Don’t Feed the Troll

Library Journal – Revenge of the Blog People!

"A blog is a species of interactive electronic diary by means of which the unpublishable, untrammeled by editors or the rules of grammar, can communicate their thoughts via the web. (Though it sounds like something you would find stuck in a drain, the ugly neologism blog is a contraction of "web log.") Until recently, I had not spent much time thinking about blogs or Blog People."

That’s Michael Gorman, president-elect of the American Library Association and Dean of Library Services, Madden Library, California State University, Fresno, writing in the  Library Journal in response to the blogger critics who slagged him for writing an op-ed in the LA Times in December which criticized Google’s avowed plan to digitize library collections.

This is an important piece and I recommend clicking through to read it in its entirety. [clicks to Chris Locke for the alert to its existence]

The topic of digitization and open access to the "stacks" has roiled the professional librarian/research world since ASCII was invented. A story I wrote about WAIS and Gopher and Brewster Kahle in the early 90s sparked a bit of a "s**t-storm" due to its rhetorical prediction that the digitization of the world’s information and easy access to such tools would make the librarian profession as secure as stablehands and paddock boys were the year Henry Ford rolled the first horseless carriage out of a Michigan garage.

 Well, of course that is not the case, and the role of the librarian/searcher will doubtless persist and perhaps intensify over time as the mechanics of the information space continue to explode beyond our capacity to tame the output [sort of Ithiel de Sola Pool meets I Love Lucy on the assembly line of bits]. Librarians have displayed some scorn over the democratization of data access, mostly on the misassumption by laymen that online search tools are comprehensive, but also on the difficulty to verify data sources in an age when any fool can forge an earnings report, release it, and play the options.

 Gorman, and other librarians, aren’t opposed to digitization per se, but to the danger of laymen assuming that if it isn’t in Google, it doesn’t exist. The sin of omission through ignorance of existence.

This tendency is particularly dangerous for amateur searchers when their favorite search tool can’t penetrate the "costwalls"  [ack. to Jim Thompson for my favorite word-of-the-day"] that hide newspaper archives, etc. (costwalls have their own perils for those erect them, per Penenberg’s wirednews piece about the loss of relevance for the WSJ per his Google search to see where the world’s best newspaper ranked on results for the term "Enron." Net result — it didn’t, ergo irrelevance].




Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write