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Dear Library of Congress...

Submitted by Karen G. Schneider on March 7, 2007 - 10:53am

In late February, the Library of Congress announced it was holding an “open” meeting on March 8, 2007 at Google's headquarters in Mountain View, California. Comments were invited.

 

 

With less than a week to respond with comments on an important public meeting that is quaintly labeled “open” because anyone who can fly to Mountain View, California on a week's notice may attend, my comments feel rushed and raw—more on the order of Valerie Solanas' screeds than scholarly communication. However, I believe that as a profession we are in enough of a state of emergency that I must address, if not the group, then my peers in LibraryLand.

 

Not long ago a librarian complained to me that he was having a hard time catching his library's attention on new digital initiatives, as everyone at the library was preoccupied with the hoopla surrounding the acquisition of the two millionth book. My response was to suggest he tell them there would be no three millionth book (at least as we know and understand books today).

 

It is both ironic and poignant that librarians are still worrying about “bibliographic control,” after ceding so much of the same to the companies that now rent them journal access per annum at usurious rates, digitize their book collections into DRM obscurity, or sell them ponderous, antiquated “management” systems that on close inspection do little more than serve as storehouses for the metadata specific to the formats of bygone eras, bold days when we saw our central roles as defenders and curators of our cultural heritage.

 

We have moved from the librarian as information artisan—a professional creating and using tools to manage information—to the librarian as surrogate vendor, facilitating what is essentially the offshoring of thousands of years of information into private hands.

 

These observations may seem to be beyond the scope of enquiry for the meeting in question, which is about users and uses of data. The issues I see the committee focusing on include the gulf between latter-day description and current-day access, and the problems with reconciling our very disparate and heterogeneous pots of data with the user's need for a fluid, continuous, unbroken data stream.

 

These are welcome issues for discussion, and I agree that some of the issues described in the background paper, such as FRBR, hold some short-term interest for improving access according to the rules and expectations of an earlier era; the references to user-added content were also fresh and timely.

However, I would caution the committee that tinkering around the edges of how we as a profession do our old-world business—buy a book, create a record—is to miss the point. Small upward bumps in traditional book circulation, coaxed by major redesigns of traditional tools—however important these redesigns--are no more comforting than brisk sales at a masking-tape store in a mall going out of business (to invoke an old Saturday Night Live skit).

 

To paraphrase Andrew Abbott's point in The System of Professions, we are behaving like the train companies, who thought they were in the train business, not the transportation business, and like them, there are already signs that the “train business” we do is on artificial life support. We are not even close to being the first service of choice for information seekers; we are pretty much down there with asking one's mother. Libraries across the country are increasingly asked to justify their existence in order to receive continued funding, and some have been unable to do so.


Even the very interesting work done with the concept of library as “place,” and the remarkable public commons that have arisen, should not obscure the increasing difficulty of explaining why this “place” needs to be library-based to begin with.

 

Meanwhile, as a profession, the largest “transportation” issue—the battlefields of intellectual property, fought in the chambers of lawyers, vendors, and legislators—has overall poor and uninformed representation from librarianship, with the exception of a few good organizations, such as the Office of Information Technology Policy out of the American Library Association, a group that understands what business it is in. Their Sisyphean battle is balanced on the other side of the hill with the many thousands of licensing agreements signed every year in which libraries agree to allow commercial enterprises to privatize a public good.

 

Then again, the number one indicator for Association of Research Libraries statistics is the number of paper-based books on our shelves, and anything remotely related to digital content is ghettoized in “Supplemental Statistics.” It is discouraging how discussions about intellectual property in its varied forms can be so quickly overshadowed by a single reference to what I think of as the ARL body count.

 

We do need a train--a clue-train. The paper-based book is already a metaphor; books are now born in digital format. The New York Times on my breakfast table is heaving its death rattle, if I listen closely enough. Looking ahead ten, twenty, fifty years, do any of us believe that the issues of access and description will not be driven overwhelmingly by issues related to digital content—some of it in fantastical, ever-mutating new forms (q.v. the networked book forms such as those proposed by The Institute for the Future of the Book)?

