Andromeda Yelton

Across Divided Networks

internet culture vs. library culture?

July 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

I was writing a comment on an ALA TechSource post on library culture vs. internet culture (thanks to Buffy for bringing it to my attention), and it got long enough I figured it should be a blog post instead. Blockquoting from the post; the rest is mine:

The movers and shakers of Internet culture probably either don’t know about librarians or don’t care. If they give us a thought, they probably think of us as essentially not getting “it” – whatever it may be at the moment, Web 2.0, cloud computing, or the mobile revolution.

I spent a bunch of library school suspecting this was true (and I am married to a programmer, went to an engineering school whence my classmates mostly got snapped up by the dot-com boom, so I’m pretty familiar with internet culture). But now, I’m not so sure.

I was inside a tech company recently, noticed a completely awesome diagram on an executive’s white board, got to talking with him about it, and he said “you went to library school? Oh, then you’ll want to see this!” and pulled a book by Ranganathan off his shelf. (It’s worth noting that I read about Ranganathan in library school, but had never previously encountered a complete volume.)

I was talking with the husband once about libraries having trouble keeping up with the tech curve, due to budgetary constraints and not always having the in-house knowledge, and he said, why are there not more librarians leveraging the open-source community (as in, the coding community as a whole, not just the open-source-ILS community)? Specify a few projects that can be solved with a hundred coder-hours of time –which is both less time and more project than it sounds like — get them mentioned somewhere like BoingBoing, and there is a tremendous reservoir of goodwill to libraries among internet-culture people — because, let’s face it, most of them were quiet nerdy outcasts who spent their childhood feeling safe and welcomed and intellectually alive in…libraries.

And I was reading one of Page and Brin’s founding papers about the math behind Google once — I do not think you can get more “mover and shaker of internet culture” than they — and it’s straight-up citation indexing, and explicitly acknowledges its ties to library science.

I do think there’s a lot of disconnect between internet culture and library culture, but it has less to do with not caring than with simply having very different toolkits and cultural approaches to things. There’s also a lot more points of connection than we realize, but not enough being done to leverage them.

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