Sunday, January 28, 2007

PL 1/07: Finding books

Filed under: library 2.0 — plinius @ 4:56 pm

The thoughtful Peter Brantley, who blogs as shimenawa, has become Executive Director of the Digital library Federation, and has moved his blog to a new location in the process.

In his fascinating SF novel October the first is too late, Fred Hoyle wrote about a world where people lived in several parallell time zones. The twentieth century and the Roman empire coexisted.

Time shifts

Shuttling between current library debates in Norway and in the US, I often feel a time shift. Not of twenty centuries, though, but of a couple of years.

But these are very steep years. At the moment, younger people are adapting very, very rapidly to the new social web. More sedate age groups hardly notice what is happening. They are two transitions behind.

At our recent (and very successful) Oslo conference on Knowledge organization 2.0 (January 25-26, 2007), a Dane quoted a fifteen year old:

– I only use e-mail to contact old people.

Ooops! (I’m 64).

The 2.0 take-off

The Library 2.0 debate is just taking off in Norway. Hence my interest in the US debate. It works like precognition – you can explore in advance the issues, the arguments, the strategies and the alliances that are likely to emerge.

History does not repeat itself 100 percent. But the sense of deja-vu is strong. By focusing attention on the US debate, I hope we can skip some of the more boring sequences.

LIS is supposed to be a science. Scientists are supposed to be in touch with the front-runners. At the moment, at least, I would place the US in front. So we should probably follow the more salient debates in the North American LIS environment.

Discover and deliver

Recently, Brantley wrote:

We are certainly on the verge of an era where most people locate books of interest through services like Amazon’s, or Google’s Book Search, where they can often browse through the book before making a determination of its value to them.

Both of these services offer multiple consumption options, including PDF download from Google for public domain works, purchasing for both in-print and used works (particularly through Amazon’s bookseller network), and availability through local libraries (particularly through Google, and in the U.S., offered via OCLC’s WorldCat service).

One of the nice things about WorldCat is that you can pick your preferred local libraries. Google simply redirects users to a WorldCat interface, so if you have established your library preferences with them, then you get a personalized display of which of your preferred libraries have the work in question.

Is this something we want in Norway – for Norwegian books? Or something we should oppose with righteous fury. Should libraries go to bed with Google? Or refuse all commerce with the greedy giant?

Do we have a choice? And who is we – anyhow?

Follow the user

I suspect ordinary users have been seduced by Google already. I know I have. I am lost to the separatist cause.

Will librarians go against the wishes of their users – because it is dangerous to mix our catalogs with their commerce.

The question is not yet urgent, since most Norwegians prefer books in Norwegian. In terms of population, Norway is the size of Maryland. For Google, the world languages come first. But sooner or later, the giant will come to our door.

Knock, knock!


Wikipedia. Shimenawa


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