 

Or even more significantly, and my central point, can any of us deny that the forms in which we explore our memory work will pale next to the messy legacy we will have left behind regarding rights and access, a legacy born of our eagerness to offload our slog work on companies driven not by a commitment to and passion for preserving the written word, but driven instead by what Richard K. Johnson, in a recent ARL report, refers to as the “imperatives of business”?

 

Naturally, users want easy access to information; I furrowed my brow at the observation in the background paper that “users have come to expect that information should be easy to discover,” as I hope this point is not open to debate. Our old tools are not easy or particularly accessible; our old way of doing things is unjustifiably laborious and expensive (and may have contributed to the pickle we are in, by increasing the temptation to agree to less-than-optimal negotiations with content licensors).

Most of us in my profession understand and appreciate the value of metadata, and we appreciate the efforts, however uneven, to bring resource description into the 20th--excuse me, 21st--century. I do not intend this to be the New S.C.U.M. Manifesto (a la Solanas--perhaps the "Society for Cutting Up Metadata"?). It is good that we consider the issues of description worthy of a series of national meetings.

But in the end, after we conclude that the user is not broken, and that the tools we design must reflect this fact, and before the train pulls away forever... can we also agree that the first commitment to ease of access needs to include the right—forever, and always—to read?


Comments (31)

Nice job Karen. Useful site.

Nice job Karen. Useful site. But I hate a spam in comments :/

In 50 years don't actually

In 50 years don't actually need libraries.

A long rambling diatribe

A long rambling diatribe that says nothing. . . this is why I consider librarians to be speedbumps for the most part.

I wish our school librarian

I wish our school librarian can read this. We seldom see people who are very concerned and particular with their job which also affect other people. In our school, as long as library shelves have books the librarians and her staff is already contented. They never seek to improve their status.

Interesting. Can i translate

Interesting. Can i translate this article to Italian? Thanks

These are welcome issues for

These are welcome issues for discussion, and I agree that some of the issues described in the background paper, such as FRBR, hold some short-term interest for improving access according to the rules and expectations of an earlier era; the references to user-added content were also fresh and timely.

In truth, I think, after

In truth, I think, after reading the original posts and these comments, that the real problem is that we don’t yet know where we are. As was originally suggested, one thing that means is that we must be ever vigilant, watching to see where the tide finally takes us. However, consider just a few of the current problems that do not yet have a clear solution. Digitizing information – books, journals – makes for ease of access, which is obviously one of the things libraries should be about. Yet at present, there’s no easy format for readers to access this material. Speaking for myself, sitting at a computer all afternoon isn’t exactly the way I want to read through a Dickens novel. Yet the public has also so far been resistant to portable readers. Thus we seem to be moving towards digitizing all information, but we aren’t quite sure what to do with it yet. I agree with some posts comments arguing that the library’s bibliographic task is also important, but there may be a limit to just how long it can continue as it has. Anyone up for cataloging each and every website that exists, every blog entry, every comment that has been made on the web? Perhaps that doesn’t qualify as “knowledge,” but are we sure? And if it is, how can we possibly cope with all of it using current standards and techniques?

Thus we seem to be moving

Thus we seem to be moving towards digitizing all information, but we aren’t quite sure what to do with it yet. I agree with some posts comments arguing that the library’s bibliographic task is also important, but there may be a limit to just how long it can continue as it has. Anyone up for cataloging each and every website that exists, every blog entry, every comment that has been made on the web? Perhaps that doesn’t qualify as “knowledge,” but are we sure? And if it is, how can we possibly cope with all of it using current standards and techniques?

Thus we seem to be

Thus we seem to be heart-stirring towards digitizing all command pulses, but we aren’t cleverly sure what to do trajectile it yet. I bargain square dance neat posts chatters arguing that the library’s bibliographic task is also important, but there may be a wing to just how long it can continue as it has. Anyone up for cataloging one and all and every website that exists, every blog laryngeal epilepsy, every elocution that has been fashioned on the web? Perhaps that doesn’t qualify as “native wit,” but are we sure? And if it is, how can we possibly cope slug all of it using current standards and techniques?

