on and on.

Well, the back and forth still goes on, and we still go to the printer (for how long, one wonders). But it is all so wonderfully different now; still a lot of work for both author and publisher, but our output is more than just a physical book. It can be a PDF of the book you can print yourself; but it also can be an e-bundle that allows you to read one of our books on your Kindle or iPad or whatever your favorite device happens to be.

And of course, this is part of our shared high anxiety: Will an actual book disappear? Some may remember a quaint little movie “84 Charing Cross Road” with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins from 1986—a movie that glorified and revered not only books, but old books. In it are great scenes from the proverbial musty book shop in the basement of a London building. The staff was totally devoted to and knowledgeable about books, great ones and little volumes of seemingly no consequence other than the fact that someone wanted to own them and read them. To have them. Librarians and publishers alike are anxiously asking if patrons will continue to want and to own books. And no one knows for sure.

Now I have to confess my second dirty little secret: I have owned a Kindle for over two years, and I love it. Not only do I love it, I take it everywhere. My non-publishing friends are scandalized. But you are a book publisher. No, I respond, I am a publisher and my world has changed greatly. I want librarians to own our books, courses, and newsletters, but I don’t care if they buy an actual book or something they load on their Sony Reader. Just tell us by your buying decisions that we are publishing correctly for you. What I really want to know is if our content is helping librarians be better librarians, which is what ALA Publishing in general and TechSource and Editions in particular are all about.

So, welcome again to our blog. We want to talk about anything that has to do with books, with publishing, with libraries, with technology…..come join the party.

Michael


P.S. Many of you may have heard that Barnes & Noble is for sale. Leonard Riggio, the founder, will probably lead a group of investors and take the chain private (again). It was not long ago that the entire industry was in fear and trepidation about the power and control that the super store chains would have on the book world.  Everyone fretted that one company, with over 700 stores, would so dominate the market. They indeed did change the landscape. There are very few independent stores around. In 2001, B & N’s total market capitalization was $2.2 billion while Amazon’s capitalization was $3.6 billion.

Now the shoe is on the other foot. B & N today is capitalized at $950 million while Amazon is currently at $55 billion. Who’s the monster now…….?
 

Syndicate content