February 15, 2006

Poke in the eye

Over at Science Library Pad, Richard Akerman starts an argument: "To put it more concisely, either your research library becomes part of the E-Science Cyberinfrastructure, or it gets paved over."

The post is here. The end of the article also links to a bunch of his other recent provocative posts. The whole set of posts and the associated comments on the main post are very nteresting, more or less a challenge to academic and research libraries to change or disappear.

Now, a lot of what he says I agree with and have published views on over the years. Online is the way to go, it's inevitable, it's what everyone wants, but to say that libraries and librarians have, over the years, been nothing but glorified storage closets for print journals is to me a little insulting. I'm not sure why he feels the need to use a phrase so guaranteed to raise hackles and piss people off as "paved over." I just wonder. These posts scream the "I don't use libraries, everyone must be just like me, so no needs to use libraries, pave'em over" type of attitude that is so prevalent among the less subtle posters on places like /. and other factions of the hardcore techie community (I know, remember, I grew up there) which can be so off-putting. It speaks of a massive chip on the shoulder.

Not sure if Akerman is a librarian or if he's ever actually been in one (as far as I know, neither is a prerequisite for working at CISTI), but he seems to have a very narrow definition of what libraries can and should do. He also seems to be a bit unaware that, yes, academic and research libraries are facing a huge challenge to redefine ourselves but we're trying and we think we're going to succeed. And oddly enough, our "brand" as a place (physical and, in the future, virual) to facilate conversation and collaboration is going to be it.

1 comment:

rakerman said...

The posting is constructed to be deliberately provocative, since I have found a lot of the library blogging discussion to be non-controversial, of the "hmm, maybe our OPAC could be better" variety, rather than the "maybe digital content destroys our current role" variety.

It is a bit unfortunate and quite unintentional that many people read it as an attack on librarianship or librarians, when it was really more about the physical space. To my mind, you could reduce or eliminate the physical space, while still having as many or more librarians supporting research activities, with the librarians just being e.g. co-located with the researchers themselves.

Anyway, I will be writing a follow-up posting based on the feedback I got.