Sigh...as I read the posts

Sigh...as I read the posts that zealously proclaim that we must cater to the 'I want things fast and easy or else' way of librarianship, I am reminded of the short-lived struggle between the two operating systems, DOS and Windows. Most of you are too young to even know what DOS is. You know nothing other than the Windows 'search under various drop-down boxes and indexes to find (or not) what you want' method of producing a document. You know nothing about the swiftly executed DOS commands that could produce what you need without fail. But DOS took intelligence and patience to learn. Windows decided we needed a dumbed down approach to computing so that it could be useful and appealing to the masses. So that's what we have now (portent of the change in librarianship). And who's to say that's wrong? In the sense that you absolutely need a product that will be useful to the general public, it is right. In the sense that they might not always get what they need (but can produce some sort of document nonetheless)and certainly not as quickly and efficiently, it's wrong. For the real geeks, the underlying DOS system can still be accessed. Whatever our future 'information access' systems become, hopefully they will still allow for the folks who want it quick and easy, as well as the folks who want to get it right the first time.

Terry D. I agree with you

Terry D. I agree with you about the importance of marketing and advocacy, along with those bibliographic control and 2.0 concerns. I realize a lot of what I have said might seem as if its “unconcerned with the reality on the ground”, but I don’t want to be this way, and I don’t think this is what I’m advocating. In that spirit therefore (re: marketing and advocacy) let me offer, with his permission, the idea of Dru Edrington from the PUC Library of Texas. In a recent AUTOCAT email, he said: “I can see it now -- an OPAC front page divided into two screens. One screen has a single keyword entry seach box, with text under it stating 'Feeling lucky? Use this search box if you want quick, but not necessarily accurate results.' The other screen has a screen typical of an advanced search OPAC screen, with subject browse, subject keyword, etc. The text under that screen states 'If you need results that are focused and more accurate, use this search screen'. If Google didn't sue us for the aspersions cast on them by the first search screen, this could be a good idea. All kidding aside, something similar to this would at least educate the user that there are two levels of searching. I also envision a help link under 'Keyword search' and 'Keyword browse' that would take the user to a full-text searchable database of LC Subject Headings.” (end quote) I think this kind of thinking is a really good start. It seems to me that the key is educating the user that there are “two levels of searching”. Elizabeth McDonald, from the University of Memphis had some helpful points as well: “…Even though I am a cataloger I do not always use the catalog in the same manner each time. When I am doing research I want to be able to control what I am looking for and need all the bells and whistles. By the same token, I use the same catalog when I am in the mood to reread Jane Austin. In that case, I do what most kids do, I get the call number, go to the shelf and pick the volume that is the least grotty, best size and typeface that I feel like reading. I am likely to take the same approach when I am looking for general information. Plus keyword searching can be a way to locate a true subject heading. Sometimes I think we get so caught up in one aspect that we forget that the catalog often has to meet more than one set of needs. This is what we need to remember and to put forth when we defend subject headings. Flame away, but they are not always needed. It's just that when you need them you need them. I think we need to try to depolarize the discussion. I realize that administrators don't always get what we are trying to say about the importance of subject headings. But we also need to acknowledge, that even in a research university there is a place for a less rigorous use of a catalog. If we say that you must always use subject headings, then I think we lose some credibility, because we are getting caught up in a did so, did not type of argument. The best catalog should provide for both with the ability to lead from one to another as needed. Just my two cents.” (quoted with her permission). I really think that she put that wonderfully. All of the above is a great balance to the tomes that I have written above, I think.

Former Mainframe, The

Former Mainframe, The problem, to me, seems that there has been a lack of pro-activity when it comes to articulating why bibliographic control (including authority control here) - especially that bibliographic control that attempts to give recognition and identification to not some, but all different peoples, places, things and ideas in the world (bringing control, management, and ultimately, accessibility) - is so valuable that we are in the mess that we are in. And of course, this has in part determined why the evidence is what it is today, with users wanting what they want. Again, I don't doubt that a great amount of librarians will try to 'go with the flow' as much as they can. In my mind though, that is a recipe not for 'maintaining relevance' in the profession, but rather increasing irrelevance, and finally, possibly, extinction. I think in order to be wise about this we to deeply consider the point I made earlier about 'Western systems of classification, despite all their flaws, been recognized as valuable and to a great extent used, by cultures worldwide that are not Westernized...' If these systems were so hopefully biased in their categorizations or just plain unhelpful, why didn't most just take the idea and make their own all-encompassing systems? (or did they - maybe I am ignorant)? Karen said: 'It is both ironic and poignant that librarians are still worrying about “bibliographic control,” after ceding so much of the same to the companies that now rent them journal access per annum at usurious rates, digitize their book collections into DRM obscurity, or sell them ponderous, antiquated “management” systems that on close inspection do little more than serve as storehouses for the metadata specific to the formats of bygone eras, bold days when we saw our central roles as defenders and curators of our cultural heritage.' To such a comment I also wish to inject what Janet Swan Hill mentioned in a recent AUTOCAT list-serve message about the meeting with Google, namely that she observes that 'There is a tendency to talk about obtaining bibliographic data from wherever without considering how and by whom it might be created in the first place.' This stuff and this system is valuable - people are using that which has been created in the past to make increasingly useful tools ('making the data work harder') – but evidently a) not realizing that it took time, commitment, and great effort to do this, b) not realizing how irreplaceable it most likely is. Again, I think it is clear that we have been sawing off the branch on which we sit - do we want to just saw the whole thing off now – or have we already? By the way, I don’t think I am a Luddite, or something. I don't deny that things like tagging hold a lot of promise - they do. They may even be necessary for scholars (not just practical smart-folks like engineers), to be able to get a handle on all the stuff online that's relevant to them in their field. But to think that books, for example, as we know them are going to go away (perhaps being available online in a persistent “wiki-states”, able to be accessed by all free of copyright concerns) is pretty naive, I think... Finally, I ask again: are there any other systems of classification that are as effective and inclusive as the ones we have - which have been produced using considerable time and effort to coherently organize valuable information with the view to making it available to scholars from all fields who are interested in seeking truth (hopefully in increasingly interdisciplinary fashions) about the world we live in? If there are not, why are we so hopeful that our future will be bright, given the abandonment of these ways of thinking?

I think that we should agree

I think that we should agree to disagree. The state of librarianship in a few years should provide empirical evidence for which approach works best in the current environment.

Former Mainframe, First of

Former Mainframe, First of all, its been a pleasure talking with you - I do want to be challenged in all of my thinking and forced to constantly learn and not shut myself out. That said, I think I understand that the perfect is the enemy of the good. Certainly, we must be practical – sometimes even making sacrifices we’d rather not make no doubt. And yet, I believe that it is a mistake to approach things the way you are. I simply believe that in this world, we need to operate with the assumption that a mind-independent reality, potentially able to be explored by every human being exists. Thus, there can be real “interdisciplinarity” between this and that subject / academic discipline. “The main thought is that if a piece of research is reflecting a reality, then this will be confirmed by other researchers (and practitioners), and knowledge will tend to grow in a cumulative way” (from Birger Hjorland). I believe that we can learn more about the reality which is the world / cosmos that we live in, and hence it is worthwhile to do the hard work of learning about life in all its facets, seeking truth, etc. Re: “what users want”, I again quote Hjorland: “A given document may be relevant to a given purpose, whether or not the user believes this to be so.” In my mind, the only approach for libraries that makes any sense is to focus on the people who understand the value of real research, and not just “getting information quick” – we ought to focus on those (and dare I say, “help produce those”) who “get it” when it comes to realizing that all of this is hard work and all is not “easy, fast, and fun” (Karen Calhoun, last week: http://www.infopeople.org/training/webcasts/webcast_data/173/index.html ). Now, hopefully there will continue to be more than a few actual people who are able to think like this in the future, but I can guarantee you that if librarians don’t make an effort to winsomely and persuasively articulate this point, there will be fewer of these folks, not more. So, speaking again as a “Young Turk” MLIS student, I must say that it appears to me that many of the leaders in the library field have completely dropped the ball. I think that if we really cared about the user, then we would do and articulate for others what librarians do (and then, our “value” or “worth” would simply be apparent and we would not have to try to convince others – or ourselves – of this). If that sounds paternal so be it – than I am an “elitist”. Oh well. For my part, I will do that which I believe defines and makes me a librarian. You may not think that my attitude is valuable or helpful or capable of being “open” – but I hope that you might. I close with Mann, who though he speaks on behalf of the LOC, might as well be speaking for all libraries to some degree or another: (http://www.guild2910.org/AFSCMEMoreOnWhatIsGoing.pdf): “What the Library needs is a new generation of librarians who believe... in clarifying and reinforcing the Library's distinctive niche role in the intellectual life of this country. That role entails the acquisition of the greatest array of scholarly resources in the world, the preservation of it, and the promotion of substantive scholarship through the creation of high quality cataloging and classification data for book collections–while also making available [acquiring] and explaining [reference] the full range of alternatives created by commercial interests [publishers, vendors, and Internet providers], whose work neither duplicates nor supersedes LC's contributions to scholarship.”

Nathan, the problem with

Nathan, the problem with traditional bibliographic control is that it's time consuming to manually select subject headings and all the rest. Users have demonstrated that they prefer ease of use and responsiveness over precision when seeking information. Here's a library school anecdote: my internship was a cataloging project, so I saw the cataloging area almost daily, and noticed that many books were sitting in carts for over a month waiting to be processed. I think users would have been better server if the books were assigned adequate, not perfect, bibliographic data and made available. The saying that the perfect is the enemy of the good is quite appropriate here.

Glenda said: So rather than

Glenda said: So rather than argue whether bibliographic control is (or not) relevant in the digital age, why don't we debate about how we can use it more effectively with LibraryThing-like tools or how we can customize our sets of bibliographic data elements for particular purposes (yes, research, as well as the basic right to read indeed). Glenda, I appreciate the point that you are making. I guess, based on the emphases of many voices in the profession, I sometimes wonder whether or not the fact that 'bibligographic data underlie many uses of information' is 'not open to debate' is, in fact, a reality. When Karen says, 'I think it's possible to be strongly in favor of metadata and highly skeptical of how we produce it. That's not dichotomous', I know exactly what she means, but the statement, to me, simply betrays a real lack of confidence - a confidence that I believe is warranted - in the value of the traditional systems that we have inherited. So regarding the statement in her article about “the metadata specific to the formats of bygone eras, bold days when we saw our central roles as defenders and curators of our cultural heritage”, let me, admittedly a “young Turk” attempt to take up this role again. There is no doubt that the systems we have are not perfect, but I think that many of us are attempting to bury (or at least radically overhaul, transform) a great treasure and gift born of much deep philosophical and practical consideration, hard work, and commitment. Think about it - re: the other ways of classifying data today - how many are actually motivated to try to 'give fair time' to all the complex realities - the people, places, things, and ideas of the world, like the systems of the past, and to try to organize every single bit of it – as much as is reasonably possible - into a coherent classification system? Maybe I am not opening my eyes, but it seems to me that the hard work and thoughtfulness that would try to recognize the existence of all these things - seeing them as valuable and worthy of 'classifying' - is less and less present today. In our culture’s atmosphere it seems to me that overall, people are perhaps more open to hearing about this and that “interesting thing” (does it hold me… is it fascinating…), but less and less confident about their ability to make any real sense of it – much less their ability to classify it in a way that all (or most) relatively knowledgeable persons in the world would also be able to recognize as making really good sense (I confess I believe anthropology trumps sociology, and so this is possible)! And it seems to me that this lack of confidence, is disastrous for learning in general and scholarship in particular. It’s a vicious cycle where we no longer produce people who are capable of recognizing what is in fact, not a bad attempt to take account of it all in a way that makes sense and provides a reasonable framework to make possible some control, management, and ultimately, accessibility – for people who are very curious about the world first (scholars) and of those who are more content to not learn as much as well. Even public libraries should be places where some very good “wide context research” can potentially take place. Haven’t the Western systems of classification, despite all their flaws, been recognized as valuable and to a great extent used, by cultures worldwide that are not Westernized? Why? Should that tell us anything really important? I am open to hearing other arguments – and I at least hope that people will see what I have said as being relevant to the theme of this thread.

Library professionals

Library professionals 'facilitate' access to the regnant media for information access: What does Karen Schneider expect us to do?

I think it's possible to be

I think it's possible to be strongly in favor of metadata and highly skeptical of how we produce it. That's not dichotomous. Terry, on my bleak days I think it's hard for us to make that argument. On other days I think people like libraries and will continue to fund them for their value as oases.

I don't agree with Rory

I don't agree with Rory Litwin on several issues, but here, I appreciated his support of some of Mann's writings: http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=199

ach! Is there a way ALA

ach! Is there a way ALA Techsource can set the input formats for the comments feature of whatever application it is using so that paragraph breaks are automatically done? Thanks.

What are we arguing about

What are we arguing about here? Just as Karen hoped that the point that 'users have come to expect that information should be easy to discover,' should not be open to debate anymore, I also hope the same for the point that bibliographic data underlie many uses of information. I have read the background paper for this particular meeting of the LOC's Bibliographic Control Working Group and the emphasis is on how to make bibliographic data work harder for the user based on recognition of the inadequacies of book-based processes. I do agree with Karen that pressing issues of intellectual property are pushed towards the edges. There is however a sentence in the background paper that says, 'as digitization projects encompass copyrighted material, additional bibliographic data may be needed to identify use restrictions.' I hope this will be explored further in the working group's future meetings. My little experience with cataloging indeed has shown me how laborious and expensive our book-based processes are and how ironic that the records we then produce get trapped in expensive commercial applications. [Deja vu for scholarly publications created within the compensation structures of universities and then packaged into expensive journals by publishers.] I find it interesting that the background paper mentions LibraryThing's use of MARC records laboriously produced by libraries. So rather than argue whether bibliographic control is (or not) relevant in the digital age, why don't we debate about how we can use it more effectively with LibraryThing-like tools or how we can customize our sets of bibliographic data elements for particular purposes (yes, research, as well as the basic right to read indeed).

I don't agree with Rory

I don't agree with Rory Litwin on several issues, but here, I appreciated his support of some of Mann's writings: http://libraryjuicepress.com/blog/?p=199

Former mainframe, You might

Former mainframe, You might be surprised at the amount of reading I try to do re: other viewpoints - I believe I am quite open. I am very excited about the possibilities of user tagging, for example. I also believe, however, that Mann's substantial arguments need to at least be taken seriously, and I don't see much of that, quite frankly - and I suspect that there is a little bit of lazy thinking out there. Certainly, I don't doubt that much of what we have known as librarianship will be 'swept aside'. But I also don't doubt that, unlike mainframe programming, the principles of bibliographic control will continue to be recognized by some - not all - as valuable - namely by those who are very serious about doing research and scholarship. These are the ones who are concerned about the particular niche of libraries traditionally understood, which make an attempt to be comprehensive - i.e., take into account of and classify, all the knowledge and perspectives that are out there... (wider and wider contexts...). Of course, the cataloging tools that have been developed (LOC subject headings, for example), are not perfect (nothing it - it is the worst alternative out there - except for all the other ones), but, simply put, this is what is necessary for serious research to take place. Other organizations / businesses with specific goals certainly are more 'in-house' when it comes to the information they try to control, manage, and make accessible. Though they certainly deal with wider contexts as well, they don't concern themselves with 'comprehensive mental maps which attempt to take into account all of reality / knowledge'. Libraries, do, and should continue to do so... I am confident that some - not all - will continue to recognize the value of this.

Nathan, the tenor of your

Nathan, the tenor of your posts reminds me of the many mainframe programmers who warned against the unreliability of desktop computing. Whatever the merits of their warnings, the switch to the desktop was irresistible, and many programmers who refused to go along were swept aside. Your post does not show a real openness to other viewpoints, and I wonder if you're limiting your future career prospects by focusing so strongly on 'bibliographic control.'

The way I see it, Mann is a

The way I see it, Mann is a man of convictions - and very well thought-out convictions. He also is obviously a very practical and skilled reference librarian who I'd want help from if I was trying to do scholarly work. Just because these convictions also readily tend to translate into 'job protection' does not invalidate them - they happen to overlap. Mann is obviously a skilled and intelligent man who could get work elsewhere quite readily. To simply dismiss his very substantial arguments as job preotection is quite ridicuous, in my opinion, frankly. Again, the fact that many now seem to be waking up to the need for skilled bibliographic control just as several of the most powerful in the library profession seem to be trying to get out of the business (or downplay it at least) is very puzzling to me. In any case, I am open to other arguments and wonder if there is a more detailed response to Mann out there other than its 'merely job protection'

Karen, your position as a

Karen, your position as a leading light of the Troublemakers Union is absolutely secure, and thank you for keeping the [blow]torch burning. There's more coming from other members this week--keep your eye on Karen Coyle's blog.

Nathan, thanks. I have read

Nathan, thanks. I have read Mann's work. It's a far stretch to conclude that I find bibliographic control irrelevant, although this sort of hyperbolic conclusion was used to butt Mann's work against Karen Calhoun's, not successfully for me at least. I can see why he would tackle the train/transportation argument (a losing battle for him to assume, quite frankly), because keeping the profession focused on current tasks as opposed to its larger role in society is essential if your goal is basically job protection, which Mann's is. The article was written for AFSCME 2910, the Library of Congress Professional Guild.

'Libraries' and

'Libraries' and 'Librarians' are not synonymous, though we continue to speak as if they are. Librarians who think that their job is tending to libraries will continue to do important work, because libraries will continue to have value and importance -- they simply will not be as valuable and important as they have been in the past. Librarians who realize that their particular skills and talents are critical to the success of individuals making their way through the complex information space in which we now live will be highly valued and have the opportunity to do interesting and important work. Librarians need to ask themselves -- do you care about libraries or do you care about getting people where they need to go? In the digital world, we (librarians) don't actually need libraries to do the critical work that needs to be done.

A good and worthwhile piece,

A good and worthwhile piece, which bears re-reading. Couple thoughts, perhaps naive: - maybe 'central roles as defenders and curators of our cultural heritage' are not entirely bygone - 'the increasing difficulty of explaining why this “place” needs to be library-based' doesn't seem that difficult to me, because of our commitment to access and reading and learning for everyone.

*Stands* *applauds* Bravo,

*Stands* *applauds* Bravo, and well fraking said.

Karen, I am wondering if you

Karen, I am wondering if you have read Thomas Mann's article, 'The importance of books, free access, and libraries as places - and the dangerous inadequacy of the information science paradigm'. Of course, its not free access. :) You can get it via EBSCO's databases though, for example. Mann, addresses many of your points, and, I think rather convincingly, argues that this kind of paradigm that you are working from has many, many problems. In particular, he points out that the train / railroad analogy (train business vs transportation) is really quite misleading. There is so much more to say but Mann does a masterful job of dealing with these issues so I'll let him do it. In regards to bibliographic control in particular, I would argue that its not nearly as irrelevant as you make it out to be. See this, for example: http://pages.slc.edu/~ejacobowitz/?p=12